Last year, Bottom Line partnered with The Fellowship Initiative (TFI) to provide one-on-one college advising to  40 young men in New York City.   In his essay, “If One Kid Can Change The World,”  Mark shares the importance of role models and self-belief. 

In 2014, I received the best news that would go on to change my life forever. “You have been accepted into The Fellowship Initiative (TFI) sponsored by JPMorgan Chase.” Those words turned my life around. During these two unbelievably amazing years, I have been given the chance to learn from thirty-nine other African American and Latino males like myself, and it has made me feel like we could change the world.

Before TFI, I never found anything interesting because I was always a quiet student. I was afraid to try new things or explore. What I do know about my younger self was that the color of my skin made me feel very insecure. It made me isolate myself. Growing up, I had friends who were afraid like me. I would talk to them and tell them of my plans to be a young man who stands out from the group; I wanted to be more.

When I joined TFI, I was excited to work with other students like myself and have a mentor who would teach us about college and the business world. The moment I knew that I was capable of being a leader was when this mentor, Fernando, asked me to speak at an event for Outward Bound. At first, I was horrified. So many people would be watching me. I was not yet comfortable in my own skin, but I knew I could not disappoint Fernando. He had chosen me and if he thought I could do it, then I did not want to let him down. Right before I went onto the stage, he told me, “Mark, you can do whatever you want to do if you put your mind to it.” Fernando believed in me. He was instilling in me the tools I would need to self-motivate and conquer my fears.

Fernando has consistently believed in my abilities to be a leader and has motivated me to be an example to young men like me. In order to channel this energy and make a positive change in my community, I became a board member for the Neighborhood Advisory Board. This board helps allocate funds for projects within my community like after-school programs, play grounds, and books. Through TFI, I have had the opportunity to speak at other events and be on a panel with accomplished adults. Being able to represent my TFI brothers and JPMorgan Chase at these events has made me very proud. Looking back, I have realized that if I would not have accepted the challenge of joining TFI, I would not be the person I am today.

TFI has empowered me and I feel a duty to give back to my people. My dream and purpose of living is so that I can inspire others to believe in their dreams. I am confident that I will change the world by helping the young people in my community find the best within themselves. All it takes is one person, one thought, or one encouraging influence to help set them on the path of greatness. I am proud of my skin and I am determined and I am ready to reach back and help my community.

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