When Jermisha started at By The Hand Club as a fifth grader, she struggled as a student. Her grades didn’t reflect her potential. But her leaders could see what her report card failed to reveal: Jermisha was destined to be a successful student.

Jermisha reflects, “Having the encouragement of mentors made a huge difference. Being around people who motivated me and who, themselves, were motivated made me want to do my best. I wanted to try.” Jermisha decided to give her full effort and her story started to shift. She took her work and her future more seriously. Her grades began to improve and soon she was thinking about colleges and scholarships.“ She was encouraged to apply to become a Gates Millennium Scholar. “When it was time to apply, I had a lot going for me. I knew I had the grades.” But it wasn’t just that. Jermisha didn’t face the process alone. She recalls, “I had the support of so many people helping me make sure I got my application right. Make sure it was submitted correctly and on time. They wanted success for me.”

The final factor that inspired Jermisha to apply was another By The Hand student who had gone before her. “I saw Malik do it. Knowing someone that had been able to do it, that made me believe. It didn’t feel far away. It didn’t feel out of reach. And that gave me courage. It felt possible.” She turned the possibility into reality. Jermisha was named a Gates Millennium Scholar and is now a graduate student.

She is paying forward the inspiration she got from Malik. Her nephew, an eight-year-old By The Hand student himself, watches everything Jermisha does. “He wants to do everything I do. He can’t wait to go to college. And I get to be in a position to tell him, from experience, that it’s possible. That it is there for him.”