The Japanese proverb “fall seven times, get up eight” could be Genille Gordon’s mantra. The 2016 Keuka College graduate could even have her photo next to that saying.
That’s because according to Lisa Thompson, director of the College’s Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), Genille is a fighter.
“Her reputation preceded her and extended across campus,” Lisa says of Genille, an HEOP student. “I would hear about the things that she was doing, how wonderful a person she was, and I looked forward to meeting this young lady. Her life has been wrought with thorns. But those thorns have served to shape her into a resilient and hardworking young woman.”
As a student, Genille was a member of student activities, the Multicultural Student Association, the Keuka College Dance Team, and The Keukonian, and served as a peer mentor for HEOP.
But lingering behind her active façade, challenges and obstacles were always in the back of Genille’s mind.
“Throughout my undergraduate career, I found myself wanting to give up several times due to financial issues and feeling uncomfortable in my own skin,” says Genille, an organizational communication major. “After continuously meeting adversity, I finally met resilience. I decided to sacrifice the parts of me and the things about me that have made me vulnerable, to start on my journey of ending poverty through education.”
The Journey Begins
“I was born in Jamaica and grew up in the Bronx, so I know what poverty is like first-hand,” says Genille. “I know what adversity is, and I also know what resilience is. I have experienced so much, so I can only imagine what others are facing.”
She documents her struggles in a memoir titled Resilience at Twenty-four.
While not published yet, the manuscript discusses Genille’s upbringings in the Bronx as an immigrant.
“It documents the struggles I faced attending a predominately white university—Keuka College—and how it molded me," says Genille. "The book then discusses me being homeless at 19, being sexually assaulted, moving to Australia, and attempting suicide.”
She says her interactions with the faculty and staff at the College, as well as her Field Period® experiences, helped move her forward.
“Whatever they saw in me back then, propelled me to be where I am now,” says Genille, who is pursuing a double master’s degree in international communication and international relations from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.
“I am forever grateful for the amazing faculty and staff that helped me the most,” says Genille, citing Lisa, Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Bill Brown, Writing Specialist Pam Jennings, former HEOP Director Chevy DeVanney, Assistant Director of Field Period® and Internships Tara Bloom, Professor of Communication Studies Dr. Anita Chirco, and professor of English Dr. Anne Weed. “I don’t think any of them know how they kept me from giving up.”
A Field Period® in China helped Genille figure out where she fit in in the world. The experience led her to reshape her vision of the world, and fine-tune her career plans.
“I am going to work for the United Nations,” she says. “I want to get to the root of the problems and tackle the fight to end poverty through education. I believe one of the ways to do that is to start with politics and fight for human rights.”
Genille intends to donate half the profits from her book to the college board office at her high school—Health Opportunities High School in the Bronx, N.Y.
“I didn’t think we had a sufficient amount of resources to make us more knowledgeable about college, and I do not want others to go to college as blind as I did,” says Genille.
She says the other half of the book’s profits will go toward building a homeless shelter in the Bronx.
For those who might be in a similar situation as Genille was, she has some advice.
“Listen to the voice inside,” says Genille. “In a world filled with plenty of distractions, it’s difficult to hear that voice, but you cannot lose sight of what’s important. You are accountable for your actions and for creating a better tomorrow.”
Lisa has no doubt that Genille will continue to do just that, as she did during her time at Keuka College.
“I am so absolutely proud of Genille, and the accomplishments that she has had so far,” says Lisa. “She lived up to—and continues to live up to—the reputation that preceded her. I know that this is only the beginning of an illustrious career and journey.”