“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“No te preocupes hijo, tú vas para Jarbar”
“Don’t worry son, you’re going to Harvard”

My mom’s encouraging words were a source of comfort when I couldn’t share the exciting news – she lost her battle with breast cancer a few weeks before my acceptance to HBS.

My mom’s confidence in me was boundless. When I wanted to play Danny Zuko in our third grade rendition of Grease, she used two bottles of hair spray to help me look the part. When I wanted to become a baseball star, she used a flashlight so my dad and I could play well into the night.

My mom, Elisa, challenged me to dream big. It’s what has enabled me to overcome the odds of being the son of immigrants who never attended college, of growing up in a working-class community and attending mediocre public schools. My mom may not have been able to proofread my application essays or pronounce Harvard correctly, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without her always telling me that anything was possible.

I want to honor my mom by being that voice of possibility for others. I want to use my education and my mom’s inspiration to help people, businesses and entire communities reach their full potential. I want to never be deterred by the odds; I want to change the odds for those around me.

— Andrew Velo-Arias