Clint Allen recently spoke with a group of 11th and 12th graders at Willsboro Central School in upstate NY, telling them how perseverance and other Essential Skills changed his life trajectory. Clint is a successful businessman: He went to Wall Street and became the CEO of an investment banking firm. Along the way he raised the first financing for Blockbuster Entertainment and served on the board until the company was sold. He served as interim CEO of the Miami Dolphins and has been a member of 19 public company boards of directors.

He and his wife Lawson are longtime supporters of their community, and have endowed an annual scholarship that provides $5,000 annually over four years for college-bound students from Willsboro Central School.

“I grew up in Brockton, MA, an industrial town known for its shoe factories and boxing – not much else. No one in my family went to college, but I was taught to work hard from the age of 11 when I pumped gas during the early morning shift from 4am to 9am. My mother always told me that if I wanted to go to college, I would have to figure out how to pay for it on my own,” Clint told a group of 11th and 12th graders from Willsboro, all future candidates for the Allen Scholarship.

“There was no CFES to help me answer questions about college, but I was lucky because I had two very important mentors: my high school football coach and a local police officer. I was good at football, and I wasn’t dumb either, but when my mentors suggested I apply to Harvard, I didn’t see any point – I had offers from 72 colleges across the country asking me to attend and play football and I probably wouldn’t get in to Harvard anyway, I thought. One of my mentors asked me how could I be rejected if I didn’t even apply?”

“He was right and I submitted my application and was, to my great surprise, accepted on one condition: because my test scores weren’t that great, Harvard told me I could attend after spending an extra year of high school at a prep school. I attended Phillips Exeter on a full scholarship and then made it to Harvard, where I played football and studied English.”

“I often think about how far I’ve come from the house I grew up in, the flat top, 3-story cold water flat in Brockton. Every single day of my life I’ve tried to do something productive because I know that no one will ever hand me a golden ticket; hard work, dedication, big dreams, and a little help is all anyone needs to succeed, to overcome the obstacles that are out of your control. I’ve been lucky, but I know that my ability to persevere has helped me become who I am today.

Have the Essential Skills helped you succeed? Share your story with us HERE and set an example for our scholars as they become college and career ready.