Tell your story: Be competitive by being yourself!


Something that I feel is missing in programming for youth is the need to be competitive and be yourself. Youth need to push themselves to be the best at what they want to do. As adults, we need to help them understand how and what students need to do to achieve their dreams. This can all be achieved by sharing our own unique stories with each other.

Two weeks ago I attended College/Career Day at Brashear High School. I was invited by my friend Kashif (who is a teacher at the school) to share my knowledge of the college admission process. Most of the times, when I agree to speak, I feel like the “College Lady.”

Yet, when I got there, I was informed that I was paired with another person to talk to 6 classrooms of 10th graders for only 15 minutes. So now I had to think about a quick presentation/speech that would be appealing to 10th graders and slip in information about college admission! Talk about pressure!!

Well I pulled it off! I talked about my aspirations to go to a top research university that had a great liberal arts program. This drove my college search to find colleges and helped make my decision to attend Notre Dame, Harvard, and Pitt. I shared that I mostly enjoyed my History/Government, Social Studies/Sciences, and English classes. I still took challenging math and science classes but I really liked my liberal arts classes. This was the beginning stages of figuring out my majors in psychology Africana Studies, and education.

I talked about how I had a support system of caring parents who had gone to college so they helped me in the college admission process. I also had great teachers that wrote good letters of recommendation. I talked about the extracurricular activities that led to leadership positions and interests in clubs once I got to college. I also attended summer pre-college programs at Purdue, Emory, Wittenberg to get a better understanding of college classes and life on campus.

So it seems pretty fitting that after understanding the college process at such an early point in my life, I would become the “College Lady” with more than enough information to go around.

There were themes from today that I hope the students left with: Be competitive by being yourself.

Although I had so much help from my parents, community, and teachers when I was preparing to go to college, I took the initiative to apply to college. I chose to be competitive and challenge myself by taking the harder classes, participate in every club that I could, and have leadership positions. I chose to write my personal statement in the third person to show my creativity or that I picked Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King as memorable people who served their community and the greater good and I want to emulate them in my professional career.

Many adults that I work with or talk to often admit that they don’t talk to youth very often. They state that they don’t know how to talk or relate with young people. Yet, it’s as simple as telling your story. Everybody loves stories that’s what the world (and specifically education) is built upon… Stories. Stories of the past, present, and future. Even math is a story of how you get from 2 apples to five by adding 3 apples!

So as I’m telling my story, I notice the behavior of the students. I observed personality types that reflect most Pittsburgh public schools such as the:

the quirky student
the loud talkative know-it-all students
the sleepy/aloof student
the joker/class clown student
the teacher’s pet student
the quiet student
the questioning student
the too proud/tough student

I saw these behaviors/personality types and they were all saying…

The students just wanted us (adults) to acknowledge their presence.

All of these types and behavior deserve to be noticed…
and cared for.

I tried my very best to inspire them with my story

that they can achieve… with my help and your help and her help and his help.

I want he/she to believe,
to trust,
to care

about her/himself and her/his future.
Then, and only then,
can he/she give back and care about others.

P.S. Please make sure to share your story with the youth in your lives and community. Just sharing your own story can be sources of inspiration for others.


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