1993 - 1999
I was born in Reno, Nevada on November 17, 1993, to two soldiers who met and fought during Operation: Desert Storm. This is usually the part where people say something like, “Being a soldier is in my blood”, or “I was raised to be a warrior”. However, never having served my country in uniform, I can not gauge as to whether I would be a good soldier, but I can say that the act of service is in my blood. Selfless service is perfectly personified in my mother. Not long after I was born, my parents nullified their marriage. E’Rick Robert Finch became Eric Matthew Washington, and Sharon Ann Finch once again became Sharon Ann Washington. It is safe to say that as soon as my mother and I claimed the Washington name, life truly began.
Childhood was a fast-paced blur. How many of us can truly remember our childhood vividly? How many of us can do that when you have to relocate every couple of months? Having a soldier for a mother is interesting in and of itself. My mother was highly sought after, and everything was a secret. My mother traveled the world, but I became a hybrid of experiences from California, Texas, and Alaska. Alaska is where my childhood memories truly begin. I spend most of my elementary school years in Anchorage, Alaska at Anchorage Christian School. It wasn’t long until my mother decided it was time for me to meet my extended family, her siblings. It was that decision that brought me to the great state of Texas, a decision that ultimately changed the course of my entire life.
2000 - 2011
Living with my mother’s sisters was an interesting and unique experience. As a kid, I thought nothing of living with a single mother. That was all I knew and for nineties-babies not all that uncommon. However, even as a child, I knew that transitioning from a single mother to three adult women was extremely unique, but I welcomed it. I remember even as a child thinking that spending all my time with women would make me quite the Ladies Man. However, my Aunties did not teach me dating, instead, my lessons consisted of Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Wednesday Night Bible Study, Thursday Morning Prayer, Hot Sauce, Soul Food, Fried Food, Top Ramen, and Frugal Spending. It’s safe to infer that as a kid I was burned out on church, but always thinking about my Auntie’s cooking. Being raised by my Aunties in addition to my Mother, (all true Southern women from Monahans, TX), came with all the above and so much more.
As I grew older, High School is where I shaped my worldview. From 2009 - 2011 I was provided the privilege to be nominated for three conferences that would expand my horizons and show me that the world was much bigger than Bryan, TX. During my time at Hammond-Oliver High School (a magnet school for those interested in the medical profession), I was nominated by one of my instructors to attend the People to People conference at Harvard University the summer of 2009. During my time at Harvard, I made friends with people from every region and continent of the world. The next summer in 2010 I was nominated by a different instructor to attend the National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. where I gained the interest in policy, legislation, and all things related to Capitol Hill. I was even voted to act as the President of the United States during a simulation that addressed a hostage situation concerning U.S. citizens and Somali Pirates. Not long after the National Young Leaders Conference, I took a leap of faith and signed up for an Ambassador program traveling abroad in the Mediterranean in 2011. Throughout my travels with People to People I have met some amazing people, and I am still friends with them to this day. It amazes me to look back and realize that was the seed that was sown to spark my interest in International Relations. It is safe to say, that if it were not for those three summer conferences, my worldview may not have given me the pivotal skills needed to contribute to the fight for equity.
2012 - 2016
However, I would also argue that being raised by four strong, southern Black women, I was equipped for a life of service and equity. I began pondering a lot about these concepts in high school, where I began to not only learn about myself, but also how the world views me, those that raised me, and everyone who matches the description. Blackness in all of its concept and culture consumed my thoughts. I began to read and make connections that only a few of my classmates understood. However, as a teenager, I was not able to articulate my thoughts about Blackness well, and most of my thoughts either stayed in my mind or when spoken, were portrayed in a comedic way to ease the tension.
Near the end of my High School career, the tension became permanent company. Graduating from high school in Spring of 2012 came with it some shocking experiences as someone who is just comprehending everything they thought was normal. The death of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012, made the months leading to May of 2012 eye-opening. It was the unfortunate seed that sowed my passion for equity.
In 2012 I enrolled in Texas A&M University. For a year and a half, I wandered aimlessly, quite literally, in every sense of the phrase. I did not know anyone, I found out that my high school education was evident that I did not know anything, and frankly, I was stuck in a mental limbo. I was a student with no major, no friends, no money, and no sense of home (I tried my best to limit myself from the family home, twenty minutes away). I knew I needed to find a community and find one fast.
I completely went overboard:
- Texas A&M University Mock Trial Team (2012 - 2016)
- MSC Carter G. Woodson Black Awareness Committee (2013 - 2016)
- Young Life (2014 - 2016)
- IMPACT (2015 - 2016)
- Kids Across America (2015 - 2016)
- Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference (2015 - 2016)
With one major, two minors, three concentrations, and zero time management skills, I became too comfortable, too fast. Despite the clear passion to serve the law, our youth, and my community. The fight for equity quickly became the fight to simply graduate. My grades slipped to a point I was put on official academic probation the Fall semester of my senior year, and I was right back to square one, I was on every organization’s bad side because I could not be at three places at once, which lead me to many rounds of mental chess, many disciplinary meetings, and humbly apologizing... a lot.
The only thing that kept me from becoming a complete pariah to every organization I committed to was because of my programming results and leadership skills. Making things happen by the skin of my teeth became an unwanted brand that I was forced to acknowledge and something I will forever work to change about myself. Despite my utter lack of juggling multiple things efficiently, I was able to successfully fulfill my duties and obligations to all of my organizations, and even winning numerous awards because of my work. The irony does not escape me.
2016 - 2018
Despite the somewhat fulfilling undergraduate career, I found myself without a plan after I walked the stage. I was so busy keeping myself afloat that I completely forgot about the long game. I did not even bother applying to law school, I did not have the money, nor grades for it. I was conned into a subpar academic advising program which lead me to submit a horrible application package for a PhD program, which I was (of course) denied entry to. Lastly, getting a job with a degree in Political Science is surprisingly standard with the proper networking and internships, which I did not have.
My fear of living with my Aunties as an old man forced me to find a job and find one fast and my ego wouldn’t let me settle for anything. I have student loans and big dreams, a bad combination for someone with no job to fund either. Fortunately, I was lead to a position with the College Advising Corps. I packed up, moved to Houston, and made a plan to save my money. Two out of the three worked out.
Houston thus far has been the most amazing experience of my life. As an AmeriCorps college advisor, I was able to be on the front lines of the fight for educational equity. I was so invigorated to work and mentor Black and Brown teenagers, and not a single day went by where I did not want to go to the office. Living in Houston allowed me to complete so many goals for myself, and serve so many needs for others. Living in Houston allowed me to serve AmeriCorps, become a member of Alpha Phi Alpha (a long-time goal of mine), and serve those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. I was working towards equity on a large scale and I never felt so alive.
2018 - Present
The experience of AmeriCorps was hard to let go. It was a steady paycheck which allowed me to live in an amazing city. However, AmeriCorps opened another door for me: The Bush School of Government and Public Service. During my time in Houston, I was taking classes with the Bush School online and obtained a 4.0 GPA for the entire program (one of the very few 4.0 GPAs I had ever received in my life). I found that I had a knack for graduate school that I did not have for undergraduate work. I began to think to myself tell myself, “I should take my credits and make them into a full-fledged Master’s degree. My AmeriCorps work allows me to obtain a scholarship, and I have shown that I can perform graduate-level work. Go for it”. Well, I went for it. Now I am a Master’s of International Affairs student at The Bush School of Government and Public Service. My fight for equity continues. My entire academic experience has lead me to visualize the long-game. We will see how far my education takes me, and I have a strong feeling The Bush School will take me far.