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!”


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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.”


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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!”


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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.”


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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.

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Find Your Core

BY SHENÉE

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The starting point of all achievement is desire. ~Napoleon Hill

Desire: a strong feeling of wanting something

The desire to read a book, the desire to post a blog, the desire to finish a project, the desire to graduate, the desire to be successful, the desire to have a family, the desire to…you feel in the blank.

Our achievements begin with a simple desire, a simple dream, a simple thought that is given life and takes shape over time through our experiences.  A hunger, an ambition, an innate feeling that belongs only to you. Your #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE.

Recently, I have been in a place of, let’s say a one-woman circus, homeschooling my oldest son, helping my middle son navigate the tumultuous 2s, birthing my baby girl, working on my M.A. in Women’s Studies, launching a local task force for young women, oh, and supporting my husband while he serves overseas and the 20 other families impacted. Some days, I cannot completely comprehend what is going on around me and within, as there are constant ebbs and flows. Family, friends and strangers continually ask, “How are you able to manage?” And my answer is by HIS grace. And when I truly reflect on that statement it is HIS grace that has allowed my DESIRE to continue to ring strong and resonate, regardless of the challenges and obstacles.  My desire to teach my children, my desire to complete my degree, my desire to further my education, my desire to support my service members and families alike, my desire to be the best me that I can be. Desire — a six letter word that has so much power. Power to overcome circumstances.

Your education, your desired accomplishments have only one owner-YOU! Own it, rock it, make it work for YOU! Don’t lose sight of your desire.

Create a desire/dream board or one of those cool word clouds that lists your desires. Having a visual or tangible tool will help to motivate you when challenging times arise. Know that you are equipped to accomplish many things, great things, things that you desire.

Dig in your heels, dream big; your desires are limitless. Enjoy the journey and seeing your desires come to fruition.


sghpicSHENÉE LYNETTE SIMON is a Virginia native and is a respected professional in the San Antonio community with over twelve years of experience in for-profit and not-for- profit sectors in areas of Human Resources and Non-Profit Management. She has been actively engaged in program ideation, creation and implementation in both profit and not-for- profit arenas.  With concentrations in program development, fundraising, recruiting, independent education and sales, Shenée has worked in influential roles such as a United States Army volunteer, Director of Development-The Jeremiah Project Homeless Initiative, Senior Recruiter for CNL Financial Group, Inc., Sales & Recruiting Agent with Randstad North America, Assistant Director of Annual Giving with the Madeira School, Development Associate at Chatham Hall School and the Director of the Transition Welfare to Work Program with the Virginia Foundation for Women. She is a proven performer and woman of God who has dedicated her life to Christ 30 years ago and continues her journey to utilize the gifts and talents he has bestowed her with: possessing a servant’s heart and being a collaborator and relationship builder. She has recently accepted the task and gift of home-schooling her children in addition to working with the American Association of University of Women, Younger Women’s Task Founder San Antonio (Founder), Family Readiness Group, University of Richmond Alumni Board-Regional Chapter Leader, Rollins College Alumni Board-Regional Chapter Leader. She seeks out creative opportunities through domestic and international partnerships to address needs where she lives, works and recreates. Her #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE: Graduate of Henrico High School, B.A. in Women’s Studies from the University of Richmond, M.A. in Human Resources Management from Rollins College and currently pursuing a M.A. in Women and Gender Studies from Southern Connecticut State University. Shenée is married to MSG Ronald L. Simon and the proud mother of three-Ronald (5.5), Robert (2) and Rory (2 months). She enjoys reading historical fiction, travelling, spending time with family, French culture and the arts.

Don’t Give Up

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BY FANTASIA

At the age of 16 I had to take on such huge responsibilities. Becoming the matriarch of my family at such a young age was so hard on me. I cooked, cleaned, did laundry, did most of the shopping, and made sure my younger siblings were maintaining good grades in school. All while attending school myself. There were many days I contemplated dropping out because I was exhausted. Mentally and physically. My grades started dropping drastically and my attendance was even worse, but I paid that no mind. I always thought to myself if my own family could care less about my wellbeing and my grades, why should I? It wasn’t until I had a long talk with my pre-calculus teacher, Mr. Brennan, that I became fully aware of my unrealized ability.

On the first day of my senior year I remember walking in this freezing cold room filled with dull faces and quickly noticing that I was the only African American in the occupied space.. It got so quiet when I strolled in. You could seriously hear a rat pee on cotton. We started doing work right away and all of a sudden he yelled “Ms. Alston, what’s the answer?” I wasn’t paying attention so I had no idea.  I didn’t care about passing at all. I was just in attendance so my dad wouldn’t end up in court on my behalf.  I made up some random number and then everyone burst out in laughter. I even heard this guy say “what a dummy.” I was so embarrassed and Mr. Brennan could tell. He pulled me to the side after class that day and said “Don’t be embarrassed, we’ve all gotten a question or two wrong before, but from looking at your records and talking to your previous geometry teacher, I know for a fact you knew that answer. I know you’re smart, I see your potential, and I know you won’t disappoint me or yourself from this point forward.” I thought long and hard about what he said, and he was right.  Ever since that day I began taking school a lot more seriously. My days were still tough because I continued playing the “parent” role, but I made time to do whatever was necessary to graduate.  It felt good knowing that someone cared. He even bragged about my intelligence to his other students, and he always made sure I knew that I could  be great at anything I put my mind to. My GPA rose tremendously and I ended up having the highest average in that class. Just about everyone was asking me, the “dummy,” for help.  It felt amazing to prove so many people, even myself, wrong.

If you’re struggling with school and think it’s impossible to pass I just want you to know nothing worthwhile comes easy. You will face challenges whether you’re raising a child, working nonstop, or even just piling yourself up with too much work. There will be moments you’ll doubt your ability to succeed, but don’t give up. Don’t let your doubts defeat you. There might be days you’ll feel as if you have no one to confide in. No one who will even begin to understand what you’re going through, but at the end of the day all you need is yourself.  Believe in yourself. You can do it; just wait it out and try your best, and I promise it will get better.

(photo: uptownmagazine.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.