This post is part of a series of posts celebrating students who are making it to and through college with the support of the KIPP charter school network’s Through College program.
As he gives her the envelope filled with ones, fives and tens she can’t help but to be hesitant about taking it, but she does. She does so because she knows that deep down inside she needs this green paper if she wants to keep her lights on. The boy sees it as nothing other than doing what he can to help out, but little does he know this, and many other moments like these, would shape his future. Some would say the boy was forced to grow up too early.
The way I look at it, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The problem doesn’t lie with when someone is forced to grow up, but rather how they cope with knowing the reality of their situation and in this case, I dealt with it pretty well. I remember when I was 8, I’d wake up at 8 a.m. and turn on a channel listed as “Paid Program” to eagerly watch business(wo)men market and advertise their products or ideas to try and get people to call in and buy. Then, at 9 a.m., I would get my Pop-Tarts and milk, go downstairs and flip to “Shark Tank.” I enjoyed watching these people frantically try and pitch their business ideas and simultaneously I felt anxious for them, as if I was their loyal business partner. I had the dream of starting my own business based on making and selling perler bead necklaces and these shows gave me the courage to pitch this idea to a prospective investor—my dad.
By the age of 12, I had my first successful business venture, selling candy at my school. My goal was to make enough money to buy an Xbox 360. I asked my loyal investor for a loan of $25 to buy boxes of candy from Costco and promised when I made the money back, I’d give him an extra five dollars. Within a week, sales went through the roof. Whenever kids felt like they couldn’t make it through another class period, they came to me for a quick energy boost only to find themselves coming back for more once their blood sugar crashed. Eager to share the news, I called my mom to tell her about my business and revenues. I asked if I could come visit that weekend to tell her more about it. I could hear the excitement through her words, but I sensed despondency in her tone and couldn't tell what it was until she told me that her lights were turned off. The urgency of getting an Xbox suddenly vanished and a new task flooded my vision. That first decision and the many ones after, of choosing my mom’s needs over my desires, marks my transition from childhood to adulthood. I also realized what I had a passion for: business. Selling goods, whether it be sneakers, watches or sandwiches, has been an outlet for me. It’s empowering and reassuring that I have the power to make situations better for those I care about. It feels good to make a dollar, but it feels better knowing that dollar is going to someone who needs it most.
Isaiah Cuavers is a senior at KIPP NYC College Prep High School. He wrote (and developed in collaboration with Education Post editorial staff) this essay.
Photo courtesy of Isaiah Cuavers.
Isaiah Cuavers is a senior at KIPP NYC College Prep High School.