NEW YORK—Gil De Jesus lived most of his life in the Soundview section of the Bronx.
"I was born in the Dominican Republic. My family and I we moved here when I was six years old with the intentions of my brother and I getting a better education. My father always believed the key to a better life is through education," De Jesus said.
His mother was a beautician and his father worked several jobs to bring in money.
Hard work was instilled in Gil early on.
And that’s exactly what he did during his time at Mott Hall Bronx High School.
"Seeing how much they sacrificed and how much they dedicated to my brother and I. I didn't want them to see us moving here or them sacrificing so much as a burden. It has really been the motivation thus far in why I do all the things that I do," De Jesus explained.
That hard work paid off.
Through his grades and the counselors at the College Bound Initiative, Gil was not only accepted into Columbia University.
He has a full ride.
He credits much of his success to the help he received from CBI.
His parents didn’t know much about the college process, so Gil relied heavily on the counselors’ help.
"I found that a lot of the counselors who were part of the process were people who came from similar backgrounds to mine. You know, low income or from immigrant families Anyone can help someone apply for college, but not everyone can put in perspective the importance of higher education. And that's what CBI really does," De Jesus said.
He’s a month or so into his freshman year, learning the ropes of college life and majoring in Latin American studies and political science.
He hopes to become a defense attorney and one day represent people from his community.
"I’m very passionate about my roots. I’ve done all I can to learn as much as I can about being a Latin X person without the resources. Now I have a whole data base to teach me about my people, my culture and I’m definitely going to take advantage of that," De Jesus added.
But for now, Gil’s living the dream and making his parents proud.
"The fact that they know how much I've worked for this and I’m here now. My parents, they're as proud of me as they could ever be," De Jesus said.