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Truly Absolute: A Business Success Story

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I don’t believe that age is a hindrance to what one desires to achieve. When I was 15 years old, I definitely did not know everything that it took to run a business, let alone a nonprofit organization, but I knew that I wanted to do something that would make a lasting impact on my community.

The creation of Truly Absolute all started with my exposure through volunteering to families living in rundown motels in the poorest areas of Southern California. These were families of five to six living in a single deteriorated room as their home, and I quickly learned that living in these conditions is considered homeless by the government and that many to all of them were out of jobs and on welfare. The kids were the ones that caught my attention while I was interacting with this underserved community. I quickly realized that they were growing up in an area where drugs were down the streets, gangs around the corner and positive environments of growth nowhere to be found. No kid should grow up in environments like that.

So since no one was doing anything about it, I knew that I had to. But how? I was 15 years old, I had just barely started my sophomore year in high school, and I didn’t know anything about running an organization. But the motivation to create a positive environment for these kids was enough reason for me to go ahead and do what people told me was impossible.

With the condition of the environment, a simple volunteer event was definitely not going to be enough. I wanted to create something that would directly — and permanently — impact these kids growing up in the motels, and a nonprofit was how I envisioned doing that. So I went along and completed step one of this entire process, which was truly dedicating myself to the mission of the venture — because I knew right then and there that there was no looking back.

And thus Truly Absolute, Inc. came to be. With a board of directors made up solely of high school students, we started off small with the Academic Enrichment Program: a tutoring program covering all subjects for all students living at the motels. Our goal was to create one program in one location. We chose the name because of the meaning, as Truly Absolute literally means “Truly Free From Restriction.” This is exactly what kind of environment we want to create for our students: one that freed them from the restriction of poverty.

On the legal side of things, besides the money in my piggy bank, I really did not have any money to hire an attorney to file all of the paperwork for incorporation. So with the help of my wonderful mom, we decided to learn the trade and do it all by hand. I would have to say that those months were the most grueling months of my high school career. Creating an entire organization from scratch was no easy feat, but the almost immediate positive results that resounded from our students and their parents encouraged us to push harder to conquer obstacles we faced. Positive results included juristically improved grades within weeks, developing positive self esteem, and a newfound intellectual and life curiosity that many had not explored before.

I am now 18 years old, and it has been three years since that time of incorporation. We have transformed from one program in one location to 11 programs in seven cities and four countries. We have impacted the lives of over 400 students worldwide and created the start of a lasting impact that will continue to transform the areas we go into.

But one of the biggest effects of Truly Absolute was the impact my students had on me. I have learned so much not only about business but about the world that my students live in. I have been able to see life through their eyes, suffer through losses with them and encourage them to be the amazing people that they know they can be. That to me is priceless.

Probably the most memorable moment was when one of my older students told me she that she had gotten into college. You see, she was always bullied and falling back in school. She also suffered from autism. But she had such an amazing talent in the visual arts. When we discovered that, we funded a scholarship for her to go to professional art classes while also keeping her grounded in her academics with our own programming. This fueled her to become the first person in her family to ever go to college.

Those are the moments that I and Truly Absolute live for, and even though it can get really challenging at times, starting this organization was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Rebecca Tjahja

Rebecca Tjahja

Rebecca Tjahja is a sophomore McDermott Scholar studying Finance and Information Technology Systems. She has a passion for nonprofit management, and runs an organization of her own named Truly Absolute, Inc. Originally from Southern California, Rebecca loves adventuring into the unknown and developing a portfolio of entrepreneurial endeavors. Read more articles

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