I almost didn't go to college. In the isolated Barry Farm projects where I grew up in DC, it wasn't abnormal for my peers to live out the same lives our parents did -- drop out of high school, have babies at 16, get caught up with the wrong crowds -- even when we were told to "do as I say, not as I do." The problem wasn't that we weren't taught to want for more than what we had. It was just that we couldn't see our opportunity to jump out of the hamster wheel of cyclical urban hardship.
Abstractly, I always knew I wanted to go to college. Hillman College from the hit TV show, A Different World, sure looked cool. But I couldn't really get a tangible picture of what that looked like and I sure didn't know what to do to make sure it happened.
Then at 16, I met Angela. Angela had visited my church a couple of times and by chance we ended up talking over refreshments one Sunday afternoon. That awkward interaction went something like:
Angela: "So, where are you going to college?"
Angela: "What's that mean?"
Me: "Well, I want to go to school but..." [Shrug]
Angela: "Oh ok ... well, you're going to school." [Eyebrows tilted up as if to say, "Girl, you better stop playing with your life."]
Me: "Bye." [I proceeded to walk away thinking, "Why does she even care?"]
She didn't let me know what she was up to until the time came, but about two weeks later, Angela had put together a "Patience goes to college" walkathon. She and a bunch of her girlfriends walked around DC's tidal basin in black t-shirts branded with my name to bring awareness to others about my goal. She didn't do it to raise money. She did it to lift me up. She did it to motivate me to see myself in her and all of those beautiful, professional women who looked like me. Then, they took me on a college tour where I first laid eyes on my future.
I ended up going to the real life college that Hillman was based on, Hampton University in Virginia -- an incredible HBCU where I've made lasting connections, built up my social and professional networks, and since launched a successful career in mission driven communications.
Interestingly enough, I never heard from Angela again, and my attempts to track her down have come up empty. I've tried to find her to thank her. I don't even know much about her. What I do know is that even though she didn't know me, she stood for me. Because she stood for me, I saw opportunity for a better future and so many new things blossomed for me in the process. My head was held higher and I haven't really dropped it since. I started to own my voice and I've not stopped using it since. I became a model for my little sister and began standing for others who knew me when I was just a little girl living in Barry Farm projects.
All in all, I knew Angela for about 30 days, but in the 5,475 days since she stood for me, my life has never been the same.
For the 46 million people living in poverty right now in the U.S., what happened to me by what I call grace and what others might call luck could happen by design -- OUR design.
We can decide to believe that all people, regardless of their income, deserve the right to have a life with opportunity at every turn. And we can lift our collective voices to make sure that sure that everyone has someone standing for them, that everyone feels like they have the opportunity to reach their potential.
All it takes is one minute to impact someone's life in the most meaningful way. That's the idea behind the #LIFT4Good Pledge Campaign. To use our virtual voices to uplift, encourage, advocate for, and raise awareness of the people who need it most.
At a time where our world feels smaller than ever because of advances in technology, the notion of neighbors is less and less about geography and more about a shared humanity.
With a click of a button, you can lift your neighbors, 46 million of them, all across the country.
Taking the pledge should feel personal. I ask that you make it about you. Make it about how you can stand in the gap for others who may not have a voice. Make it about how you can give encouragement to people who may feel isolated and alone. Like Angela did for me. And that doesn't cost money. It only costs a little bit of heart.
So I, Patience, am asking you -- (imagine your name here), to stand with me to lift our neighbors. All it takes is one minute to take the pledge -- one minute to use your virtual voice to declare that all people have the right to an opportunity to achieve more than what they may have been born into.