My name is Na’Shantéa Miller and I was once told that I wouldn’t get far with a name like “Na’Shantéa.” However, I would be lying if I told you that these types of comments are at the heart of my experiences.
Negatives comments, such as…
· “You’re stupid” – an undergraduate professor when I was getting help during office hours · “You don’t have what it takes to get into Harvard” – a co-worker
…were overshadowed by the words of advice and encouragement from teachers and mentors who pushed and reminded me to put everything into perspective:
· “If you keep working as hard as you do, you’re going to go far.” – Mr. Pick (grade 5 teacher) · “You need to calm down and relax. If you don’t learn to do that, you’re going to send yourself to an early grave” – Mrs. Brownlow (grade 8 teacher) · “You’re going to be the President of North America/the world. We know that position doesn’t exist yet, but you will.” – Mr. Barrett and Ms. Gibbs (grade 11 and 12 basketball coaches)
I applied to Harvard not because I expected to get in, but because I was living out one of my life mottos: “the only thing worse than rejection is not knowing.” I didn’t want to wonder “what if,” but instead apply, be rejected, and tell myself that at least I tried. I may sound a bit negative, but who applies to Harvard thinking they will get accepted? Definitely not me.
But the opposite happened – I got accepted to pursue a Master in Public Policy with a concentration in Business and Government Policy in the Harvard Kennedy School! This graduate school focuses on service and doing good in the community, which aligns with my mission as a community-minded individual with a passion for creating positive change. With this degree, I want to draft public policies that incentivize more meaningful corporate citizenship initiatives as sustainable solutions to social problems because I believe in the positive power of business. Businesses have the financial power to make a massive difference in the world so I want to transform the common narrative of businesses causing social problems to proactively combating them. However, there is an obstacle in the way – the cost of attending Harvard.
The total cost of Harvard tuition and housing expenses is $84,670 USD per year for two years, which is the equivalent of $113,106.42 CAD per year. I applied to financial aid at Harvard and was hoping that I would receive some help, but I didn’t because of limited funding. Most of the funding offered by Harvard Kennedy School isn't even based on financial need. The reality is that the sum of my personal and parental savings of $37,281.34 CAD is not nearly enough to cover these expenses. However, in order to secure my U.S. student visa to attend Harvard, I need to provide evidence of $75,824.66 CAD (first year tuition) by June 15, 2019. I was almost going to turn down my offer, but I was reminded that if I don’t put myself out there and ask for help, I won’t know what will happen. After all, the only thing worse than rejection is not knowing.
As a product of mentorship, I have been committed to paying it forward. I am currently a mentor in a program called Leadership by Design, which aims to support Black high school students in the Greater Toronto Area in their leadership development. Any support that I receive from this fundraising campaign will also be used to pay it forward by dedicating 5% to providing scholarships to other students and the another 5% will go to a rural community in Gulu, Uganda that Mama Latigo, my former high school guidance counsellor and mentor, has been supporting for the past 7 years. Through her efforts, the Olwiyo Faith School and Orphanage Centre now has latrines, a kitchen, a well, and seven classrooms. The Olwiyo community is now looking for funds to roof the classrooms.
My story is just one example of the power of teachers and mentors. Their role in my life has been so significant that I’ve always said that there will be a table of teachers and mentors at my wedding. If you are able to please support me in any way, I would really appreciate it.
Thank you so much for your generous support!
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What about scholarships and second year tuition?
It would be easy for me to say that there aren’t scholarships out there for me, but that is not the reality. There are scholarships and grants, but they are difficult to come by as an international student. I have been scouring the internet for Canadian scholarships that do not hold the common requirement of attending a Canadian institution and for American scholarships that do not hold the typical condition of being a U.S. citizen. For example, I went through a scholarship database that listed more than 1,000 scholarships and was able to identify five that I can apply for. My goal is to apply for as many scholarships as possible for a combined value of $100,000 USD in the hopes of covering one year of tuition. If it means writing a short story from the perspective of a crane to earn $500 USD (this is actually a scholarship prompt), I’ll do it. Most of the ones that I have found so far are valued at $1000 so that means I’m going to have to apply for 100 scholarships. However, there is no guarantee that I will get these scholarships and I will definitely not be able to secure the funds before the deadline so I’m also trying to raise money to cover the first year of tuition.
2. Some people receive more than the amount listed. If this is the case, what do you plan on doing with the money?
Receiving enough support to help cover one year of tuition would already be unbelievable. If you would like to further support me for the second year of tuition, I would be extremely grateful but that is more than I could ever ask for. 10% of anything raised will go back to the community (5% for scholarships and 5% to the rural community in Uganda). Funds covering more than the second year of tuition will be evenly split between the two causes.