Few people have a turning point in life at just 7 years old.
But that’s when UConn senior Xavier Cole made a powerful promise to his older brother, Joey. If you adopt me, he told Joey, I’ll be the first in our family to graduate from college; I will do something with my life.
“Look at me, I’m a first generation college student, an African American, the son of an immigrant, a product of the foster care system, my parents both died before I was 10,” Cole says. “And here I am – one in a million. ”
Cole will graduate in December with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, majoring in Real Estate Studies and Urban Economics and a minor in Professional Business Leadership. Choosing to graduate a semester earlier, Cole is taking 25 credits this fall and has an average of 3.7 GPA.
His friends describe him as extrovert, tenacious and strategic. While juggling his classes, he also began his career in real estate at Berkshire Hathaway in Cambridge, Massachusetts, working as a waiter in a restaurant and running two organizations on campus.
“You can make excuses, or you can make it. Adversity shapes man, ” Cole, 21, says over a milkshake at the Dog Lane Café in downtown Storrs. “My brother said, ‘You cannot use your experience as an excuse to be a victim or have pity.’ I see what the world has to offer and I say, “Yes, this is for me! ”
Debbie Philips, Real Estate Program Administrative Coordinator, says Cole’s leadership traits are admirable.
“Xavier is tenacious in his goals and has pursued his studies and his career with the same ferocity as he approaches life,” says Philips. “He’s a determined young man who doesn’t allow others to dictate who or what he should become, but shapes and defines these things as he gleans and learns from his peers, mentors, colleagues.” and his relatives. Xavier sets me apart because he chooses to be someone who would influence others.
The will to keep moving
Despite the hardships that defined his early years, Cole is neither bitter nor hardened. Although he suffered tragedies, he also benefited from the generosity of hundreds of people. He chooses to focus on the positive.
His UConn admission essay offered a perspective that few teens could offer. He read in part:
“If I had known that the last time I would have heard of my father was when he was in a hospital bed hundreds of miles away, I would have continued the conversation a little longer. .
“If I had known my mother wasn’t going to return to the depressing and unwelcoming shelter, I would have hugged her a little more,” he continued. “If I had known on my 10e birthday my mother would have been kicked out and that would be the last time I would hear from her, I would have said, “I love you! one more time.”
By the time he was in his sophomore year, Cole’s father, a US Navy nuclear technician who served in the Persian Gulf War, had passed away. Her mother, from the Azores in Portugal, was deported; she died shortly after. He believes his parents are watching him to this day.
Meanwhile, young Cole and his older brother Roy were jumping between foster homes, often having trouble fighting each other.
“I didn’t care about anything,” Cole recalls. “My world was not good. ”
That’s when her half-brother, Joey Fula, stepped in. Only 21 years old himself, Fula and his girlfriend agreed to raise the siblings. Life has improved and the trio remain close today.
Cole attended a charter school with a strict dress code and rules. It was not an angel. “I had a lot of problems. In the 7e grade, the dean said I was one of the worst kids to come to school. I laughed and said I wanted to be # 1! He recalls. “I’ve had so many detentions – I was a talkative kid. But I played sports, I was smart and I became straight. ”
Cole, who is 5ft 6in, has become the captain of his high school track team, baseball team, and football team in Salem, Massachusetts. He trained every day at 6 a.m., not because he had to, but because he wanted to.
“I always had the will to keep moving and to be the person I wanted to be,” he says. “I do my research first and I understand what it takes. Then I do it. ”
Do what is necessary; Never look back
Cole knew he had to choose a major that would provide him with a job after college, and he originally planned to become a sports coach. He did a full round at UMass and a great opportunity at Merrimack, but when he went to UConn he knew he was meant to be a Husky.
“I just knew I should be here… the feel, the infrastructure, the resources. It was a whole new world for me at 17. I wanted to take on the challenge of finding my way, ” he says.
Within days, he had made good friends and found a new home with the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, whose mission is to provide personal growth to its members. He is president of the Real Estate Society and the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA), although he is not of Latino blood.
“I think that my leadership position and my comfort within the ALPFA are due to my education around the Latino culture. My high school had a large Hispanic population and many of my best childhood friends spoke Spanish at home. I lived with this host family when I was 5 with only Spanish speakers, ” he says. “I also love and appreciate culture extremely. I really find myself enjoying the Latin American music, food and community. ”
Seanice Austin, director of the Diversity and Inclusion office at the School of Business, says Cole has been instrumental in developing and shaping the Chapter Path over the past year. “He’s engaged, motivated and focused,” she says. “As president, Xavier embodies the qualities of leadership such as outspokenness, humility and taking a collaborative approach to projects. ”
Cole has always managed to keep his priorities clear, his friends say.
“One of the things I admire the most about Xavier is his ability to do the right thing and never look back. Throughout his life, Xavier was confronted with roadblocks after roadblocks. Instead of letting these things weigh him down, he uses them to motivate himself and the people around him. He’s mature beyond his years, ” says Tom Philipson, senior at UConn.
“On weekends all of Xavier’s friends would go out and Xavier would go to Boston to go to business meetings and workshops. Even with the pressure from his friends to relax for a weekend and spend time with us, he stayed focused on his goals and kept working, ” he says. “Xavier’s path to success has not been easy and I’m sure in his mind he’s far from happy with what he’s accomplished, but I’m confident he will do whatever he can. it takes to become a successful businessman. ”
GoFundMe Campaign Increased Tuition Fees In Two Days
One of the challenges that Cole faced was the cost of his education. He has received several UConn scholarships and recently received a $ 10,000 Schurgin Family Scholarship from the International Council of Shopping Centers Foundation.
Perhaps no experience was as emotional as having a semester of tuition paid off as part of a GoFundMe campaign in 2018. When a private loan failed, Cole had only a few days to raise the fees. of schooling. His friends created the fundraising campaign, and in two days 211 people – friends, former teachers, and even complete strangers – had donated over $ 10,000. Cole was even interviewed on a local newscast.
“I am very grateful to all of them,” he said.
Ready for the future
As a student, Cole started a painting business through Young Entrepreneurs Across America. He learned to run a business from scratch.
“I started with zero clients, no reputation, and had never picked up a brush,” he says. He learned how to budget, market, manage a team and even how to clean up a spilled 5 gallon bucket of paint. “We had over $ 60,000 in sales that summer. It really defined me as a professional. You are responsible for the business. I knocked on doors doing business until dusk. I learned to set clear expectations with employees. ”
This experience will be very useful to him in his new job as a real estate agent. He already has a strategy to start building his reputation.
“I like to set my own rules and write my exit,” he says. “Principles take you so far and so far. I’m like, “Don’t be a victim. Don’t be a victim. Keep moving. You will eventually get there. ”
“My ultimate goal is to grow and develop my entrepreneurial spirit,” he says. “From business school, I see how many influential people are around us. It shows me how good I can be. ”
In his characteristic way, Cole has specific plans for the future. He plans to go to graduate school to continue studying real estate and sustainability. Ultimately, he would like to become a real estate developer and be able to create change, literally from A to Z.
“I also hope to help one or two people find a nice place in life,” he says.
He is also planning a future with his longtime girlfriend Madison Parshley.
“I was voted Most Unforgettable in high school, but at UConn I found out who I was; who was Xavier Stephen Cole, ” he says. “I knew my choice was to graduate from college or live the same life. Some of my friends just haven’t gone for more. ”
Cole says he’s ready to share his very personal story because he knows how much it can influence others, especially struggling students.
“You have to stand out and make the most of your time here at UConn,” he says. “That’s what I did!”