My STEP signature program was geared toward helping and advancing the young women, ages 12-20, of my community in the Greater Atlanta area. This event was a way to financially and academically educate the young women about college and other very crucial aspects of becoming socio-economically free and successful. Along with the education of these topics, information was provided about how to combat stress, anxiety and depression, and misogyny within our society were also discussed and the young women were given ways in which to cope and deal with these societal issues.
This event was not a standard STEP event and I believe it took a lot more effort, networking and brainstorming to make sure that this event was successful, not only rewarding for myself but exceptionally beneficial for the women in my community who needed it most. When I had this event in mind during the fall of 2017, I was aware that there was need for an event like this, but I wasn’t aware of just how extensive the miseducation of these topics was throughout my community. From being around these young women I realized that this miseducation is not due to a lack of interest, it is purely due to the lack of role models and important figures in their lives to educate them. I learned that I have the potential to recognize that need and try my hardest to pass on the knowledge that I have acquired because it is there is such a huge need for representation within these communities.
There were times where I underestimated to amount of work that went into networking, advertising and organizing an event of this caliber. There were times where I doubted myself and I wasn’t sure if I could pull everything together because there was a multitude of people that promised to come but didn’t show. Also, there were speakers that committed to attending the event and backed out at the last minute. However, I never let this deter me from manifesting my vision and dream. These setbacks just taught me to roll with the punches and constantly evaluate and reflect on reasons why I am going through these struggles and how important it is to continue in the pursuit of success.
The theme of my event was all about women supporting and empowering other women in today’s society and this theme came about from my daily interactions with many women, whether they were positive or negative. In the summer of 2017, I had started to mentor some of my “little sisters”, women on my former basketball team, about applying to college and how to navigate their stress and also how to combat problems such as low self-esteem and misogynistic culture as women. During the planning stages of the event I wasn’t really certain about how I was going to address all of these topics into such a small event, but then I thought about the women in my own community and how they have influenced me to come back and share what knowledge I have gained about many of the problems that plague our community.
I thought to myself, “What better way to give back to the women in my community than to make them vital parts of this event?!?”. With this in mind I contacted my former basketball teammate who just recently opened her own bakery and asked her to make my desserts for the event. Then my own mother, who was formerly a professional chef and whom was formerly named philanthropist of the year for Smyrna, offered to make the food and be a guest speaker for the event. I also contacted a family friend who had undergone treatment for Stage four breast cancer who happens to be also be a mortgage broker come and talk about credit and how she dealt with the stress of having undergone treatments. Additionally, I invited two other female college students, one who has a very successful YouTube channel, come and talk about their college experiences. Lastly, I had a representative from the bank, who was a woman, come and teach the young girls how to write a check, how to create a budget and why savings are so important. By inviting all of these successful women I had created an event for the education of women empowerment that showcased an all-women “cast” with no help from any man. (Except for my father who carried some tables)
However, the topics that were discussed in great detail at the event were all things that each and every one of us had experienced or fell victim too. We collectively decided that it was critical to talk about these things because us, ourselves, had wished that there was someone around to teach us the practical and pressing topics and skills. Just having the ability to provide my community and these young girls with an experience that I never had was extremely rewarding and the experience was invaluable, not only for the young women, but for myself as well.
This event, though small, was a big step in the right direction for a lot of the women that attended. Some of the women didn’t even have their sights set on going to college, but because of the effort and passion that I have for empowering my community, especially for those that share my identities as not only a minority, but as an African- American citizen and a woman, I was able to get them to apply and at least try. After years of growing up within a school system filled with teachers telling them that they could, and would not, amount to anything I made them realize that their worth is beyond the limitations of the small-minded people that attempt to belittle and degrade them. There are plenty of reasons why I am going to become a physician; 1) I love medicine and its very interesting and 2) Because I know that my success is not only mine, but it is my people’s as well. I want to be able to show the young people in my community that anything is possible with hard work and dedication. I want to let them know that no one but themselves can define their future and no one can take away the power they possess.