Show Up. Dive In. Stay At It.

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Photo courtesy of hindustantimes.com

Barack Hussein Obama is the only president that I had ever voted for until 2016. The same goes for many of my peers. I know that this experience has been a privilege that many of us have taken for granted. This man, born in Hawaii, former resident of Indonesia, child of a Black African Father and White American mother, from humble beginnings and a self-seeking journey that lasted well into his 20s, is my president, and the only one that I have ever voted for until this past election. There is so much weight to that experience that no matter how I feel about those who chose to sit out this past election, I understand.

Show Up. Dive In. Stay At It.
Last night, Tuesday. January 10th, 2017 at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, President Obama gave his farewell address. An address that serves as the conclusion of our 44th President’s groundbreaking, immensely challenging, and always controversial, presidency. Many say that no other president has been disrespected like our first African American president, and I agree. From congress to media outlets to the racist Joe Shmoe on the street, combined with tackling the obstacles left from his predecessors, President Barack Obama’s two terms in office were filled with graceful perseverance in the face of severe ugliness.

“Yes, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard. It has been contentious. Sometimes it has been bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some. (Barack Obama, Farewell Address 2017)”

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back. A struggle too familiar for many, especially, those attempting to do work that improves lives for others. How must it feel to win marriage equality, secure health insurance for 20 million citizens, extend clemency to 1,324 individuals, and much more, only to be succeeded by someone with starkly different values and the desire to undo everything you accomplished in office, arguably due to the public’s fascination and admiration of money, celebrity, and classism? I can’t imagine, but I know many of us can relate on all smaller scale. On the scale of sacrificing your time and dedicating your energy to a project or idea that you believe will improve your community, and therefore the world, only to be overlooked for what is popular, flashy, and trendy in the moment. It is difficult to persevere in your purpose when the work of substance is often ignored and the creation of facades, gimmicks, and “personalities” is celebrated. Throughout his presidency, President Obama has emphasized through his platform his love and service for everybody, and throughout his presidency, we have witnessed firsthand, that everybody was not for him. However, last night, as he gave his farewell address, eyes in the audience filled with tears, social media was somber, and his approval ratings at a seven-year high, many are beginning to realize how great of a servant Barack Hussein Obama was and is for our nation. Many are moved to see this man step down with grace after such a challenging presidency. Many are realizing what it looks like to witness someone stay true to themselves and walk in purpose.

“Let me tell you, this generation coming up — unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic — I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, and just, and inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, that it’s not something to fear but something to embrace, you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result the future is in good hands. (Barack Obama, Farewell Address 2017)”

Barack Obama was the first president many of us ever voted for. Is there a connection between Barack Obama’s elections and “Yes, We Can” campaign and the emergence of this altruistic generation? A generation that dusted off their grandparents’ picket signs, raised their voices on social media to fight for equality, and popularized crowd-funding platforms to support the needs of others? Is there a connection between “Yes, We Can” and the influx of blogs, posts, life coaches, motivational speakers, and others who push positivity, support, and love?

Our president, President Barack Hussein Obama, has undoubtedly left the world better than he found it, and we will too, just remember to Show up, Dive in, and Stay at it.

“Show up, dive in, stay at it. Sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose. Presuming a reservoir in goodness, that can be a risk. And there will be times when the process will disappoint you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been part of this one and to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire. (Barack Obama, Farewell Address 2017)”

Women in Radio: Cathy Hughes

Women in Radio: Installment 3 of 3

As a child in the 1950’s, Cathy Hughes always knew that she would one day impact radio in a big way. Even in segregated Nebraska, Cathy had dreams of becoming the first Black nationally syndicated radio host. Although her siblings and family and friends thought her dreams were impossible, Cathy continued to hog the bathroom as she practiced her radio voice in the morning. Cathy’s reality surpassed her dreams 10-fold, as she became the founder of Radio One, a publicly traded company that now owns over 75 radio stations.

In September of 2016, Cathy Hughes shared her story with Guy Raz on NPR’s How I Built This podcast. Ms. Hughes’ story of overcoming discrimination, rejection, and teen pregnancy is inspiring for any entrepreneur or professional, but more than her story, I was inspired by her positive energy and resilience. Read on for 3 Gems from Cathy Hughes’ How I Built This episode on NPR.

  • Put your adversity to work as a motivator.

Cathy Hughes was a Teen Mom. After her first time having sex at 16 years old, Cathy learned she was pregnant. She admits that she was in shock, but she used the pregnancy as a motivator to work harder, and realize her dreams. Determined that her son would not become a statistic, Cathy Hughes went on to attend The University of Nebraska-Omaha with her son in tow. That’s right, she brought the baby to class. This is the first of many times in the interview where one would expect Cathy to negatively reflect on a challenging situation but she doesn’t. Instead she happily explains how easy it was for her to work and pursue her studies while her son was a baby because all he did was eat and sleep. There is no doubt in my mind, that being a teen mother, working full-time, and pursuing a degree was challenging, but Cathy’s resilience and positive energy once again outshine the negatives in the situation.

Keynote: It’s all apart of your story. Don’t let it stop you, let it fuel you! Too often we sit around and hold pity parties about every challenge that could possibly deter us from our goals. Let’s let that habit die! Embrace the challenge. Move with it! Your story is yours and no one else’s, so don’t allow the challenge to shape you, allow the challenge to propel you either farther into your purpose. Ready, Set, Grow!

  • “If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well. “(Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)

When asked how she got to where she is today, Cathy Hughes referenced the aforementioned streetsweeper quote by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Through interning at University of Nebraska’s radio station, and capturing the attention of Tony Brown, a visiting African American radio personality, to being recruited by Brown about 10 years later to work at Howard University’s radio station, as he was beginning his position as the school’s first dean for the newly established School of Communications, to creating the station’s highly successful radio show,The Quiet storm, and also putting one of the first openly gay radio personalities on air, Cathy Hughes consistently did her best at the job she was given. Cathy did such a great job at Howard, that she was recruited to rebuild another station and then run it. It was at this station that the idea to own a station was sparked.

Keynote: Are you discounting part of your story because its not glamorous? Stop it! Trust that there is value in your life, and everything in it. You may not be where you thought you would be at this point in your life, but it is part of your path. This stage, this place is preparing you for what’s next. You are there on purpose, so don’t wait to tomorrow or for a more glamorous title to do your best. Do your best now, not for your boss or your company, or even your family, but for yourself. RESPECT YOUR PATH.

  • If you think you’re smart enough, do it yourself!”

These were the words that a station owner spoke to Cathy Hughes when she asked for equity in the station. After turning the station around and running it successfully, the station owners asked her to reach out to financiers on behalf of the station because they were running out of money. Knowing her worth, Cathy explained that this was well beyond her job duties, however, she would be willing to do it, if she was given equity in the station. Appalled that Cathy, young, Black, and female, thought that she could own a radio station, the owner told Cathy that if she thought she was smart enough, she should go own her own radio station. Rather than take it as an insult, Cathy took it to the bank! After 32 rejections from lending institutions, and everyone around her telling her she was crazy, she got the one yes that was needed to buy a station. After that yes, Cathy went on to experience her share of struggle from losing her marriage, living in the radio station for three years with her son, and not being able to pay her debt, however she never looked back, and she never lost her faith in God or herself.

Keynote: Cathy speaks on her spirituality throughout the interview. If you are a spiritual person and you truly believe in God, how can you not believe in yourself? Its important to know your motivators and intentions for your work. If your motivation is to impress people, then your belief in yourself and your work is based on the opinions of others. When trying to build something new or do something different, you can’t be fueled by others’ opinions or you will never get there. If God put a seed in you, a purpose, then you have to believe that He will help you achieve it. Don’t be distracted. The only person whose belief in you is vital to your success is not the lender, your boss, your mother, or your spouse, the only person who HAS to believe in you is YOU.

When Guy Raz asked the question that I wondered about throughout the entire interview, “Is this unshakable belief in yourself and positive energy and passion in spite of all of the challenges an acquired skill that others can learn or is it just something that you are born with?” Ms. Hughes responds that it is definitely an acquired skill. She explains, ” If you allow yourself to be bogged down and lose your enthusiasm, you are dead in the water. But if you remain optimistic, cheerful, and committed to your goal, there is nothing that can stop you.”

 

Checkout NPR’s “How I Built This” podcast at http://www.npr.org/podcasts/510313/how-i-built-this .

U R Higher Ed: What is the FAFSA?

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Congratulations, recent high school grads and returning adults! If you are entering college for the first time or after a long hiatus, give yourself a pat on the back for having the courage to change your life, the strength to be vulnerable while learning something new, and the self-awareness to know that there is always more to learn and opportunities for growth. While this time can be exciting, many entering college freshmen are shaking in their boots, especially those of us who are first-generation college students. With only counselors to navigate you through the enrollment process, and the common fear of “sounding stupid”, we often don’t ask the questions that we desperately need answers to, and instead rush to our phones to google “What is a Fafsa”, “How to pick classes”, and other questions that get our heart beating and cause our mind to lie to us with that entirely dumb, baseless, anxiety-provoking belief that “We do not belong.” Did I mention how big of a lie that is? Don’t believe it. Ask questions, and research until you get your answers. Not only can you, but you WILL do this. You got it in the bag, and knowing that you are the about to enhance your educational institution of choice in a great way with your different perspectives, knowledge of self, and resilience, I am jumping at the opportunity to share whatever tools I can to help you along your journey, basically, I want to get in on your greatness!

First step to greatness, how are we paying for this thing? Meet FAFSA.

 

What is FAFSA, and why is everyone always talking about it?
Great question. When I worked in enrollment, I said the word FAFSA so much that I forgot what it stood for. The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is just that, an application. To make it simple, it’s a government application where you apply for funding for college.
Funding? Are you referring to loans?
Not solely. Once the application is processed, you receive an award letter. The award letter details all the different funds you are eligible to receive. These funding sources include loans and grants. Loans, you must pay back, but grants, are free money aka a college student’s best friend. You then get to choose what awards you accept. For example, if your institution’s tuition is $40k a year, and you are awarded $30k in grants and $10k in loans, you can decide to accept the $30k in grants and decline the $10k in loans, which you can make up out-of-pocket, scholarships, or maybe a private loan (one that is not through the FAFSA and you apply for separately.)
How does the government determine how much money I am awarded?
The FAFSA requires your and/or your parents’ tax information, meaning you must put in information backed on your filing. In years past, you were permitted to use the previous year’s tax return, but this year, the requirements have loosened up a bit more, and you can go as far as two years back. This is helpful for those who did not file on time for the FAFSA deadline but need to apply.
Wait. What? There’s a deadline?
Don’t be that person on July 1st attempting to fill out a FAFSA for the upcoming Academic Year. For Academic Year 2017-18, the Federal Deadline is June 30, 2018 at midnight. Your State and School deadlines may be before this. This is important to know since many schools don’t process FAFSA applications after a certain date, effecting money, if any, you could have been offered from the school. The State deadline effects any grant money that you may be offered from the State.
Check out Federal and State deadlines for the 2017-2018 Academic Year at https://fafsa.ed.gov/deadlines.htm# .
My parents, or I, make too much. I’m positive I won’t receive any aid. Should I apply?
I recommend ALL students apply. Even if you do not qualify for grants, may scholarships require that you submit a FAFSA before applying. Also, you might be surprised, and qualify for a grant. With the increasingly high cost of tuition in the United States of America, which is another conversation all on its own, every little bit counts, so don’t take the chance of missing out on a few extra dollars.
Where can I find the FAFSA?

Although in the past the FAFSA is not made available until January, this year the FAFSA has been available since October. It can be found at https://fafsa.ed.gov . If you somehow end up on a site requiring you to pay for the FAFSA, do not pass go, do not collect $20, because you, my friend, are in the wrong place. If you need help completing your FAFSA, contact your institution of interest or local community college. Community Colleges typically offer workshops and one-on-one support. Also, be mindful, just because you list a school on your FAFSA, you are not committed to attending that school, so list every college you are interested in. You can also go back and add other schools after your application is submitted.
Happy Filing, and Be Great!

College is Not for Me!

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Photo Courtesy of https://unsplash.com.

 

“College is not for me.” is one of the most common statements I have heard throughout my higher education and mentoring career. Although a college degree is not necessary to claim financial independence and success, it serves as a letter of permission to suit up for many People of Color who strive to set foot on the corporate career playing field, let alone, attempt to even it.

A 2014 study, by the national non-profit Young Invincibles, entitled Closing the Race Gap reported that African American millennials have to earn two educational levels higher than their white counterparts in order to have the same employment opportunities. The report went on to say that African Americans and Whites have nearly the same chance of employment with high education levels (pg. 8). The findings of the first part of this report are nothing new to People of Color, especially African Americans. Many of us grew up with the same words of wisdom from our elders, “You have to work twice as hard to get half as much.” It’s a sad reality, but not many will deny that it is still a reality.

The second part of the finding, I find hard to believe (as did a few commenters who shared their feedback on the non-profit’s site). As a Masters-level professional who was led to career-writing to encourage others who may relate to my experience, I have come across countless People of Color, especially African Americans, who are highly educated and qualified, and drastically underemployed. At the risk of coming across completely crazy, I must admit that I have found underemployment to be worse the unemployment. This is very much due to my  past experience working the same job I worked in high school, years later, only with 2 degrees, years of internship and professional experience, debt that amounted to a pretty healthy down payment on a 3 bedroom house, and a defeated spirited.

Knowing what I know now, do I still believe college is for me and you? YES! YES! YES! Although my college degree did not pay off immediately after graduation,  “Sallie Mae” and “Navient” have been added to my list of bad words, and throughout my career most of my equally-paid (or so I think) peers have had less education and experience, I am finally at a place where I can say my degrees opened doors. My degrees got me in rooms that would not be open to me without them even if those rooms were made more easily accessible to those who do not look like me. My college experience taught me valuable lessons about business, networking, and life. That experience combined with my struggle in and after college have grown me, and I am a firm believer that your higher education experience will grow you as well. So yes, I do believe that college may not be for everybody, but I do believe it is for us.