Last week, I launched our website http://www.forgirlgeeks.org. Today, I decided that I should share the news with my Facebook family and I am overwhelmed with joy. It always surprises me when there are people that I don’t talk to everyday but are always listening and willing to support me and my daughter. I am forever grateful for my village and everyone I’ve met in Atlanta, which has played such a vital part of my emotional well-being while being thousands of miles away from home and family. I love you all.
I would need to write a book to share my full story, but I will begin with sharing a little about my biggest passion. I grew up in a small urban city, Rochester, New York. I am number six of nine children that my mother attempted to raise alone. As a youth in Rochester, I was subject to learning how to live and navigate through streets plagued by gangs, violence, drugs, and prostitution. It was very common that these same issues made it into my home. At the same time, there were outreach programs that reached out to youth like myself on the regular basis. I was fortunate enough to join Southwest Area Neighborhood Association (S.W.A.N.), where a woman by the name of Sally took myself and my best friend under her wing.
As part of S.W.A.N. and many of their pilot programs, I received valuable life-long skills through volunteer work and paid summer programs. I found a safe-haven and a means to survival. Sally went over and above– She took my friend and I to board meetings so we can learn how the organization ran their business and taught us how to communicate with professionals. I remember attending a meeting and Sally asked my friend and I for our opinion. She wanted us to share our thoughts on the proposed programs. I was thinking… who me? The poor girl from the west side? She was planting seeds that I was not aware of until much later in life.
It was the selflessness and love from people like Sally and my stepmother Linda that nurtured my passion for giving back and helping youth navigate through stumbling blocks along the way.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to partner with YMCA YET, Spelman College, Pace Atlanta and Atlanta Public Schools to provide technology training to middle school youth. During this time, my passion became very clear while I worked with these kids every week. Although I did not include leadership and entrepreneurship in the curriculum, I found myself guiding these teenagers on how they can use their talents to make money. My goal was to make sure they had survival skills that would possibly keep them away from making poor choices during hard times. Believe me when I say, these kids dealt with serious adversities and had so many mountains to climb to become successful, let alone graduate from high school.
After almost a seven year hiatus, I am back pursuing my biggest passion to pay-it-forward and educate youth. Don’t get me wrong, I have many loves such as writing, music and technology. But, my heart is filled with joy just thinking about making a difference for ONE teenager.
So, why girls? You may be wondering why I decided to focus on girls this time around. Maybe not. First, my daughter has inspired everything I accomplished over the last fifteen years. I have poured my heart and soul into raising her and providing the guidance that I felt she needed to be successful. I became an education advocate and volunteered many hours to organizations that provided opportunities for my daughter to learn and broaden her horizons. Despite all my efforts to provide the best for my daughter, I couldn’t shield her from the obvious issues that teenagers deal with in school and relationships. She had to learn how to embrace her GEEK at the same time find friends that embraced her. In doing so, she had pitfalls that only she could control and I had to watch from the sidelines. This was the only way she would become a better leader and self-advocate. I learned the real value of a teenager having the proper support and advice during these critical years. It saddens me to think about the girls without anyone to guide them along the way.
Over the last seven years, I have worked for a large company and faced many personal challenges that left me questioning my strengths and abilities to DO SOMETHING BIG! To my benefit, I have already accomplished so much in life that constantly reminds me that I CAN, I DID and I WILL accomplish my goals and turn my passions/dreams into a reality. It is from this pain I felt from being a GEEK woman in a male dominated world, that I ultimately decided to focus on building the self-esteem and courage in young girls, so they will have the confidence later in life to pursue any dream, despite the challenges they face along the way.
This is just the beginning…