Gordon (Gordy) Hoover, Jr.’s
#RGInjuryLawCares 2021 Scholarship Essay
In Diversity There Is Beauty and There Is Strength.
If you saw me walking down the street, would you know that I have two Caucasian grandmothers? Would you know that one of my grandmothers was Polish and made homemade pierogi? Would you know that every Christmas we break the Oplatek and share good wishes for each other? Would you know that my other grandmother was German and as a baby spoke to me only in German so I could start to learn both languages, or that there was rich history of German tradition like Zoleier at Easter, or would you look at me, see my brown skin, and assume that I look different, because both of my grandfathers were African American, but contributed to who I am today based on tradition and heritage as well?
I am biracial and both of my parents are biracial with white mothers and black fathers. This has allowed me to grow up having feet in both camps. People see the color of my skin, and make the assumptions that they make. I either have to take a side or a side is handed to me, and I am expected to fit into the mold that they have for me.
I could tell you about the accomplishments and struggles my family endured. My maternal grandmother was an honors student who graduated from a private school. Although my maternal grandmother’s family was not wealthy, they were rich in tradition and family values which were passed on to my mother as well. My maternal grandfather was very poor, living as a farmhand. He went to a one room schoolhouse for black children, and dropped out in eighth grade to get a job. He fell in love with my grandmother during a time of turmoil in this country. He had experienced racism for not only being a black man in the 1960s, but he married a white woman during a time when it was illegal in many places. Love and determination helped them to overcome these hurdles. This is part of my foundation, my inspiration, and my determination. My paternal grandparents were very young. My father’s biological parents were teenagers when they conceived my father resulting in him being adopted. His adoptive parents were white and well known. Both my father and my Opa communicated that it was not easy raising a biracial child in the 1970s. There was actually a petition going around the neighborhood to keep them out because of my father who at the time was just a baby. My Oma and Opa had to be his voice, and this continued until he developed his voice. My Oma passed away, but not before instilling in me a strong German foundation complete with German picture books, food, and tradition. None of my grandparents had an easy road, but I would be remiss to not acknowledge that this is who made me who I am. So, I ask you, is there any way for you to know this about me when you see me walk down the street? I come from dignity, hard work, determination and a lot of sacrifice.
Both of my parents are educators and have instilled in me the importance of education. Learning is not an option in our house. School work comes before any extracurricular activity. This education never stopped with content knowledge, but life lessons as well. My grandfather’s lesson to my mother was, “We worked too hard to be able to sit in the front of the bus. Do not put yourself in the back intentionally.” This voice and these lessons have appeared throughout my childhood. I have always felt that it is my obligation to live up to that through my work ethic. As a student athlete, I have faced adversity from fellow athletes and parents, and with the support of those around me, I have been able to use this to become a leader. My parents are leaders in our community through their professions. They have exposed me to so much diversity to make sure that I “see” people, and not judge them, but accept them, and seek to understand them.
As a result, I have seen elements of myself in the beauty of diversity. I celebrated that, and from that, some of my leadership qualities have developed. Although it mattered and continues to matter to some, I will not judge anyone by one’s skin color, what religion they practice, or who they choose to love. We all deserve a voice, we deserve to be recognized, and we deserve a chance.
People in leadership roles communicate differently in different situations, but when trying to develop leaders, captains of teams, many others try to tell you how to lead. My feeling is that you must lead so that people follow you. Being a boisterous, loud leader is not who I am, and never will be. My leadership style is to get behind you, value your contribution, and push when the time is right. According to my mother, my maternal grandfather was a quiet man whose presence was felt in every situation he was in. When he passed away, the headline in the newspaper read, “Hundreds Recalled He Cared.” This article was written in the local paper. Everyone who knew him and also knows me says that I remind them of him. We are quiet leaders, but our presence is known. I take this as the highest compliment that someone could give me given his reputation as a humble leader in his community. My hope is that when I am walking down the street, people are willing to see this about me. See me, my potential, and my ability to lead.
Developing my leadership qualities have not always been easy. I know not everyone has my best interest at heart. I feel supported and loved by many people, and there are more of them in my life than the latter. For this I am eternally grateful. I also recognize that there have been opportunities that have been afforded to me because my family and I are respected members of the community, and because of that, it is my obligation to lift others up. This is who I am and who I continue to evolve into as I grow and develop. As I work with younger students in our sports camps, I look for those players who need to be lifted up. I am able to look beyond myself, meet you where you are, and make that spark shine even if you weren’t sure it was there in the first place. I lead by example. We have to see people. We need to hear them. We need to value them for who they are.
If I passed you on the street, would you know any of this about me or would the color of my skin stop you from even inquiring or wanting to know more about me? I was always taught not to judge a book by its cover, but the content that it presents. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated in his most famous speech that my grandparents and parents understood, “I hope that one day my children will be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.” I believe that these lessons have formed me into the man I am becoming, and the leader I will continue to be in my work, in my family, and in my education. I recognize that I am a work in progress. From my diverse background and upbringing comes strength, and the need to contribute to better the society I live in. I hope that when I take my next walk down the street that others look past the color of my skin to the content of my character, and take the time to understand and really “see” me for who I am, and who I could be as I will do for them.
I am the first child of three in my family that is graduating from high school. I know that my family values education, but will not be able to afford to have three in college at the same time so if I am awarded this scholarship, it will help them to accomplish my goals in the Business/Sports Marketing field.