RISE for Youth
Connecting, Learning and Finding a Place

RISE. A four-letter word that has undeniably reshaped the tapestry of my life. Being an immigrant presented my journey with a myriad of challenges—the uneven playing field, where opportunities seemed a privilege only for my white counterparts, the unwavering need to exert tenfold effort to earn the same validations from superiors and the haunting feeling of never measuring up, forever striving to cross that elusive finish line. For the past 18 years of my life, I carried the weight of these burdens, being the eldest daughter with the solemn responsibility of making my parents proud, while also grappling with the emotional burden of not fitting in. The understanding dawned on me quickly that my life’s path could be a demanding one. This obstacle-filled journey alienated me from finding a community of my own. Growing up no one related to me.

This emotional journey left me feeling disconnected. Yet, destiny had something remarkable in store for me. When I crossed paths with RISE for Youth, my skepticism dissolved into awe. Stepping into the room to commence the RISE program, I immediately connected with mentors, advisors and peers who shared my very story. The space became a sanctuary of genuine support, understanding and encouragement—a place where everyone was eager to uplift each other. In this haven, I knew my place was valued, my stories were heard and something extraordinary was about to unfold.

During the transformative four weeks I spent at RISE, I not only crafted cherished memories but also honed essential life skills. From mastering culinary arts to mastering the art of networking, RISE For Youth illuminated the path, revealing that minorities can indeed have a competitive edge. Unlike many programs that may seem condescending in their approach to minorities, RISE embraced our talents and aspirations, lifting us up and showcasing the unique potential each of us possessed. Whether it was embarking on insightful field trips or sharing emotions as a united group, the profound impact of the experience reverberated on multiple levels.

One distinct memory etched deep in my heart and soul is the time we recorded our podcast, a poignant moment of reflection. As I looked into the eyes of each friend, a profound sense of understanding and vulnerability intertwined, moving me to tears. In that moment, I realized that I had discovered my chosen family within RISE, a realization that touched me in ways I had never experienced before. My journey at RISE diverged from any other life experience, as for the first time, I felt truly heard, cherished and embraced.

August 6, 2023, marked the anniversary of my graduation from the inaugural cohort of RISE for Youth. Over the course of the year, since graduation, I have been engaged in profound introspection, guided by my personal mentor who was thoughtfully assigned to me through RISE. Additionally, I have actively contributed to the RISE for Youth student advisory board. This transformative journey has been an exquisite tapestry of growth, gratitude and empowerment.

Embracing the essence of RISE, I have internalized its profound acronym—Reflect, Inspire, Success and Empower. Each day, I take the time to reflect on my life, expressing gratitude to myself and those around me for the blessings and opportunities bestowed upon me. I strive to inspire and be inspired, fostering an uplifting environment where the spark of motivation kindles brightly in every heart. Celebrating every success, no matter how grand or seemingly insignificant, has become a cherished ritual, a reminder that every achievement holds its own significance. Finally, I empower myself to persevere through every twist and turn that life unfolds, fortified by the unwavering belief in my abilities.

RISE, with its profound impact, illuminated the path ahead, empowering me to embrace my uniqueness and celebrate my identity with pride. It has instilled within me a renewed sense of self-belief, as I stand tall, ready to face life’s challenges with unwavering resilience. As I embark on the path beyond RISE, I carry with me the wisdom, connections and cherished memories, forever grateful for this transformative experience. So, in this moment of heartfelt gratitude, I extend my deepest thanks to RISE for Youth for giving me not only a family but also a lifeline of support, courage, and empowerment. You have etched upon my heart a legacy of belonging, fortitude and love, forever guiding my path with unwavering brilliance. ::

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RISE for Youth is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between Mayo Clinic and the Rochester branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) designed to help Black and underrepresented students transform themselves from youth with potential into competitive and empowered talent entering the workforce.

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