This blog was written by Britt Hunter, HR Program Manager, as part of the Amplifying Black Voices blog series. Britt details a timeline of events that prove the importance of human connection, inspiration & determination.
I believe my story will best be told in the form of a timeline of events, so here goes:
April 2009: As a recent graduate of my first masters program at UConn, I decide (in a 24-hour period) that it would be best if I took the GMAT and attend business school. My rationale was simple…I didn’t know what else to do and I figured a 3rd degree would solve my problem...
May 2009: I show up to said GMAT exam after exactly 4 weeks of “studying”. After being very confused by what I was seeing on the computer screen, I ask to use the bathroom, and proceed to the exit and walk to my car. It was apparent that I was not prepared for this scary exam and I decide that maybe business school is out of reach since the GMAT wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, but also there was no way I was going to be able to learn whatever that was I just saw on the screen.
June 2011 at the age of 25, this young lady from Columbus, Ohio took on the role: “Dean of Students” at a charter school in Harlem, NY. I signed up for working with colorful families, their rambunctious children and a very diligent teaching staff. I have one-million stories that this post cannot contain; some of them hilarious, some maddening and a few evoke tears of both joy and sadness.
2011-2017: I am teaching 4th grade and enjoying every bit of it…except for the standardized testing. In the world of public school education, good test scores keep school doors open. As a result children from the age of 8-17 are subject to teaching that revolves around test -prep. The angst of my student was emanating off their bodies. Their stress became stress and I empathized with them. Every day we had test prep or a practice test I was brought back to May 2009 where standardized testing made me feel lesser than and highly incapable of achieving anything. But then something magical happens!
June 2017: After 5 months of test prep, 100% of my 4th grade students pass both New York State Language Arts and Math exams. This seems small but I'll provide a quick rundown of the makeup of my class: I have 4th graders reading on a 2nd grade reading level, I have students with learning disabilities, students who were repeating the 4th grade, students who are living in homeless shelters, students with incarcerated parents, students living with cousins or grandparents etc etc etc... It’s not so much that all of them passed their exams but more that ALL of them had different life circumstances and still overcame the odds. I was so inspired by their ability to achieve that I decided to take the GMAT again…5 times in fact...until someone took a chance on me...
June 2018: I begin my MBA journey at Vanderbilt University, 1 of 6 black students in my entire class of 180 students
June 2020: COVID-19 takes over the WORLD…but I complete my MBA at Vanderbilt University!!
July 2020: I begin my first year at Microsoft as an HR Professional and the words “Imposter Syndrome” are floating around. For about 2 weeks I felt Imposter Syndrome creeping in, but remembered where I came from, my journey, my students journey. I recall the pump up speeches I gave my students before big exams...I think back to one family who woke up at 4:00 am just to make it on the Staten Island ferry on time to come all the way to Harlem for school...I even recollect the facetime videos my students would have with their parents when they finally made to the correct reading level...Then I relax and say "I got this".
Something unique happens that educators can appreciate. The first set of students that I met at the age of 8 were now 18, graduating high school and getting full scholarships to college. It's an image I was never able to visualize until it happened. I knew at some point all of my formers students would graduate high school and go to college but it was also a "dream" that myself, their parents and former teachers had crafted almost out of desperation...
I had the opportunity to walk for graduation. Not only do I return for the in-person event but I am also awarded the Igor Ansoff Award for being an inspirational member of the community and adding a diverse perspective.
My first class of 3rd graders graduate high school. Not only do they graduate but they are going to the top schools in the country: Carnegie Melon, Northeastern, Boston University, UConn, Clark University…the list goes on
The over 10+ year journey is just a snippet of my life but an important one because it taught me a lot about my own resilience and the power of inspiration. I will continue to excel not because I have something to prove to myself but because I need to continue to show my former students that this journey we are on is worth it.
Britt Hunter- Vanderbilt University MBA c/o 2020
Amanda "Chezzy" Sanchez- Middlebury College c/o 2025