January 28, 2020

Scholar Voices: How my mentor shaped my journey to college graduation

Tsion Taye was accepted by Brian and his family from the moment they were paired through the Earl Woods Scholar Program. Here they posed for a selfie in Washington D.C. shortly after their introduction.

When I count my blessings, I count Brian Fredrick, my Earl Woods Scholar mentor, twice. I don’t quite know the process that the TGR Foundation used to match me and Brian up, but ever since we were introduced to each other the summer before my freshman year at Lehigh University, we have connected. Brian was not only interested in knowing me and my aspirations as a first-generation college-bound student, he was also eager to meet my family and see how they fit into the picture. I appreciated his eagerness to involve my parents in this process and learn a thing or two about my Ethiopian culture.

Tsion Taye and her family joined her mentor Brian and his wife for lunch during a break from her studies at LeHigh University.

Once I transitioned into college, Brian would check in on me whenever he could and share helpful articles that he thought I could benefit from such as what makes a great leader or how to navigate the path to success. Although Brian’s background in college was not similar to mine, he still encouraged me any way he could whenever I encountered problems.

One of the biggest lessons Brian taught me through this process was the importance of being humble and not forgetting your beginnings. No matter how successful Brian has become through a lot of hard work and dedication, he doesn’t act pompous or treat people differently. He still respects everyone and encourages me to do the same. His willingness to give back and pay it forward also motivates me to one day become a mentor for an Earl Woods Scholar through the Foundation.

Besides merely checking in on me through phone calls and emails, Brian also made an effort to reconnect whenever I came back to Washington D.C. for breaks. Multiple times we have had an opportunity to gather both our families together and have lunch or dinner. I absolutely adore his daughter Korinna who has such a huge heart and is entertaining. I remember one time we had a chance to spend the day at Brian’s house and Korinna, and I had a great time playing in the pool. Whenever he gets a chance, Brian also drives up to Lehigh with his family so he can see how I’m doing. Recently when he came by, it was time for winter break so he generously drove me back home so I wouldn’t have to go through the hassle of taking two busses back to D.C.

In addition to supporting her travels, Brian eased Earl Woods Scholar Tsion Taye’s commute home during a winter break and shared an Italian meal during the trip.

One of things Brian is passionate about is traveling because he believes it’s good for the soul, and it makes people open-minded. With his family he has traveled to a lot of cool places, and when I encountered opportunities to travel at school, whether it was during winter or spring break, he would be my number one proponent. I will forever remain grateful for Brian because he was eager to support my trips by funding a lot of them since he knew my family couldn’t afford it. Through his assistance, I have been able to travel to London, South Korea, Israel and very recently Germany. Every single travel opportunity has taught me so much about life and really enhanced my appreciation for different cultures. For these enlightening traveling opportunities, I am forever thankful for Brian and his family.

I truly don’t know what I did to deserve a mentor like Brian, who cares so much about seeing me succeed and become a well-rounded person. I have learned so much from him, his wife Michelle and even their daughter Korinna, and I will forever cherish that. As my college journey is coming to an end, I am excited to graduate and move to North Carolina to work as a software engineer at Fidelity Investments. Although the end is bittersweet, I am looking forward to it since I know I will be surrounded by the people I love, such as Brian and his family, at graduation and for years to come.

Redefining what it means to be a champion.