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He returned from sea and served as a 2012 summer legislative intern in Washington, D.C.
And then he began his freshman year at Stanford.
Hill is amused by his evolution, how differently he feels now at Stanford, compared to that young man who received the devastating letter.
“Stanford was like Oz almost,” Hill said. “After traveling around the world, Stanford shrunk a little bit. Not in a bad way, but I was blessed to have had this running start, to come in at full speed.”
He wants other students to have the same experience. He’s working with Stanford administrators to build an immersive — and fully funded — gap year for pre-freshmen.
He spoke about this dream in his eight-minute TEDx Semester at Sea talk on Jan. 9. Luke Jones, a vice president with Semester at Sea, calls Brandon’s speech “outstanding,” and noted that the 12 speaking spots were highly competitive.
“What he was getting at was turning a situation that could have been negative into an opportunity,” Jones said. “What he did and learned completely influenced everything he’s done since.”
He keeps doing great things. Hill served as a 2013 White House summer intern, where he was assigned to read letters coming in for President Obama. He also blogs about civic engagement on the Huffington Post.
He rejects the notion that his peers are disengaged from politics. “This is the generation where revolution begins with a tweet,” he said.
“When I got that letter, I had wanted to go to Stanford to study poverty,” Hill said. “But on my gap year, I actually saw and felt poverty in the favelas of Rio. In the townships of Cape Town. In the ’hoods of Atlanta.
“Sometimes, we need to stop reading and start reaching.”
Follow Gail on Twitter: @grosenblum