Asking for a scholarship is hard

Every year the University of Texas McCombs School of Business offers its undergraduates the opportunities to apply for school sponsored scholarships. I’ve always found it hard to be genuine while also convincing someone to invest money in me. Here’s my attempt at it this year.

Since the dawn of creation, three attributes have won out over the course of human history – love, freedom, and hope. However, recent events threaten us with the apprehension that the world is turning instead towards hatred, fear, and despair.

Unlike natural disasters, these state of affairs are completely within our control. Each person has the capacity to pursue such virtues on their own, and furthermore, to push their brethren to do the same.

I am a naturally optimistic person and believe these virtues have won in the past and will continue to win in the future. We can see this play out over the past century with the end of colonialism in India, legal racial segregation in America, and apartheid in South Africa. Although movements take many people, they are started by a few – namely, in the examples of Mahatma Gandhi, MLK Jr., and Nelson Mandela.

There is so much for me to grow in before I come close to the wisdom, composure, and sharpness of these figures. But the distance between me and them should only encourage me to work even harder to pursue an impactful life like theirs. Merely living with the goal of fulfilling a middle-class life won’t bear any lasting fruit. However, with the experiences that the privilege of such a life has offered me, I have the opportunity to use them for the good of others rather than my own selfish gain.

By interning at the Austin Mayor’s Office, I realized the impact that one person can have. I directly worked with John-Michael Cortez, de jure the “special assistant” to the Mayor, but de facto the man that knew everything about land development and housing from the bolts in the ground to the politics in the chambers. Through working with John-Michael, I learned to advance policies from an idea in my mind to actual structures in the city. After spending this past summer researching the benefits of increased access to affordable, accessible housing, I produced a study that garnered the decision this November for the City Council to pass an expansion of the University Neighborhood Overlay. There is now the potential for thousands more students to live in West Campus, as building height limits are increased by more than 50%.

This past spring, I studied and worked in NYC doing a finance internship managing the trading of mortgage backed securities as part of the UTNY program. While it offered a high salary and reputation, it produced more discomfort than enjoyment. I noticed how my coworkers looked forward more to heading home after a long work-week to spend time with their families than receiving their next bonus of a quarter million. I was afraid that my time in the city had gone to waste as I saw the dissatisfaction in a job that I once idolized. However, when the COVID-19 epidemic hit, I decided to stay in the city to serve, while everyone else was leaving. I used the savings from my internship to buy a van and started doing grocery deliveries to seniors around the city. The joy and purpose that I found in coordinating deliveries with churches and neighborhood organizations and the smiles I would see from the van window far surpassed any numbers I saw on my Bloomberg Terminal. After a sister in my bible study (now happening on Zoom) died from Covid-19, I realized that the most important things in the world are not dollars in the bank account, but rather the strength and intimacy of our personal relationships.

As I learn more about how to create change in this world, I hope to advance progress through the courageous creativity of an entrepreneur, the disciplined freedom of an academic, and the hope-filled heart of a believer. This scholarship would provide me the freedom to set myself free from the tantalizing grip of dollars. Rather, I hope to use every single dollar towards continued organizing and empowering of those that need it the most.