How did you learn about Prep for Prep?
I was in an elementary school in East Harlem called TAG, which stood for the Talented and Gifted School. A number of students had gone to Prep from my school, including a childhood friend of my brother’s (and mine), Armando Ramirez. Also, a number of my classmates, because I started after sixth grade, were already in Prep, so by the time my sixth-grade teacher recommended me for the program, I was already pretty familiar with it.
What is your fondest memory of your time in the Preparatory Component?
My fondest memory is the trip to Hotchkiss at the end of our second summer in the program. Prep students are broken up into units of about 10 to 12 kids, with two older Prep alums as advisors. Your unit meets every day in the summer, and on the last night of the Hotchkiss trip, we all do a skit show. The skits usually have inside jokes about the program, or other advisors, and at times they can be very creative. I was hooked by the experience and eventually came back to the program for several summers as an advisor.
For many, the Preparatory Component is the first time students are around peers who are equally smart and passionate learners. What was that experience like for you?
Coming from a talented and gifted program in elementary school, I honestly felt a number of my classmates would have done well at Prep. I feel fortunate that I was recommended for the program, and although I was with some of the highest achieving students from all over the city, I am not sure it registered with me at the time that the experience was special. Looking back on it now I can see that I developed lifelong friendships with an impressive group of people. As I got older, I felt I needed to do more to reach out and celebrate some of these folks, which is why I joined the Alumni Council.
Who had the greatest impact on your Prep for Prep journey?
Aside from my wife, Priscilla Morales, who is Prep Contingent XII and has had the largest effect on my entire life, obviously, there are so many people I can thank. If I am forced to pick one, I would say my advisor my first two summers in Prep, Derrick Biney-Amissah. Derrick was in high school at Trinity at the time, is an artist, and became an idol of mine. Eventually, we got the opportunity to work together as advisors (by then he was in college at Georgetown). Derrick’s demeanor, modesty, and real concern for me at a time when I didn’t know I needed that kind of support, helped me get through the program.
What do you do professionally and how has your Prep experience influenced your approach to work and your career?
I’ve had a long career in real estate, from law firms, to an investment bank, to a private equity firm, to my own business, and back to a law firm. I am currently a public and real estate finance paralegal at a law firm in Baltimore. I would say that, throughout my experience, the relationships I have made along the way were shaped by the cultural and social situations that Prep created by placing me in an independent school. As a kid growing up in public housing, I would never have had access to the kinds of peers who now lead companies, are law firm partners, doctors, investment bankers, education administrators, and so much more.
What is your biggest takeaway from your Prep experience?
The Prep experience is integrated into every aspect of my life, so much so that I have no way of understanding life without it. My wife is a Prep alum, I am the president of the Alumni Council, most of my friends have connections to the program (or are also alums), my three children have been educated in independent schools, my daughter worked there as her first job out of college, my best friend from childhood just put his son through the program. I can safely say that getting to a point in life where I have accomplished so much would not have been possible without going through Prep. I am forever indebted to the program.
What advice would you give to students who are considering applying for Prep for Prep? What would you tell the adults in their life?
Do it. It may be hard to understand the benefits at first, especially as you go through summer school and extra school during the school year, but the outcomes are immeasurable. The exposure to success, to leadership, to excellence can only benefit you. There are always other paths, and if you are even considering Prep, you are likely a motivated student and family. Prep, for 45 years, has been harnessing that motivation and building an impressive community. You would be entering a community designed to engender success, and parents, what more do you want for your children?Read Joseph Hutchinson's StoryRead David Blanding's Story