Dear Sister of Any Age

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BY TANYA

Dear Sister of Any Age:

First of all, you need to know that you matter.

The most meaningful advice I could ever give you in school is to celebrate small victories, advocate for yourself, and embrace the struggles. I share this analogy with my students all the time; one that I’ve heard many times, school is a marathon not a dash.

Celebrate your first test, your first paper of the semester. You deserve it! School is not easy or convenient for most of us, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. School, at its best, in my opinion, is to help grow into our best selves. As you we celebrate, we also recognize that we are celebrating moments of growth. So please, even if it is just, having a meal (I’m foodie) or posting a status on social media, do it! Celebrate!

As a black woman, to be perfectly honest, the world is not destined with our advocacy in mind. We know this.  I have learned that oftentimes, the people we think will speak for us will not, especially in the classroom. Therefore, you must speak up! I know there is sometimes a very real sense of fear involved; fear of rejection from teachers or classmates, fear of being labeled “The Angry Black Girl or Woman,” or even the fear of our own brilliance. I’m here to tell you that whether you speak up or not, many of those labels will be placed on you anyway! So, share what’s on your mind! Your thoughts are valuable in your learning communities that exist in the classroom and beyond! I would argue that all learning communities are incomplete without the musings of the marginalized. Speak up, all our learning and growth depends on your contribution!

Returning to the marathon analogy, there comes a point in many marathoners’ journeys where they are so close to the finish line and they hit a setback. Perhaps, it is a leg cramp or hunger or just feeling exhausted – yet, many continue. I’m here to tell you just like a marathoner, school will present similar struggles. Embrace the struggles. It in the embrace of the struggle that we learn to brace ourselves, in my long run, for life’s challenges. Sure, you worked very hard on an assignment and didn’t get the grade you wanted. Sure, you had a group experience was less than ideal, and you found yourself doing all the work. It happens to all scholars! And in life, the same happens. Struggles are a part of all journeys especially in school settings. And though, some struggles may slow us down, don’t allow them stop you. Keep running my scholar sister, you got this!


tanyaRev. Tanya Boucicaut is beginning her doctoral studies as a Writing and Rhetoric student at George Mason University this spring. She is a Focused Inquiry adjunct instructor and theological writing and research affiliate faculty member at the Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University. She is the founder and CEO a faith-based nonprofit youth theatre, Perfect Love Community Youth Theatre. Her goal is to empower and embrace every person in she encounters to dream and live their best lives fearlessly.

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Pearls for the Girls: Words of Wisdom for your #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE

 

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BY KIARA

Let’s face it. Life ain’t always easy when you’re in a constant balancing act — balancing school, work, a social life, planning for your future, taking care of your family, keeping your finances afloat, maintaining your relationships and more. All these things bring challenges, especially while on your #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE. Struggle, hard times, low points and times of doubt are all part of the journey. 

You’re about to hear from 8 women who are movers and shakers, doers and go-getters, hustlers and game changers with one thing in common: they’ve all tackled their challenges head on. Now, they’re offering you their pearls of wisdom — advice for the toughest days of your #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE.



racheida

Racheida Lewis, M.E | Ph.D Student at Virginia Tech | BS in Electrical Engineering (VCU ’13); M.E. in Electrical Engineering (UVA ’15)

“The most meaningful advice I can give to a young woman in engineering (especially first generation) is that just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I started out as 1 of 4 black people in my major and 1 of 4 girls. I come from a poor background with no exposure to engineering prior to attending college. Like me, I’m sure that there will be times when you feel like giving up. There will be times when you feel like “this isn’t for me” because you may be behind your peers. There may be times when you’re intimidated by the fact that you’re 1 of few, or the only one like you in your classes. You may feel like a different major is a better fit. And it’s ok to experience those feelings. You’re not a quitter for feeling like a failure sometimes. It’s how you get up and take your next steps that count. Make friends within your major and outside your major (because you need a sane place to escape to). GO TO OFFICE HOURS and DEMAND the assistance you seek. Some professors may be jerks and it’s unfortunate, but at the end of the day they are just as much responsible for your learning as you are – don’t give into the negativity of “this isn’t high school anymore”. Find something that brings you joy – an organization, a hobby, volunteering, etc. Lastly, find support that keeps you grounded – this can be your family, friends, church, the place and people you can feel most vulnerable with without feeling the pressure of judgment. College is difficult and being in a technical field doesn’t make it any easier – but there are strength in numbers and there are so many who have come before you that are rooting for your success. If you decided that this isn’t for you because you’ve found passions elsewhere then that’s perfectly acceptable – but whatever degree you decided to pursue, you make sure that by any means necessary you don’t leave that university without it!”


caitlin

Caitlin Eberhardt | Graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law | Law Clerk at the Supreme Court of Hawaii

“One proverb that I hold close to my heart is, “Be not afraid of going slowly. Be afraid of standing still.” Following that thought, my advice to women struggling in school is not to measure your progress against that of your peers. Everyone starts at a different level and learns in different ways. As long as you are better than you were yesterday, that is success.”


mariah

Mariah Williams | Virginia Commonwealth University Graduate Student | Founder, Black Girls Meet Up

“I remember being in middle school and listening to some girls say, ‘I don’t get along with females’ or ‘girls can’t be trusted so I don’t hang out with them.’ I never understood that because so many of my great friends were other girls and I loved being around them, especially because I learned so much from them. My advice for girls in schools would be to surround yourself with girls and people in general who uplift you. In the age of social media, it is so easy to be distracted from your purpose or to allow things like Facebook and Instagram to affect your friendships negatively. Don’t let it. There is so much you can learn from the women around you! Don’t see other women as a threat. Empower each other. Encourage each other, especially in the classroom.”


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Christine Marie Quilpa | School Counselor at Augusta County Schools | UVA Graduate (2012, B.A. Sociology with Asian Pacific American Studies minor; 2016, M.Ed Counselor Education)

“Some circumstances and some people, including yourself, will try to put you down, but don’t let your spirit to be crushed. You were born to be great, and in order to find your greatness, you will learn a lot of lessons and experience a lot of experiences along the way. There will be many times when you will feel disappointed, sad, angry, hurt, and other emotions, but instead of letting these challenges set you back, be open to them. Use your emotions and experiences to become a bolder, braver, better you. And if you ever feel uncertain about where your passions and purpose may be, think of a problem that has made you upset – and let yourself be the solution to it.”


“The best advice I could give would be don’t forget to live while you complete your

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Ashley Bond | Teacher | Graduate of University of Richmond

education.  One of my biggest struggles in school was that between not
having the academic skills I needed to do my work quickly, and having to work on the side to pay expenses, it took up nearly all of my time.  I would put in 18 hour days between school and work, and spent little time doing things that I wanted to do.  After
a while, I became very burned out, depressed, and bitter with my situation.  I was angry at the whole world for making my life so hard when it was really me who wouldn’t allow myself to take a break.  I moved from Utah to Virginia to go to school largely because
I had always wanted to see Virginia and the East Coast in general.  I didn’t take nearly enough time to go see the sights and experience the culture.  Looking back, I wish I would have spent less time on studies, let my grades fall a little bit (Getting C’s and D’s isn’t the worst thing in the world.  You will still graduate and end up in the same place; I promise.), and taken the time to enjoy myself.  School would have been so much more meaningful if I had,  and I may have avoided some of the terrible choices
I made after I graduated from school in an attempt to escape the life I hated.  A broken nose from a fist fight, an unplanned pregnancy, and a long journey later, I am finally in a place where I can start feeling at peace.  I have a job that I’m happy with, a great kid, and the best family ever.  And I can finally let go, relax, and spend time doing things for myself as opposed to being consumed by my academic and career goals.  Life really is too short to not spend time living.”


tanya

Rev. Tanya Boucicaut | PhD Student at George Mason University | Adjunct Instructor and Research Affiliate, Virginia Union University | Founder and CEO, Perfect Love Community Theatre

“Dear Sister of Any Age:

First of all, you need to know that you matter.

The most meaningful advice I could ever give you in school is to celebrate small victories, advocate for yourself, and embrace the struggles. I share this analogy with my students all the time; one that I’ve heard many times, school is a marathon not a dash.

Celebrate your first test, your first paper of the semester. You deserve it! School is not easy or convenient for most of us, but that doesn’t mean isn’t worth it. School, at its best, in my opinion, is to help grow into our best selves. As you we celebrate, we also recognize that we are celebrating moments of growth. So please, even if it is just, having a meal (I’m foodie) or posting a status on social media, do it! Celebrate!”


anise

Anise Burkholder | University of Richmond Graduate | Active Duty Service Member, United States Navy

“The best advice I could give a young woman struggling in school is to keep your eye on the prize and realize this struggle is only preparing you for your purpose! It might seem hard right now but there’s something this stage in your life is teaching you. Don’t give up because you can do anything you put your mind to. Don’t compare your walk to someone else’s. Just focus on yourself, your future and your dreams.”


roseann

Rose Ann E. Gutierrez, M.A. Candidate, Seattle University | Research Associate, Center for Community Engagement | Project Manager for Community College and STEM Research | Resident Director, Cornish College of the Arts | Co-Editor-in-Chief of MAGIS: A Student Development Journal 

“Know who you are inside and out because when you have that sense of integrity and are honest with yourself, you can’t be false to anybody else. When school becomes challenging, remind yourself of your motivations whether those be intrinsic and/or extrinsic. I keep photos of my parents on my desk to remind me of why–why I continue to persist and remain resilient in the face of adversities. I am the first one in my family to receive a bachelor’s degree and on the pathway of attaining a master’s. I witnessed my parent’s arduous efforts, as they worked multiple jobs only receiving three to four hours of sleep for years to provide for my needs and wants. I have the educational privilege to not only give back to my parents, but also give forward to my community and others. We, women, need to leverage our education as a tool and see ourselves as social agents to truly impact society. Moreover, find strong mentors who are women, who share the same identities as you. My mentors have been pillars of support, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wasn’t guided and advised by some of the strongest and best.”

 


tiara

Just Another College Student Working Hard to Become Who I’ve Dreamed of 

 

“Hi Beautiful! Yes you! You know what your dreams are. You know what goals you’ve set. Now accomplish them. Pray to whoever you believe in, keep the faith, and WORK. Work hard to be that successful woman you’ve dreamed of becoming. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it. Don’t give up. You got this. “

 

 

 

 


 

 

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Kiara Lee, M.Ed | Founder, #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE | Editor, theblackertheberry.org |PhD Student, Virginia Commonwealth University 

“I think the most useful pearl of wisdom I could offer girls and women in the midst of their #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE is to never be afraid to think outside of the box. There is no one way to get from point A to point B, to earn a degree or even to achieve happiness and satisfaction in your life. If plan A doesn’t work, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed of the less popular plan B, or C, or D or E. It’s your path and your path only. Own it, with all of its quirks, uniqueness, spins, turns and detours. At the end of it all, you WILL arrive at your destination, with gratitude and with grace.

10 Things I wish someone would have told me before going to college

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BY SHARRON

Think of college as a roller coaster: you stand in line with anticipation because you heard it would be fun, you get on kind of nervous for what’s to come and then you climb up the hill slowly preparing yourself to experience some of what you heard about and more. You reach the top and then suddenly you fall. You may fall feeling excited because it was everything you thought it would be or you may fall farther than you thought with a feeling of uneasiness.  With all the twists and turns you endure you will look back laughing at that fact that you were so nervous in the beginning and will be able to tell others that it honestly was not too bad. Well, I’m still on this roller coaster called college, but here are 10 things I wish someone would have told me while I was standing in line waiting to get on, so that I would be prepared for the big drop at the end.

  1. SAVE YO MONAAAY!

College is expensive. Don’t let people fool you into thinking that once you go off, everything will be dandy and your parents will always be there with a lil chunk of change to save you. No. You will need money for food, money for books, money to get your hair and nails did. You will need money. So, before you go off plan to look for a job or if you’re already in college take some time to make a financial plan. For me, I had to sit down and make a budget for myself. I had to downsize on my meal plan that was costing me thousands and decide to put money in my savings WITHOUT touching it. Budgeting is HARD (can I get a witness somebody?!) but it is a skill we all as women need to attempt to master.

 

  1. Friends will come, friends will go.

When I started college in my freshman year, I had so many friends. Some friends I knew from my hometown of Richmond, and others I gained while transitioning into college. As the years have gone by, I have lost a number of friends for a number of reasons, some I may understand and some I truly couldn’t even tell you. When I look back, I am grateful for the people I have lost, because it has taught me the value in true friendships. You soon realize that it’s about quality over quantity. Of course, you should be ok with mending broken friendships, but sometimes it’s best to move on to make room for positivity and prosperity for yourself.

 

  1. It’s ok to not be ok.

College is one of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever encountered. You go from being surrounded by family, to having to decide who and what you want to be surrounded by for yourself. It can get very difficult and easy to feel alone, but in college you are NEVER alone. Most of everybody you may walk past is facing the same issues, if not more than you. If you are truly stressed out take some time out to destress. Listen to some inspirational music, hit the gym for a quick workout or even sit down have a talk with your home girl/homeboy that knows how to lift your spirits. Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help if it gets too tough. Almost every college/university has counseling services.

 

  1. Get involved

College is all about NETWORKING. I cannot stress that enough. Once you venture out and figure out your interests you will soon realize that there are a network of people who have the same interests as you and can help you do bigger and better things. Join the choir or become a member of the intramural basketball club. Once you engage yourself, you’ll have a support system of folks just like you.

 

  1. Find your balance

Balance is the major key to success when keeping your sanity in college. The workload will become overwhelming unless you make time to hang out with your girls, hang out with bae or just hang out with yourself. Being involved can also help you find balance as well. I am involved in a couple service organizations, and I also model and African dance as well. These all together help me to have some stress relief and keep myself focused on getting my schoolwork done.

 

  1. A’s over Baes

Do not, I repeat DO NOT let your Man Crush Monday become the reason why you miss class on Monday. Make sure that you put your schoolwork as your number one priority. Spending time with your boo should never become such a distraction that you fall behind in your schoolwork or start missing out on important events for your professional development. Make sure that your mate respects your hustle and encourages you to stay on track.

 

  1. Make time for family

One thing I truly have missed out on while being away at college, are the simple moments with family. You get busy, overwhelmed and let’s be honest sometimes being around family can add to that stress. Making time to just be with family can remind you of the good people you have standing behind you. There may be family members who appreciate that even though you are bus on the go that you take time to call them or even stop by. You never know they may slide you some money and you can also get you a good home cooked meal too. Don’t miss out on the cornbread and collard greens!

 

  1. Be you unapologetically!

You are you and that is your power. Often times, it can be very hard to stay true to yourself. College makes this especially true, because of all the stresses and changes you may go through. While going through all of this remember to be true to who you are and who you wish to become. Do not be swayed by what everyone else may be doing, because we all have our own unique pathways to take. If you want to change your hair every week do that! If you choose not to drink while all of your friends do, then stay true to that. If you want to change your wardrobe every single year then DO YOU BOO BOO.

 

  1. Raise your awareness

College has taught me so much about myself, but even more about others. As a black woman I have experienced discrimination and misogyny, but as a student I have learned that I have to be aware of my privilege. What is privilege? Privilege describes the different advantages we may have over others that we do not necessarily have to think about. For example, I am a Black Woman and that has many disadvantages BUT I am able bodied, healthy, and also a college student. Some people do not have the same opportunities and that is what college has taught me. Be humble and raise your awareness of the world around you. We are the leaders of the next generation and it is our duty to be the change.

 

  1. Step out your comfort zone

College will force you to change your perception. It will force you to work on group projects with people you may not know or you may dislike. You have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Most importantly, college will challenge you professionally. You will have to unlearn so much that you have learned in high school and you know what? YOU WILL SURVIVE.

(photo: ebony.com)


SharronSharron is a 19 year old Emerging Professional in the VCU School of Social Work, double majoring in African American Studies with a minor in Psychology. She is a Richmond, Virginia Native currently working through organizations at VCU to reach out to the community and help those in need. In 2015 She along with a few other students majoring in African American Studies formed a student organization called the African and African American Student Empowerment Project (AASE) where she serves as the Founding President. Today, the organization caters to fostering a safe space for students to have conversations about issues in the Black community as well as giving back and serving others. In the fall of 2015, she was initiated into the Eta Theta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta, Sorority Inc. where she serves as the 2nd Anti-Basileus on the Executive Board. Sharron wears many hats, but she is extremely passionate about being a part of the solution to the social issues surrounded around minorities. In her free time you can catch her vibing to Neo-Soul tunes to the likes of Erykah Badu, hanging out with her girls, or putting in work at the gym.

Don’t Ignore Your Student Loans

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BY FANTASIA

For many, bearing the expense of  student loans can be a hassle, especially if  you’re living on your own and can barely make ends meet. That  was the case for me. A year after I graduated high school, I decided to enroll at the nearest tech because it seemed like the right thing to do. Still, I wasn’t equipped for it and had no idea what I wanted my major to be,  but felt as though  I had to do something productive, something to make my family proud. I continued working full time all while helping my dad care for my younger brothers, so sadly school wasn’t a priority. In all honesty, I never took it seriously anyways because I didn’t care at the time  and I surrounded myself with people who couldn’t care less about me succeeding. Towards the end of the semester, those same “friends” encouraged me to take out student loans. I was told it would be help me catch up on bills and I’d have plenty of extra money to spend on whatever I wanted. Hearing that was music to my ears. When you grow up with nothing but struggles, falling into any amount of money you aren’t used to having  can seem like winning  the lottery.

Soon after the semester ended and all the money was spent, I started  receiving letters about paying off my loans, but always threw them away. Sometimes without opening them.  I knew I was completely broke, so I figured if I’d just ignore my problems, they’d go away. But nope, it didn’t work that way. Now that years have flown by and I’ve matured, I decided I was ready to pay off my loans and go back to school. I knew  what it was I wanted to do and I was ready to take  steps toward achieving my goals. I contacted the school I previously attended to get everything in order and was slapped in the face with bad news. I found out that I was in default and wouldn’t be able to get any financial help until after I finished paying off ALL of my loans. That meant I could pay off my debts, but school was out of the picture unless I was able to pay for everything out of pocket, and I wasn’t. That news was definitely devastating, but I had no one to blame but myself. This was a learning experience for me and I hope I encourage those of you reading to take school and paying off any debts you owe seriously so you don’t end up in the same situation.

(photo: heathervogelfrederick.com)


FantasiaFantasia Alston is a 22 year old free spirit  and visionary who spends most of her time  writing poetry, reading (preferably mystery books), and doing whatever she can to help better the community. Whether it be volunteering at the nearest homeless shelter or picking up any litter found on the solid surface of the Earth. She also enjoys painting whatever comes to mind, cooking, meditating,  and taking long walks to nowhere.  She currently resides in Columbia, SC, but grew up 3 hours away in a beautiful, yet small, city named Murrells Inlet. She is the second oldest of 8 children, and the eldest daughter. Being the matriarch of the family was tough on her, but she managed to stay strong for her younger siblings and remained focused  to complete school. Although she graduated high school with an outstanding  GPA, and  always had a passion for attaining knowledge, Fantasia continuously put college on the back burner. She was lost and didn’t want to push herself into a mainstream culture where you have to graduate from high school by 18, graduate from college by 22, start working full-time in the corporate world immediately, and then get married, buy the proverbial house with the white picket fence and have kids. That might’ve been  a great idea for her fellow classmates, but not her. After years of soul searching and finding out what career would bring  her the most joy in life, she has decided that earning her degree would be best. She now has plans  to attend a university and work towards becoming a child psychotherapist.