Being a failed businessman might bring a person down, but for Frederick Barbosa, it was a chance for a new beginning.
In 2006, after staying back in high school an extra two years – a setback he chalks up to lack of motivation – Barbosa went with his cousin and a mutual friend on a cross-country trip to California. The trio didn’t have much of a plan, just a desire to start something new.
"Pretty much it was one of those things where I felt like I had to start all over," Barbosa said. "It’s like a distant dream now but it was a really good experience"
Barbosa and his companions moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Northbridge, Calif., outside of Los Angeles.
Barbosa worked odd jobs, such as giving ballroom dancing lessons, to pay the rent. In one job, he was the manager of a company that supplied photocopier toner to offices. A friend in California with financial backing pointed out that he was the most hard-working and knowledgeable employee at his company yet, for every $4,000 he made for the company, he received a $400 check. Why couldn’t he do the same work for himself?
This is how Barbosa’s company, Service and Shipment Center, was born. Like many startup companies, it failed in its first few months and closed in August 2006.
"I quit both my jobs to start that company," Barbosa said, "so once it failed I had no backup support whatsoever."
At the end of August, Barbosa returned to his parents’ home in West Warwick, but he had learned a lot in California.
"I knew I wasn’t ready to go back to school right after high school," Barbosa said. "I would have just done the same thing, settling for C’s. I just needed time to mature, realize I can do something with myself."
He started taking courses at the Community College of Rhode Island in spring 2008, earning an associate degree in general studies in just three semesters. He has a GPA of 3.8, brought down from a 3.9 by a B in a class he took here to finish high school.
To finish CCRI on time to transfer to a four-year college, Barbosa took extra classes, including seven this semester. On top of his high course load, he also interned with Rhode Island Legal Services and volunteered with Brown University’s Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere, or HOPE, group working in soup kitchens and playing chess with the homeless. In his legal internship, he works with a law firm for low-income people, collecting data on foreclosures and evictions in Providence.
"Any statistics help with what people are trying to do to build a better Providence," Barbosa said.
He hopes to attend Brown University for political science and then go on to law school and possibly public office.
"If you’re actually in elected office you can do a whole lot more for the community," he said.
Barbosa is waiting to hear about the status of his application to Brown, but said that a rejection won’t stop him in the continuing pursuit of his education.
"I’m 23 and I feel like I was slow to get everything started," he said. "It’s time for me to get involved."