No one who is successful has ever made it to the top alone. Most people who have achieved some level of success or recognition have been able to do so because of a support network that was there to help them achieve their goals. Just think about Beyoncé, whose work ethic I truly admire. She had her mother who made outfits for Destiny’s Child, and her father who left his job to become her group’s manager. Obviously, Beyoncé has worked very hard to get to where she is. But it also can’t go without saying that her parents, and probably countless others, have worked equally hard to help her get to where she is today through their support.
I can’t sing like Beyoncé (or probably dance, even), but I have worked my tail off to get to where I am. However, I also know that for the countless exams that I stayed up studying for going back to high school, I had the emotional support of my family to help me get through them, as well as their home-cooked Haitian meals that kept me nourished.
During my adolescence, I had the luxury to only think about school and was never expected to work by my family. While we were not rich, my family’s ethos was that whatever financial pressure they may have been facing, was not my concern as a student. It’s not lost on me that many people grow up without having this same privilege. So, I am thankful that I was fortunate to have a family that put education first, and that was willing to make sacrifices so that I could have whatever I needed to succeed as a student.
While my family structure was my foundation, I also have friends and mentors to thank for bringing many opportunities that I never knew existed to my attention. In high school, a very good friend of mine encouraged me to apply for a public service fellowship that has significantly contributed to my life trajectory. I remember getting information about the fellowship from my high school career counselor, but was totally going to dismiss it for reasons that I don’t even recall – maybe I didn’t think I’d get it? Maybe I didn’t feel like doing the work to apply for it? But because of my friend’s encouragement (and also because of my career counselor’s), I applied, got accepted, and ended up working for a federal district court judge in Boston during the summer after my junior year – which absolutely couldn’t have been a better setup for a high school student with dreams of going to law school.
Not only have I stayed in touch with this judge since I interned for her, but she was the one who swore me into the Federal Bar after I took and passed the bar exam ten years later. I had my very own private ceremony in her courtroom, equipped with a stenographer, my family, and a US Attorney (who, coincidentally, also graduated from my undergraduate alma mater, Cornell) who moved for my admission to the Federal Bar. Thus, from when I was a high school junior to becoming a newly minted attorney, that judge and the fellowship have been part of my full-circle experience into becoming a member of the Bar and officer of the Court. In addition, because I participated in the fellowship during high school, I also had the distinct privilege of working on Capitol Hill as a college intern, which, as you can imagine, was all kinds of exciting for being 19 in D.C. Today, I serve on the Board of Directors for the fellowship, and I help recruit high school students to apply by sharing with them the impact that the fellowship has made on me.
So, I write this to say thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way, namely, my family, my friends and my mentors. You have always looked out for me and have pushed me to take advantage of great opportunities, even when I was oblivious to the benefits I would eventually reap from them. If you’ve ever had people in your life who have pushed you to greater heights, remember to thank them and to let them know how much their encouragement has meant to you. You can do no wrong by surrounding yourself with like-minded people who have high goals, and who also want to see you succeed. I have no doubt that these same people will be the ones there for you in your greatest time of need.