I attended Frederick Douglass High School – one of the toughest public schools across the city at the time. Kids who hadn’t already dropped out or been suspended were unmotivated to learn and fighting with each other and teachers. In addition to my mother, my high school guidance counselor constantly encouraged me to go to college. I’ll always remember the day I found out I got accepted to Towson University, becoming the first in my family to go to college. When I ran home to my mother and showed her the acceptance letter, she immediately burst into tears.
College was a big culture shock. I had a very hard time adjusting because I hadn’t acquired cultural capital that my college peers had. I wasn’t taught how to prepare for college. Learning everything myself was mentally and emotionally frustrating to the point I became depressed and developed a low-self esteem. There were times I wanted to drop out of college but after meeting fellow students at Towson’s Cultural Diversity Center, I began to develop a support system. It was by no means a “fix-all” but it sure helped me get through times of doubt and uncertainty.
In December 2011, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree. I’m so thankful to all of my mentors for helping me make it through. I’m now on my way to getting my graduate degree in human services administration this year from the University of Baltimore.
This summer I visited the White House to tell my story. I was invited on behalf of Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative, which encourages youth to attend college. Eric Waldo, executive director of the initiative, gathered leaders from the White House and U.S. Department of Education to hear about my story, the work I’ve done around increasing the number of first-generation college students and how they can support me in my career. Eric also asked me if I would team up with him and the First Lady as a “thought partner” to help them take the Reach Higher Initiative to the next level. What an honor it was to be asked. Everyone who met with me said that they’re willing to lend a hand in my efforts. I am forever grateful for this opportunity.
I’m now working with the United Way of Central Maryland team as a special assistant to the organization’s president and CEO, Mark Furst. I’m thrilled to be helping United Way further their education programs and advocating for opportunities for struggling youth in central Maryland.