I went door to door and asked: “Could he come to the park?!” Occasionally, a mother would allow her child out and we had fun playing basketball. Though it was just me asking a friend’s mom if we could just stroll by the courts, something greater was in the making. Instead of asking “Could he,” I began asking “Now or ten minutes later?” I learned to sell myself. More importantly, I was subliminally bringing kids in my neighborhood together. This was in eighth grade. By senior year in high school, I had grown to pull one my greatest accomplishments. Instead of knocking door to door, I “cold emailed.” I was looking for CEOs, professionals, teachers, students and anyone with a story. I was organizing my high school’s first TED event. My name is Yasin Ehsan and this is my story.
For as long as I can remember, I had a passion to build. My old man bought me a set of lego blocks and I had a blast with them as a toddler. Early in elementary school, my dad took me to Toys R Us and we got one of those big lego sets. I followed the directions and went through the entire manual within days. I then began crafting my own little projects. This was my hobby.
My younger sister, Aishah, was born with cerebral palsy. Every week, Aishah was visited by multiple therapists to treat her. Dina, an occupational therapist, saw my passion to build and gave me a set with nuts, bolts, pulleys and a battery operated motor. It looked nothing like my previous lego sets. It was not even lego! But the things I did with this set would be colossal compared to what I did in the past. I built a blimp. I felt like the Wright brothers. I considered myself cool.
I was born in Boston, Massachusetts. I moved to Jamaica, Queens at age five. The primary reason we moved was for me to enroll in private schooling. In addition, the Jamaica neighborhood fostered a growing Bangladeshi community. Being the first born of three siblings and second born of my twelve cousins, I received quite a bit of attention. I stayed in private schooling until eighth grade, when I was accepted to Brooklyn Technical High School(Brooklyn Tech). My first day in high school was also my first day in public school. It sucked! I really wanted to go back to my old ways. However, my decision to put up with this new environment would be the best decision I made. Here, is where I found who I was and what I wanted to be. Brooklyn Tech was the ecosystem which nurtured my coming-of-age.
Growing up in one community around the same people had cast me into a bubble. A bubble I was very fond of. Entering high school took me out of my comfort zone. I questioned my identity, my purpose. I did not feel like I belonged anywhere, and like many teenagers, I wanted to fit in. And I did. It was not all legos anymore. I was that kid with the fade cut, button-shirt and loved hitting the gym. I was proud of who I was. I considered myself cool.
Brooklyn Tech has more students than any other high school in America. Just as any community, more people meant more opinions and to Brooklyn Tech it meant more extracurricular options. I joined a handful. I loved the community involvement aspect. It gave me something to look forward to. As I joined boards, I began to tap into a previous hobby. I focused my passion to create behind events and thought of new ways to strengthen an after-school community. I felt passionate about what I did. It was a change from “lego-me” or “tryna-be-relevant-me,” but I enjoyed it. I considered myself cool.
Organizing events and bringing people together felt innate to me. Furthermore, I just loved adding oomph to whatever I did. My who was clear. I am someone who has a passion to create. I like being different. I relish being the maverick in the room. As the who was defined, I searched for what I wanted to be. I know the most successful people are those who master what they love. My what had to optimize my passion to create.
I was born into a family of engineers. My grandfather was one of the first engineers in his town from Bangladesh. My dad, who studied software engineering, met my mom who shared her dorm with my dad’s sister in engineering school! I, however, wanted to attend business school. I wanted to use my passion to launch a company. But in the startup world, every decade has a fad and finance certainly is not the hottest topic today. Its cryptocurrency, blockchain and virtual reality. Influenced by my family, I found my what. I now study computer science.
As an eighteen-year-old, I have learned that “cool” is relative to era and environment. My dad, who was raised in Uganda and studied in India before coming to the states, certainly had a different cool than I did at the same age. Though I am different from my parents and I am different from the communities I became a derivative of, they all played a significant part in shaping my who and what. I still have a bit of lego in me. I want to wheel my passion to create as an entrepreneur in the tech industry. My name is Yasin Ehsan and this is my mantra:
Some follow. Others lead. Few create.
-I wrote this paper for my cultural anthropology class.