From Homeless To Harvard Business School

FROM WALL STREET TO DISPLACEMENT

This was certainly not the life the former equity research analyst at Goldman Sachs envisioned for himself. In 2011, unable to keep up with his rent, living in constant fear of foreclosure and unable to land stable employment, Blackett spent the remainder of a dwindling bank account on a moving truck to Memphis. Despite an “on-again, off-again” relationship with his father, he was able to stay with his father’s new family. Eventually, he moved to his mother’s home, then his vacant but paid off grandparent’s home.

In less than two year’s, Blackett had gone from his Wall Street position with Goldman Sachs to, by definition, homeless. He was at the crux of the lowest point of his life. “I was just doing whatever I could to get myself above ground,” Blackett recalls. “Because I was sinking.”

AN UNLIKELY BEGINNING

Blackett had a life of ups and downs and resiliency. Early on, doctors and some family members thought he had asperger syndrome. Blackett wasn’t talking like his peers. And some family members began thinking about specialized learning plans and programs. But not his mother and grandmother. They just wanted him to work harder.

“Any assignment I did early on in school, my mom said, ‘we’re going to do this better,’” Blackett says of his time in elementary school.

Blackett’s close relationship with his mother and grandparents began at an early age. His parents went through an ugly divorce and Blackett and his younger sister ended up being raised by their single mother with support from his grandparents.

When Blackett was in the seventh grade, he wanted to do something to help his mother. So he asked his grandmother if she’d help him find a job. But, Blackett says, his grandmother told him to instead be the best student he could be. Blackett went from being an average, at best, student in the seventh grade to the class valedictorian in eighth grade.

Blackett and a friend at their college graduation in 2007. Courtesy photo

Blackett and a friend at their college graduation in 2007. Courtesy photo

HARVARD OR AN ALL-EXPENSES-PAID EDUCATION?

In high school, he became obsessed with politics and Harvard. Not many high school students obsess over the politics section of a newspaper or nerd-out about Model UN and legislation clubs. Blackett did. When college application time rolled around, Blackett applied and was accepted to Harvard. He was set.

Until his guidance counselor told him the school wanted to nominate him for a scholarship that would require him attending another school. But it wasn’t just any scholarship. It was the Morehead-Cain Scholarship, the first merit-based scholarship at a public university. Morehead-Cain scholars receive full funding for tuition, housing, meals, books, a laptop and a study abroad trip. They also enter into a prestigious group of alumni.

And Blackett won it. The problem? It’s for the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The school is one of the best in the nation, but it’s no Harvard. To his guidance counselor, it was a no-brainer. But Blackett was gridlocked. “To this day, I’m thankful my guidance counselor saw past my arrogance and naïveté at 18,” Blackett laughs, noting his “first world dilemma” of having to decide between Harvard and an all-expenses-paid trip to an education.

Blackett ultimately chose UNC, but because of an interest in business,  promised his mom he’d make it to Harvard Business School eventually. “I knew I wanted to get an MBA since I was 18,” he insists. “I knew even more so that I wanted to get it from Harvard Business School.”