PeerForward CEO, Gary Linnen Delivers Virtual Keynote Speech

“Everyone’s journey is different”

As students advance in their educational journey, the act of reflection becomes essential to discovering the opportunities and inequities that lay ahead. In July, PeerForward CEO Gary Linnen addressed 2,600 college-level attendees of Deloitte’s intern program in a keynote speech in which he challenged audience members to ask themselves, “where am I today?”

The Deloitte Plenary internship gives college-age students the opportunity to lend their social capital, enthusiasm, and skill to assist organizations fighting for social change, tackling employment and wealth inequity, and creating educational opportunities.

A recipient of incredible educational opportunities himself, Mr. Linnen spoke on the dichotomy he became privy to as he progressed through school, “I was living a tale of two cities: going to the most prominent schools, but leaving my family in New York.” He saw power and talent within his Spanish Harlem neighborhood, but in a system that makes room for only a select few, he was the only student to attend a gifted and talented boarding school. He reflected on his own privilege and questioned why he was chosen, why his sisters and others didn’t get the same educational opportunities?

Gary discussed his realization that it was possible to have gratitude for the exceptional education he received while challenging the narrative that there is only room for a select few Black and brown people in positions of success. “That narrative is false,” he reminded audience members.

As the leader of a non-profit organization, Mr. Linnen sees his position as an opportunity to level the playing field regardless of income level, race, or zip code, giving an equal opportunity to everyone to be successful.

“It’s why I live and breathe PeerForward.”

He left each attendee with one piece of advice, “move out of the passenger seat, and get into the driver’s seat to your own destination. Change the narrative and be heard. Change what the country looks like for tomorrow.”


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We’ve changed our name, but our mission and values are the same. After two decades of leveraging peer influence to guide more students to higher education, we’ve adopted a name that reflects the power of youth activation. Read more