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Nominate 40-something Women: Mothers, Teachers, and Mentors

05/01/2013 11:09 am ET | Updated Jul 01, 2013
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Many ordinary 40-something women are making a big difference in today's world, in their own ways. For example, NBA All-Star Kevin Durant's grandmother texted him during the season and told him to stop using foul language, which sent a message to many younger athletes that they must have good deportment and manners at all times. Evidently, Durant's grandmother's actions, although seemingly trivial, are performed daily by women who are not rare commodities; women whose actions create significant, meaningful ripple effects.

There are 40-something women in my life whose small actions led to me founding an award-winning nonprofit that empowers kids in foster care to achieve success in life. But the three women who have contributed the most to my personal growth are Lorna Cabrera, Karen Wilson, and Faviana Olivier.

Although an obstinate and rambunctious teenager in foster care, my mother, Lorna Cabrera, adopted me. She (with the help of my father) showered me with unconditional love and provided fiscal support. Lorna is a superwoman who never gave up on me and preached the importance of education.

My teacher, Karen Wilson, pushed me to excel academically. She told me, "My colleagues and I are going to place you in all honors courses; you have the smarts. Just please stop trying to fit in -- and stand out!" Heeding Ms. Wilson's ardent cries for me to embrace my natural gifts, I took school more seriously and even took AP Chemistry -- independently -- all the while participating on the math team, getting elected Vice President of Student Government, developing a software system to increase school district security, and willing my 150-cadet battalion to achieving the Navy's highest honors for the first time in 20 years in my position as Cadet Commanding Officer at Middletown High School. I gave back to my school and beat the odds: I graduated in the top 5 percent of my 400-person high school graduating class because of Ms. Wilson. Subsequently, Hilary Clinton nominated me to the Air Force Academy and UPenn Alum courted me. However, I followed my heart and decided to attend Northeastern University.

While in college, my legal writing professor, Faviana Olivier, went above and beyond what was bulleted in her job description. She taught me how to write proper cover letters, resumes, and personal statements. She also wrote a stellar letter of recommendation that helped me to secure the White House Internship. After her class ended, I made time to chit-chat with her about hip music, new legal thrillers, neat reads, travel experiences, and my future. When stressing out about graduate school applications, she told me, "Yale, Stanford, Harvard and every top school should want you, because of how you think." Faviana is a lawyer whose deceased husband was a judge, so her encouraging words were soothing, reassuring, and uplifting. I graduated from college with high honors, but also with tremendous work experiences, confidence and life lessons due in large part to Faviana.

What Faviana, Karen, and Lorna (and Hilary Clinton!) have in common is that they were all 40 years old or older when they entered into my life. There's a cadre of 40-something women quietly changing the world (sometimes indirectly!), but they do not have the power or money or status to get noticed in the crowd.

Often media outlets celebrate the powerful women who head Fortune 1000 companies, like Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, or the female athletes who win shiny medals, like Olympic Champion Serena Williams, or the women with celebrity status, like Beyoncé, and these women should be applauded for their accomplishments, but instead of reading headlines about these "extraordinary women" or Kim Kardashian's scandalous fashion faux pas, I would like to see more media coverage on the 40-something "ordinary women" whose values cannot be monetized or defined by shiny pieces of metal, fancy titles, or significant brands.

This is why, for personal reasons, I support Christina Vuleta, Founder of 40:20 Vision and Managing Partner of Perks Consulting, and Whitney Johnson, co-founder of Rose Park Advisors and a Harvard Business Review blogger, and their efforts to select 40 Women To Watch Over Forty. They believe that women over 40 are doing amazing things and should be celebrated. I agree and hope fabulous women over 40 are nominated, because my world -- in the words of popular singer James Brown -- would be nothing (nothing!) without a woman.