Over a decade ago, applying to colleges seemed like a compulsory act to my 17 year old self, a necessary pressure with hopes to seal a optimistic fate. My friends made their college application choices based on how much financial aid they'd receive coupled with hopes that their interests or passions be met with a complementary major or degree program. I followed suit because I started imagining a world of my own design, but mostly because I feared missing out on a shared next chapter in life. I applied to college because the adults in my life believed this too.
Many of these adults, namely my parents and family members, assisted this process with intangible yet kind encouragement and silent prayers. This is the only help they could afford as most of them had not graduated from a university. I feel humbled yet blessed to do what they weren't able to and go where they were denied. In many ways, I could not have made it as far as I have without those invaluable and treasured prayers.
When I set my heart and gaze on Spelman College, my fate was sealed. Back then Spelman was a school I'd barely heard of until older classmates came back to our hometown, fresh off campus and beaming with pride that they had successfully penned their next chapter. I remember thinking if they can do it, I can do it, and learning about their scholarships and internships that I too could apply for was icing on the cake.
With that, writing my next chapter began and the fear of missing out subsided. However, hindsight is 20/20. Now I realize my tenure at Spelman was to learn who and what I was. My optimistic fate was more than a chemistry major or an engineering degree. It was learning and discovering history about myself, my ancestors and luminaries like those classmates that introduced me to Spelman.
This past month I celebrated my 10 year reunion and nearly 15 year pursuit of that world of my own design I first imagined in high school. Reunion reminded me of how grateful and blessed I am. It reminded me if how far I had come from free and reduced price lunches to becoming the first person in my family to obtain one, two and eventually three STEM related degrees. It also made me realize and remember the other "firsts" I accomplished:
- First in my family to receive over $150,000 in scholarships
- First international cohort of Georgia Tech's SURE program
- First Spelmanite to earn a civil engineering dual degree from the University of Michigan
- Youngest President of the Detroit Chapter of NAASC for which I served three terms
- One of the first and few female black engineers to serve the Detroit District of USACE
- First cohort of Woodrow Wilson-W.K. Kellogg Michigan Teaching Fellows
- Featured on the front page of the Detroit Free Press
- First to create the first ever Robotics elective for University Prep Schools
- Launched the first biomedical science, computer science and engineering career programs east of the river at Anacostia and HD Woodson High Schools within DC Public Schools
These firsts are excellent examples of how familial encouragement and prayer works and how first can propel you forward and upward. Reflecting over my reunion weekend and over the last decade can be best summed up with the Sankofa proverb: go back and reclaim the past to move forward. These past few weeks spanning between my college reunion and my birthday have been filled with moments to catch up on the past, plan for the future and fulfill my choice to change the world.
This post is dedicated to my Spelman sisters, all their amazing firsts and all the supportive prayers along the way.