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Inspired BlogA Journey of 1000 Miles

Open Letter from CEO Ric Elias

Last week was a profound reminder that progress can happen when there is hope and determination, and I feel compelled not just to address it, but to express gratitude for it.  The Supreme Court voted to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA currently protects about 700,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation, including the vast majority of our Golden Door Scholars, many current Red Ventures employees, and countless others who depend on the program to keep their families, their businesses and their communities in-tact. 

As I told the scholars on Thursday, it had been months since I felt true joy the way I did when the news hit the wire. I know all of them felt that way too. Finally, a win, after a very long road without one.

And while the news is certainly worth celebrating, the reality is that there are still mountains to move not just for Dreamers but for the many marginalized identities who don’t get to participate in the American Dream in our increasingly divided country. This week was a reminder that tackling any systemic injustice will take years, decades or lifetimes – but it has to start somewhere. 

Our work on this specific human rights issue began in earnest eight years ago but was actually born a few years earlier when a particularly impressive student I knew was not going to college.  He was an undocumented Dreamer who arrived in the U.S. when he was four years old, and therefore did not qualify for financial aid or in-state tuition. He had no path to higher education even though he was in the top 1% of his class.  With our support, he graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with two degrees and now has a flourishing career in Silicon Valley.  Soon after I shared that story, a small group of RV employees who were equally passionate about educational and economic justice joined me to launch Golden Door Scholars.

In 2013 we awarded full college scholarships to 13 outstanding undocumented high school seniors; in 2014 it was 18; by 2017 it was 66. While we grew, we had to adapt.  When a new administration threatened to end the DACA program entirely, our students again faced fears of job loss, deportation and separation from their families. And though at times the future looked grim, instead of giving in, we sped up.  We now have 112 college graduates, 323 current scholars, 20 partner schools, and hundreds of Red Ventures volunteers who continue to fight for what we believe is right. Our Road to Hire team and our scholars have lobbied in Washington. Our mentors have given their time and their hearts to our scholars and their families.  And on Thursday, after years without one, we saw a ray of hope.  

To everyone who has been a mentor – thank you.

To everyone who has worked on this team tirelessly – thank you.

To everyone who has spoken about this injustice publicly – thank you.

And to our 40 employees and 435 scholars who have been forced to live in a state of fear, and who have paid the price for decisions that were not yours to make – thank you for teaching us the true meaning of grit.

We did not know eight years ago that we’d change the trajectories of close to 500 lives, not to mention the thousands of others – classmates, teammates, families, mentors – who have been positively impacted by this work. To continue this mission is the ultimate gift we can give ourselves, because in the service of others is where the true meaning of life lies.  

As we now embark on the long trek of fighting the injustices of systemic racism both inside Red Ventures and in our communities, we must remind ourselves that the journey will be long, that there will be setbacks and criticism, and that at moments it will feel like we are not making meaningful progress. It is my hope that during these difficult tests we can find the same courage Dreamers did – to press on and to persist – so that one day we can share in the same joy felt this week when we can see and feel the change we have made in the world.

Determined and committed,


About the Author:
Ric Elias | Co-Founder & CEO
Ric Elias

Ric Elias is CEO and co-founder of Red Ventures, a portfolio of digital companies headquartered in Charlotte, NC. In 2009, Elias survived Flight 1549, the "Miracle on the Hudson,” which led to his viral TED Talk, "3 Things I Learned While My Plane Crashed." In 2011, Ric was named Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year, and in 2016 he was inducted into the Carolinas Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. Ric has founded several social impact initiatives including Road to Hire, a 501(c)(3) that connects young adults with on-ramps to professional development and high-earning careers. A native of Puerto Rico, Ric attended Boston College and Harvard Business School.

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