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The Crowder Law Firm Scholarship Fall 2022 Winner

Tasimba Jonga

Tasimba’s essay paints a picture of his father’s ambitions and the steps his father took to make the American Dream a reality for his entire family. Today, Tasimba is studying at Stanford University where he is enrolled in a graduate program. Since moving to the United States at 16, he has chased his own ambitions and worked incredibly hard to make the most out of his father’s hard work and sacrifice. Read more about Tasimba’s inspiring story below.

Tasimba Jonga

Read Tasimba's Essay:

To me the American Dream is the hope of a better tomorrow. A chance to change the course of your life, and the lives of those around you. However, it's not given, it’s earned. It takes hard work, perseverance and sacrifice; and my dad did just that. When I was two years old, my father moved to the US from Zimbabwe with only a few dollars to his name. I didn’t have the understanding or vocabulary to explain what was happening, but over the ensuing decade, signs of Zimbabwe’s financial crisis were obvious even to a child. He took a chance in search of a better future for his family, under the suffocating weight of hyperinflation. For a young man who grew up herding cattle in the villages of Zimbabwe and sharing a plate of food with seven of his siblings, moving to a foreign country was the last thing on his mind, but he did it. He did it in pursuit of the American dream, and today it is still alive and well.

Like most immigrants, he faced the struggle that comes with being with one; the sense that everyone around you sees you as different and you are a second class citizen. He was in a foreign land, with a different language, different food, different social norms, and different people; however as he navigated through all this, and the biases and the prejudice that came with it, he knew he had come to the land of dreams. He started out working multiple jobs per day in factories, nursery homes, picking up construction gigs, you name it. For several years he only slept 4-5 hours a day to be able to accommodate his multiple jobs. While doing all this he was also educating himself so that he could start his own insurance business. In a couple years he was able to save up and started his own insurance agency. He worked tirelessly, sometimes sleeping in his office but he pushed through and today has built a thriving business that has gone on to create another business and takes care of a family of six. In the span of 10 years he turned his life around and created a better future for us and I remember him telling me on the phone when I was in Zimbabwe - “Only in America my son, and I can’t wait for you to immigrate here and see what America has to offer”.

In 2016, shortly after finishing high school, I immigrated to the US, finally rejoining my dad after 16 years. Knowing where I came from, I knew I had to work hard and take advantage of the opportunity that the US provides. I enrolled at the University of Tennessee and started studying engineering and economics, growing intellectually, becoming a leader in the university’s entrepreneurial community, and pursuing professional experiences across industries—from pharmaceuticals to tech. All this, thanks to my dad.

I’ve had the opportunity to work for three Fortune 500 companies - Bayer, Dow Chemical and Microsoft. There I've been able to help realize the impact that has helped people’s lives, applying my skills in science and technology. I have also built on this STEM momentum by creating two new ventures. The first is a start-up I co-founded called Rease, a centralized platform that provides college students with information about where (and where not) to live and connects property managers with a targeted market. Two things inspired Rease: 1) I considered my struggles as an asthmatic immigrant moving, unwittingly, into a moldy apartment. 2) The pandemic’s loneliness and the stolen sense of community. We, therefore, built into the platform a social media network to connect—and reconnect—students with one another, with the hope that virtual connections would, post-pandemic, spur a stronger sense of community among neighbors.

Parallel to co-founding Rease, I started a student-led venture accelerator at the University of Tennessee that serves to nurture and fuel the student entrepreneurial community. I was able to secure commitment to funding and buy-in from school leadership. I assembled a diverse team of students that share my passion for entrepreneurship to be part of the organization. We’re investing in our first companies.

This coming fall I will be enrolling at Stanford University as a graduate student. I will be pursuing a Master’s in Management Science and Engineering with a focus on either Technology and Engineering Management or Decision Analysis and Risk Analysis. There I hope to fully focus on my entrepreneurial passions and create a venture accelerator that invests and supports underserved high-impact entrepreneurs that too want to pursue the American dream.

I share my father’s story and mine to provide evidence to the American Dream. My father came here with nothing and today he’s a self-made man and has been able to uplift his family. Growing up I lived without running water for nearly two years, and today I’m enrolling at one of the best universities in the world pursuing tech. This is what the American Dream is all about, and I know it took hard work to get here, but there’s no other place in the world that would provide an environment conducive enough like this. My father is the American Dream, and I’m the American Dream. It lives on in every single person that dares to dream big enough in this amazing country.

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