The Fellowship Initiative: California Dreamin’

Guest post by Julian Dixon

Besides the beautiful and refreshing view of California streets and palm trees, TFI’s UCLA trip was game-changing. This trip not only gave me a great idea of the university’s many great features, but an understanding of the importance of a great education for all, especially people of color. It helped me understand that investing in our futures and ourselves will help improve the world and change perspectives, because we have the potential to be great.

After a long day of flying from Texas to California, we barely had time to get our rooms and put our bags down before we had to jump on the bus and head to our first activity: go-karting! The activity was a great way to start things off with a bang, as everyone had a chance to enjoy the thrill and excitement of racing and gradually got to know their peers. Afterwards, we got to eat from a 35” foot pizza!

Early the next morning, we went on a tour of UCLA and saw its amazing buildings, structures, and statues. From the many food places to the various study areas, to the outside environment of constant vivacity and spirit, the school was magnificent. Its sprawling and well-designed campus gave it a unique and extravagant quality. Next, we experienced the feel of college life with energetic classes that gave us skills we will need in college and beyond. There were English and Math courses, each challenging us to think and understand at a deeper level and encouraging us to search harder for answers.

Lectures were, by far, the most engaging part of the trip. One of my favorite lectures was a TED talk about telling your own stories based on your experiences. It showed us that everyone’s story is something that should be heard. It gave me the courage and reassurance to be proud of where I come from and the person I am today. Finally, we met the California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, who gave us the extraordinary back-story of his journey and his methods of motivation and success.

To wrap up each day, we had discussions about topics such as masculinity and community. This gave me a chance to learn about my brothers’ past experiences, struggles, and beliefs, which brought me closer to them.

And then there was the most tremendous moment of the trip: the beach. All the TFI brothers had so much to do like volleyball, football, frisbee, and getting our feet wet in the water. We also had amazing burgers to eat — California style! At the end of the beach trip, we had a bonfire with the whole TFI family making s’mores and having fun.

On this trip, TFI brothers from across the country came together and got a chance to bond with the entire TFI family. It was an event that would shape the program, me, and my brothers’ lives. The days were jam-packed with classes, lectures, and deep discussions that were crucial to our growth and success. There were moments of brotherhood, closeness, motivation and of course, fun! Because of this tour, I am more prepared to go to college and better understand myself. I am very thankful to all who made an effort to make this experience happen. I hope that as I continue my journey to college, I will use what I learned to succeed and change the world.

The Fellowship Initiative (TFI) is a high school and college persistence program for young men of color, started in 2010 by JPMORGAN Chase, to help young men of color (Fellows) acquire the skills, knowledge, experience, networks, and other resources they need to succeed academically and professionally. Click here to learn more.