About 20 years ago, I was receiving shelter for the first time in months.
I was 22 years old, homeless, and a single mother. I couldn’t keep a job, and I didn’t understand why. At 14 years old, as a victim of sexual abuse, I had run away from home. I didn’t have a support system to lean into. No wonder I never smiled.
In June of 1998, I became involved in what was the first full STRIVE® Baltimore cohort. I never missed a class and was never late. I was hungry to understand why I couldn’t stay gainfully employed, especially since I had been a great student all of my life. I graduated as a top ranking business student from Dunbar High School, attended the Johns Hopkins summer scholars program, and had received a full scholarship to Morgan State University. STRIVE® taught me two important lessons that most people take for granted: how to dress for the job I wanted and how to smile.
Today, I am an executive for a government agency that manages a multi-billion dollar budget. I hold three higher-education degrees. My husband and I are celebrating 20 years of marriage next year and have three beautiful children. I
mentor young women on what to wear and what not to wear to work. I’ve come full circle in my journey.
Exposure is the basis of all growth. CFUF and the STRIVE® Baltimore program showed me how to overcome my current situation.
They exposed me to resources, opportunities, and a life different from what my childhood and adolescence in West Baltimore had been. They helped me develop a self-awareness that has propelled me to where I am today. James Worthy, Moses Hammett, and Joe Jones gave me something I never had: a father figure interested in nothing else but seeing me succeed.
We are all the sum total of our life experiences. My story is one of resilience and perseverance. I tell it proudly, and I do it while smiling.