Gadwin Stewart, a Johnson Scholarship recipient from Palm Beach County, graduated from Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. He was the first in his family to do so. Being a first-generation college student comes with its many challenges, as indicated by Leslie Pendleton in a recent blog on the University of Florida Opportunity Scholars Program. Overcoming various obstacles, Gadwin thrived in college and graduated with several opportunities ahead of him. He currently teaches at Kipp Delta Collegiate High School and is in pursuit of a graduate degree that will equip him to help kids reach their potential.
Gadwin’s story is one of success. He recently returned to his high school to speak with current Johnson Scholars and shared 3 important keys to success that are valuable and applicable to us all.
- Success is earned
“Do what you have to do now, so you get to do what you want to do later.” Few model this idea better than Gadwin. As a high school junior, Gadwin spent hours writing essays and gathering references for college scholarships. While the Johnson Scholarship was a start, he would need more to cover the cost of his post-secondary education. The effort he put in literally payed off. Gadwin received over 20 scholarships, including the Gates Scholarship that gave him a full-ride to his institution. Because the cost of college was covered, Gadwin could join several on-campus clubs and organizations to maximize his learning experience.
What do you have to do now to get where you want to be tomorrow and beyond? Think about the future and let it affect how you’re living right now.
- Don’t let anyone downplay your success
It’s tempting to let others downplay your success. But success is earned and your hard work deserves the appropriate amount of recognition. Knowing your value and the value of the opportunities you’ve created for yourself is an important piece in continuing to strive for accomplishment. When success happens, trace it back to the root of your dedicated
effort and the encouragement of others. When you celebrate, don’t just celebrate what you attained, but reward yourself for the focus and effort it required of you. Then you can refocus and keep moving forward onto your next goal. Doing so will also help guide others in better understanding how to earn their own success.
- Your success can lead to others’ success
As a first-generation college student, Gadwin is acutely aware of the impact his success has on his family. When he got accepted to college, he knew that he was paving the way for his younger siblings to believe they, too, could attain a post-secondary education. He used his success to encourage a new precedent for his family members. Success has the potential to generate a snowball effect of change, starting with the life of the individual and – if properly handled – growing to include the life of the community. Recognize that your success has potential to make an impact and use it to catalyze and inspire others to succeed, as well.
Take a look around and think about how your very next actions can have consequences on your surroundings and those within it.