June 09, 2016

Charbel Hanna kicks off our Scholar Voices series

In our new series, Scholar Voices, we invite our Earl Woods Scholars to share their stories with us, discussing their unique experiences in college. In our inaugural post, Bentley University rising junior Charbel Hanna writes about his experience transferring colleges after his freshman year and the obstacles and accomplishments he has encountered along the way.

As I ended my freshman year at Emmanuel College, I felt like something was missing. I wanted to be challenged and pushed to work harder and go above my standards and I didn’t feel like that was happening for me. One thing I learned about myself my freshman year was how much I enjoyed being an active member on campus and giving back to my community. Attending my school’s Alternative Spring Break trip to New Orleans and having that opportunity to rebuild a home for a family who was still affected and struggling from Hurricane Katrina meant the world to me. I was also a big brother for for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, a role I was committed to and didn’t want to see end. Being a mentor for a young boy at the Maurice J. Tobin School in Roxbury, allowed me to see life in a different perspective and appreciate the little things the world offers.

Coming in as an accounting major and sports management minor, I figured it would be best for me to find a school that was well known for business and was going to allow me to build my network and expand my knowledge tremendously. With the support of my mentor Lee Esckilsen, and the Tiger Woods Foundation and Red Sox Foundation staff, I made the best decision of my life by deciding to transfer to Bentley University my sophomore year.

In just a matter of months, I noticed that at Bentley the amount of opportunities were endless. However, coming in as a transfer student was a challenge during my first semester, as I began taking many of the general requirement courses that freshman students were taking. Also, being placed in transfer housing was a struggle as I felt isolated from my fellow classmates, making it difficult for me to meet fellow sophomores. As the semester progressed, I felt as if one of my professor’s teaching methods didn’t correspond with my way of learning. Using all the resources offered to me on campus and speaking with my professor weekly, I learned that I was going to have to find new ways to master this material. I have always created high standards for myself, and no matter how many people congratulated me on my major accomplishments I didn’t feel as if I reached my full potential.

As the year flew by, going into my spring semester I felt more confident, aware of my surroundings and knowledgeable of where everything was on campus. I was able to continue with my role as a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters. I was paired with a bright student at the Thomas R. Plympton Elementary School in Waltham, where I began visiting him weekly and teaching him the skills needed to succeed in school, avoid distractions, and how to go outside his comfort zone meeting new friends. Also, I started to be more active on campus, joining the Campus Activities Board (CAB) and communicating with agents to schedule artists, prepare decorations, and assemble a show for the different concerts and events at Bentley. Also, I became a member of ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals for America) where I was able to enhance my professional skills through networking with accounting firms and different companies. With that I was selected to attend PricewaterhouseCooper’s Explore Program, where I interviewed and was offered an internship with PwC for this summer. In addition, based on my academic achievement, leadership experience and my eagerness to gain more knowledge of the accounting profession, I was selected to attend the AICPA Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop in Durham, North Carolina. I had the opportunity to network with CPAs, dozens of other selected attendants through speakers, panel discussions and interactive programs, as well as fellow students from all over the United States who have the same dream I do of becoming a CPA.

Sadly though, mid-semester it felt as if my life was shattered and torn apart when my best friend, cousin and ultimate role model passed away from Mitochondrial disease. I looked up to Jessica, as she was my motivation having seen her recently earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting and finance. Through the struggle and pain, I was able to push myself and finish this semester strong for her. No matter how difficult a course or situation may be, I remind myself of Jessica’s strength and her power to defy all odds and serve as a positive influence for many. Her undefeated mentality is what gives me the extra backbone and force to fight on without any regrets.

As I transition into my junior year, I will be coming in as an ALANA Experience Program Leader. This means I will be assigned a group of diverse students who I will serve as a support system to, and become responsible for their well-being and attendance of events during the course of the ALANA Experience Program. In addition, I am going to be a Transfer Seminar Facilitator, where I will use my experiences and assist new transfer students during their Transfer Seminar Course. I will facilitate activities, present information and lead discussions helping these students feel connected and comfortable with the campus and community. Lastly, I am going to serve as a Career Colleague in Career Services where I will be responsible for working with freshmen and sophomore students on resumes, LinkedIn, cover letter development and career search process questions. I will be co-facilitating CDI 101 and 201 classes, and assisting in the management and administration of new Career Communities. I will use what I have learned at the Earl Woods Scholar workshops to provide tips and host discussions on collaborating with students and assisting them in achieving their goals.

Overall, I can honestly say that with the support of the Tiger Woods Foundation, I have become a wise young man who is capable of achieving success despite any bump along the road. I have become more driven and I know what I want and what I need to do to earn that goal and make my dreams become a reality.