I was in the ninth grade when my mentor helped me pay for a trip to Georgetown University. I immediately fell in love with the school. The buildings were picturesque. When I walked around campus, it felt like I was walking through history, and every student I met was so passionate. At the end of my visit, I knew I needed a souvenir to bring back to Houston.
I went to the bookstore and found a blanket, a quilt really, that was full of Georgetown symbols. It was beautiful. It was also $150.00. I called my mom and told her about my experience over the previous three days. I told her how badly I wanted to get into this school. I told her of my doubts: that Georgetown was one of the best universities in the country and that I didn’t know if I would even be accepted, let alone be able to afford it. And I told her that I had found this beautiful blanket that I desperately wanted, but it was so expensive. And my mom—I’ll never forget this—she said, “Josué , this is an investment in your future. You deserve to be there more than anyone else. I’ll make it work.” She sent me the money. I returned to high school with a new purpose. Four years later, with the blanket still on my bed, I applied to Georgetown.
I didn’t get in.
Bryan Contreras, my KIPP through College counselor, called the admissions office. “Josué is one of our top students. Can you tell us why he wasn’t accepted?” They told him that my writing sample was not compelling. That I probably wouldn’t thrive at Georgetown. That I should look into other schools. It was…it was such a painful time for me. I had painted this entire image in my head—I would go to Georgetown and then I would change the world.
Instead, my dream school didn’t even want me. My dream school told me to look somewhere else. My dream school had the audacity to say I wouldn’t thrive there. I was angry and I was heartbroken.
But then I met with Bryan Contreras. I remember everything about that meeting. Mr. Contreras looked me in the eye and said, “Josue, I believe in you. I think you deserve to be a student at Georgetown University. So here’s what we’re going to do. You are going to rewrite your application essay. You are going to re-apply. And you are going to get in.”
I’m telling you, I wrote ten drafts of that essay over the next few days. And this time, I decided to share my story. Mr. Contreras helped me realize that I should never be ashamed of where I come from—that what my parents do and how I got here is a part of who I am. So I wrote about my mom being a secretary and my dad being a landscaper. I wrote about how I understood hard work from a young age. About how I wanted to be the first in my community to do a lot of things—the first to go to high school, the first to apply to college. And I wrote about how I wanted to go to college so that one day I could come back and tell the stories of the people who didn’t have the resources to tell their own. After so many drafts, we put the application in the mail.
April 27. It was a bright spring day. My best friend and I were outside playing soccer when the mailman arrived. I remember I made a joke, “Let’s see if today is the day I get rejected from college again.” I walked over to the mailbox and there it was. An envelope. Georgetown University. The packet was so thin. I was sure it was a rejection. I walked inside, through the living room, and into the kitchen. I sat at the kitchen table. I tried to keep my breathing under control. I opened the envelope slowly. I read the first line. “This year, Georgetown’s admission committee considered over 19,500 applicants for 1,500 available spots…”
My heart dropped. This was how a rejection letter starts. I continued to read. “It gives us great pleasure to inform you…” I read that sentence again. And again. And then one more time. I was stunned. “What?” I remember thinking, “I got in?!”
Almost automatically, I moved to the phone. I had to call my number one supporter. Over the phone, I read the letter to my mom. I was sure the call had dropped. “Mom,” I said. Silence. “Hello?” More silence. Then I heard a sniffle, “I’m sorry, Josué,” she said, “This…this is just a dream come true for all of us.” A little later, I texted Mr. Contreras. I think it was just a three-word text, “I GOT IN,” and then about a million exclamation points. His response was more nonchalant.
All he texted back was, “I knew you would.”
Today, Josué is a Junior at Georgetown University. Majoring in English, Josué aspires to go back to the KIPP Houston High School and teach eleventh and twelfth grade. He is very much interested in education and cultural inclusivity. In addition to teaching and tutoring for two different programs, Josué also co-founded Georgetown’s first recognized cultural house: “La Casa Latina” is a centralized location for community building, identity exploration, and advocacy for Latinos. The blanket he purchased on his initial Georgetown visit is still on his bed.