I was born on May 14, 1989, as Brandon Julian Espinosa, which is when my journey began. I am the son of a Puerto Rican mother and Cuban father. I was raised in the Bronx, N.Y., in a single-parent household. With no precedent or blueprint for attaining higher education, I set out on a pursuit of happiness in order to break the vicious cycle of mediocrity and escape the trap that has claimed millions of lives. Below is a snapshot of a Bronx boy who said yes to the challenge and is pursuing his passion of making the world a better place through education and mentorship. This is my story.
A wild ride ends in a fatal crash that leaves two dead with one survivor. The crash, which many refer to as graduation, seemed inevitable to many witnesses who had observed the driving conditions. Each accomplishment and achievement brought the victims one step closer to the accident. First there was the consecutive three and half year reign as the head of the class, a preamble to the highly sought-after valedictorian position. Then came the selection from thousands of other students to attend the F.L.A.M.E. (Finding Leaders Among Minorities Everywhere) leadership conference in Colorado Springs, Colo. Participation as a two-sport athlete only made matters worse. This was accompanied by being a member of the National Honor Society, winning an award for the highest score on the math team and winning the September 11, 2001 Scholarship as a sophomore, an honor that was previously only awarded to seniors.
There were two fatalities in the accident. One went by the name of Generational Curse. He made sure that few in my family graduated from high school and none went on to attend college. That left me in a situation where I had no precedent to follow and no blueprint of success to duplicate. I would have to become a pioneer and eventually a leader. The second death was named Stereotype. He commonly was referred to by his nickname, Statistic. He would follow me everywhere I went. Always in my ear saying things like "Latinos are not smart... they lack the will and drive to succeed... they need to go back to their impoverished countries... they are only good for working in factories or custodial jobs for less than minimum wage... they are more likely to be seen in mug shots than a cap and gown."
Who was the lucky one that survived the fatal accident? His name was Ambition. He was always prepared for this event. He wore a seatbelt of desire, tenacity and perseverance. He filled his airbag with a drive to succeed and an iron will to get to the top before they ever began the journey. He was never satisfied with what life and his environment offered him. He always wanted more. He was immune to doing that extra hour of studying. He constantly spoke words of encouragement. He would provide caffeine during those long nights of studying. He would tell me that I could redirect the course of life, not only for myself, but for everyone who came after me. He said that freedom from mental and societal bonds was not only an option, but a necessity. The crash was an absolute necessity for Ambition to fulfill his duties.
Upon graduating from Cornell University in May 2011, I accepted a position in the corporate world. Approximately a year and a half later, I realized I was selling myself short and settling for a life without purpose. My experiences made it clear that I was not in the right environment and needed to seek change.
Fortunately, I was able to learn about a phenomenal organization known as the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) headquartered in Atlanta. NSHSS's mission is to recognize academic excellence and encourage members to apply their unique talents, vision, and potential for the betterment of themselves and the world. After reading about the amazing scholarships, member events, corporate and university partnerships, and other resources, I knew this was a place I had to be. About a month later, I was offered a position as an educational outreach and engagement manager. With several other job opportunities, I followed my heart and packed up my car with Atlanta being my next stop.
NSHSS has more than 830,000 members and 36,000 educators in more than 160 countries, which allows me to impact many lives and promote the importance of education while providing resources to help students like me achieve their dreams.
I am now able to serve high school youth and educators around the world. NSHSS founder and chairman, Mr. Claes Nobel, emphasizes the importance of world betterment, which is exhibited in the work I do each and every day. NSHSS's commitment to youth exemplifies what it means to be a good steward of this Earth. It is through organizations such as NSHSS were I can inspire, motivate, and lead our youth to greatness. We must invest in our future leaders and innovators by adopting a mentality of community, where we are only as strong as our weakest link. NSHSS has provided me with the opportunity to inspire, motivate, and serve as a resource for students around the world.
I plan to continue using my passion for education as a catalyst to inspire youth to be the best that they can be. I am a direct product of mentorship and my journey to better this world is only beginning.
For more information on NSHSS, please visit www.nshss.org.