07/18/2011 04:32 pm ET Updated Sep 14, 2011

Roots and Wings

Vital Voices, Rising Voices Contest

Every day, every woman should wake up asking who can I bring with me?
Who can I empower? As each woman extends her hand and her heart, we
will shape future leaders and change the face of our world as
independent strong women. Two stories from my life proved this to me
and taught me that together, women can transform this world.

The first story is about proceeding with confidence.

Irra K. blew me away the moment I met her. She was brilliant, bubbly
and British. I was immediately drawn to her and we became fast
friends. She taught me through her powerful life stories that others
cannot buy you willpower... it rises from your heart. She was told she
could not get into Oxford, she was told she would not amount to
anything by her stepfather and was told she could not afford Oxford
even when did she get in! She then founded her own dance company to
pay her way through college while supporting her mother. She worked
her way from the bottom up and graduated with a 1st, which is a top
degree at Oxford. Spending just a summer with her changed my attitude
and passion for life.

My second story is about the power of partnering.

Megan Freeman is my best friend and, as my mother says, "the British
version of me." I grew up in a small town in southern Vermont, and
she grew up in a small town in England. We both were extremely driven
and had many obstacles to overcome. The first time she blew me away
was when she told me that she was deaf in one ear but did not want
people to think of her differently, so she learned how to read lips.
There was never a problem where she could not find a solution. She
also self-taught herself by buying all the textbooks and working from
home in high school. Her teachers told her not to apply to Oxford, as
"people from her school don't get in," but she did anyways and was the
first person from her school to attend. Not only was she accepted,
but she also got into the best college, Lincoln College.

Irra and Megan taught me that in life, you will always be told the
things that you cannot do. They may say you're not smart enough or
the perfect fit, but you have to let all no's become meaningless, even
when they come quickly and firmly. They may be telling you no, but
you will tell them yes. Two of the greatest gifts anyone can receive
are roots and wings. My family gave me roots; Irra and Megan gave me