I’m Jumar Anthony Martin. At the time of writing this my day job is being a high school senior hellbent on graduating with the lowest possible GPA, inadvertently disappointing those around me, and living life not to the fullest. On the side, I’m working with Vietfu Tang of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Sanskriti Deva of the North Carolina School of Science and Math on projects that may have the ability to change the world one day.
I’ve always been told that I could have done better in high school. Countless conversations with teachers, mentors, and everyone who influences me leads to the fact that I could be the one giving the valedictorian address when we graduate. Could, could, could’ve, could have. I’ve learned that I have a nickname—it is actually a phrase, a nickphrase perhaps?—around school. To most teachers, I’m known as “the kid who could, but didn’t.”
One of the teachers that I’m close with publicly—which I accept with little shame but much embarrassment—chides me for coasting through high school. He states that I could have been accepted to all of the schools that I applied to. He’s probably onto something with that. There is one exception though; MIT doesn’t take just anyone. From hearing that for two years, I think it’s safe to say that I want a change in vernacular and word choice when people describe me. While I do get labels like “smart,” “intelligent,” or that I look like “Tiger Woods,” I shrug them off. The labels that people would not like to be labeled are the ones I don’t shrug off. Instead, I slip into deep thought of why I’m labeled as such and what I can do to shake them off. The pursuit and attainment of being “the kid who does”—and when looking back, “the kid who did and continued to do so”—starts now.
First we have to set some lofty goals to measure up to. The first goal should be attainable, but particularly taxing to do. Something that forces me to be complicit with tedium if I want to succeed. I abhor tedious work.
Summa Cum Laude
Lets graduate with the highest praise. At the institution that I will be attending in the fall, being conferred with the honor “Summa Cum Laude” requires a 3.9 GPA by graduation  and a GPA will not round up. If you have a GPA of 3.899999, then you’ll just be Magna-out-of-luck. That might be too easy though.
Lets go further. How about also being on the President’s List for eight semesters—four years—straight? The President’s List has a stringent requirement of “no grades below an ‘A-’” which carries an informal requirement of a 3.7 GPA or above. The Dean’s List requires a 3.5 GPA or above and “no grade below a ‘B-’.” Scoring only A’s will be pivotal to my success. A grade of “A-” is equal to 3.7 quality points which is then used to calculate your semester, year, major(s, I’m contemplating two majors one minor), and overall academic GPA. Too many ‘A-’s isn’t enough for Summa Cum Laude. This shouldn’t be too hard… right? If so, I can’t fathom how hard it will be to attain the next step in this plan.
Now I already know this will be extremely tough. Even more so since nobody at the institution that I’m attending has even been selected.
When reading the Rhodes Scholarship “Information for Candidates” memorandum the selection criteria really piqued my interest:
- Academic Excellence.
- Energy to use your talents to the full (as demonstrated by mastery in areas such as sports, music, debate, dance, theater, and artistic pursuits, including where teamwork is involved).
- Truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship.
- Moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in your fellow human beings.
More so, the memorandum states that scholars are “… young leaders of outstanding intellect and character who are motivated to engage with global challenges, committed to the service of others and show promise of becoming value-driven, principled leaders for the world’s future.” That sounds like something I could very well achieve. Standing up for the world is something that I’m quite interested in doing.
This will take an obscene amount of work but I’m incredibly down for it. Bringing home a Rhodes Scholarship would be awesome, especially with the idea that a Rhodes scholar is “standing up for the world.” Though the journey is what matters too. At the event where applicants meet each other and the panel, I’ll meet some incredible people there as well.
Working towards such a lofty goal is an incredible feat. Even if I’m not successful in being a Rhodes scholar, the preparation taken to even apply will definitely prepare me for the future that lays ahead of college.
Participate in Effective Research
This is pretty simple. I love uncovering new things as well as providing something novel to the world, even if it’s not of much use. Writing papers is somehow an absolute joy to me, especially when it’s on a topic I personally would love to dig deep into. Which is why I’m interested in Economics and Computer Science. At the corner or such is Econometrics which uses hard data to quantify human thoughts and actions. Not only research in Econometrics, but also Computer Science and Linguistics. Being able to produce effective research in all of the fields I’m interested in would be extremely rewarding. If not all, then whenever I do commit to research—which I intend to do when I start my freshman year—then being able to provide some semblance of worth to the field would be wonderful.
Build and Release Projects
Working on projects just to abandon them is something that is common as of now. Whether it is a new iOS project or something physical, quitting on something is common. That should stop. Whenever I commit to building something then I should at least finish it through, no matter if it has any relevance or not!
…that have a positive impact on the world
More importantly, the projects that I do release to the world to view and somehow represent me as a person should have the effect of improving the world, not hurting it. I feel like we’re capable of helping people with technology without exploiting them, whether it’s using their data for financial gain or using their data improperly. Especially with the advent of dark patterns creeping into our everyday lives, it’s important for someone to stand up for the common good. That common good being apps that have a purpose of being on your phone. That elevate you instead of trapping you into spending more money for tokens and such, wasting your money in the process.
I’d actually want to be on the good side of respecting people’s privacy and data. To create value not only through exploitation of people but by the uplifting of them.
These projects don’t necessarily have to deal with the interaction between people and technology, and instead can deal with anything I put my hands on. Whether it’s running a campaign to get people out and voting in an underserved area, improving the lives of those who stay in an economically and health depressed area of my hometown, anything for the public good, or standing up for the world “against tyranny” for instance is imperative for the continuance of a just and free world. I want to be a part of that. This would be the social good part of my life. The giving back to my community that raised me so.
Continue to Get Better Internally
All of the things I set out to do above—and countless other things—push me to be a better person. To be a better person requires to do better amongst myself and others. It’s common to think that to do better for others you must first do better for yourself, I don’t subscribe to that belief. I believe that as you do better for others, you yourself become a better person. The improvement of you improves those around you. As I improve myself, the environment around me improves as well. With that being the case, I have to improve myself externally and internally. Improving the process of which I decide what to do and so forth, as well as improving my worth to the communities that I’m a part of and the communities that I assist. Everything that I set out to do is a part of a really large plan of just plain ol’ improvement. I’m okay with that.
When I graduate college I’ll post my final high school transcript and my freshly-minted university transcript. To show not only growth in character, but growth in the things that didn’t matter to me as much as it should have. By the time I graduate college, hopefully with a Rhodes Scholarship in hand, I should be quantitatively and qualitatively a better person.
The first step is always the hardest!
In short, the plan is:
Graduate Summa Cum Laude
Be Elon University’s first Rhodes Scholarship recipient
Participate in effective research
Build and release products that have a positive impact on the world
While working on above, continue to improve internally for greater gains in the future.
I look forward to coming back to this, reviewing it, and then create a new plan. We are going to do all the things I set out to do in this super, secret, plan.
Thanks for reading!
: Elon University’s General Academic Regulations, http://www.elon.edu/docs/e-web/academics/catalog/09academicregs10.pdf
: Rhodes Scholarship Information for Candidates Memorandum, https://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/media/43646/information-for-candidates-usa.pdf