Jermaine Da-Costa (McIntire ’23) applied for early decision to the University of Virginia sight unseen. It sounds like a bold move for a teenager from the Bronx to move over 350 miles south to Charlottesville, but Da-Costa was no stranger to facing adversity and challenges in new environments.
“Throughout high school, I did gymnastics and stunted sports, which is also known as competitive cheerleading. Both of those activities helped me handle stress as well as big and erratic changes. The sport of gymnastics is very independent. You have your team, but for those 30 seconds in competition, it’s all you,” he explains. “I was also used to traveling all around the city for competitions, so I learned how to acclimate to unfamiliar environments quickly.”
Da-Costa had an opportunity to visit UVA shortly after receiving his early-decision notice and immediately fell in love with Grounds and with McIntire’s academic programs.
“Early in high school, I was dead set on being an actor. But something shifted in me as time went on. After sitting down to really think about what I wanted to pursue in college, I realized I enjoyed the sales side of business. Our gymnastics team would have to sell apparel to afford new uniforms and travel, and I loved making deals, negotiations, and connections with other people. I applied to schools that had great business programs, and UVA was at the top.”
But Da-Costa had a few more milestones to achieve before he could begin his collegiate journey. The two-time Public School Athletic League (PSAL) individual pommel horse champion led the John F. Kennedy Campus Knights boys’ gymnastics team to its first team title in nearly a decade as a team captain. He was honored as second in his class academically at Kennedy, and also competed in the Big Apple Games, which was particularly bittersweet, as it marked the temporary end of his gymnastics career.
“I wanted to take my first year off and explore being in college without sports,” he explains.
A New Routine
The break was a short one, as Da-Costa arrived on Grounds and quickly realized his passion for his former sport of choice was insurmountable. He joined club gymnastics and also began working out with the cheerleading team.
“I didn’t join the cheer team until my second year, but I was able to go in a few days a week and get some reps in. Joining club gymnastics was also great because it gave me a feeling of consistency being back in the gym and doing skills and routines I was used to.”
Academically, Da-Costa was flourishing as well. Entering McIntire, he was excited to dive into the Integrated Core curriculum and explore the different areas of business.
“The experience I got through the Integrated Core program—especially through the final projects—was eye opening and one I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else,” he says. “Now when I do interviews or apply to companies, I can confidently say I am qualified and have the knowledge they’re looking for, because this is what I accomplished over the semester. A large factor in that was the faculty. They are amazing, and you can go to them anytime, anywhere, and they are happy to help you.”
He says another unique and rewarding aspect of his Comm experience has been the opportunity to create strong and meaningful relationships with his fellow classmates.
“On the first day of ICE, I found myself in a classroom with complete strangers, all new people I had never seen before on Grounds. By the end of the semester, we became a close-knit community, and that is one of the single greatest experiences I’ve ever had.”
In addition to his academic and athletic pursuits, Da-Costa volunteers in the local community through youth outreach programs. Last summer, he mentored young men ages 11 through 14 from Buford Middle School. The program encouraged students to have a positive growth mindset, and Da-Costa helped prepare them for high school and college through educational activities focused on financial literacy, healthy eating, exercising, and self-confidence.
“In middle school, I had such a strong support system. If I hadn’t, I probably would not be where I am today,” he says. “I do realize that some people are not fortunate enough to have that so, I felt like it was my duty to give back to others what had been given to me. It was so fulfilling to watch these kids realize their value and see it grow day by day, and week by week.”
Da-Costa also participated in a high school mentorship program in which he helped a high school senior prepare for the college application process by reviewing applications, providing feedback on essays, and assisting with financial aid forms. He hasn’t heard yet whether she was accepted into her top schools, but he says the last time they spoke, she was very confident and hopeful. “I gave her all of the information I wish I had known when I was navigating my own college applications.”
Da-Costa says community service will always be an important part of his life. Growing up, his church used to host monthly events to feed the homeless in his neighborhood, “I really grew up with a charity mindset and with a desire to give back.” He’s on the lookout for opportunities in Charlotte, NC, his temporary home this summer, as he is slated to work for Bank of America in the company’s Strategy and Management Department.
He says he’s excited to learn more about the inner workings of business from the decision-makers themselves at the company’s corporate headquarters. He’s also looking forward to increasing his knowledge around how certain strategies produce results and how they can be leveraged to help businesses achieve growth.
“The Integrated Core really gave me an understanding about the mechanisms of business, and I discovered that’s what I have a passion for and have aligned my professional ambitions with strategy. I think that the curriculum and projects set me up for success during the interview process for this position, and I was successful in demonstrating my competence around the subject.”
In the future, Da-Costa says he’s exploring professional opportunities both in strategy, developing consumer-focused initiatives, and in consulting, as he completed an internship with EY the summer between second and third year that focused on an engagement at a large commercial bank. Regardless of what he ends up pursuing, however, he says he is committed to using business to better society.
“We have a responsibility to ensure everything we do is ethically and morally right. It’s easy to make a small, questionable decision and justify that it was only one time, and then allow more like decisions to be made—a snowball effect. When used right, commerce can better the world and the communities in which we live. And in order to achieve that, we must stay true to our ethics and morals.”