Twelve years ago, my life changed.
On the outside, I looked like a typical 16-year-old high school student. But, on the inside, I was secretly suffering. It felt like the world was against me. I was the victim of vicious rumors by students, and racist school administrators made it hard to show up every day.
But, everything changed when I joined Crittenton’s SNEAKERs program. I remember the exact activity we did that day. We each wrote our names on paper, and each person in our group went around and wrote positive affirmations about each other. In a group filled with all the personalities and attitudes of high school girls, this was epic. For the first time in my teenage years, I had a group of girls I could actually trust and speak freely about the many issues I was going through at the time. For the first time in my life, I genuinely felt validated by my peers in a positive light. SNEAKERS stands for Self-efficacy, Nurturance, Expectations, Assertiveness, Knowledge, Empowerment, Responsibility, and Success, and throughout the school year, we learned about safe sex, building healthy relationships, and creating SMART goals. I still use those principles as a foundation today.
My experience in SNEAKERS stayed with me well into adulthood because it was the first time I had ever had an open and transparent relationship with an adult in my life, too.
I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my parents, family members, or any other adults at school, but Crittenton’s program leaders were the trusted adults in my life. It made all the difference.
Crittenton’s program left such an impact on me that I began my career in youth development work after I graduated. Little did I know there was an entire field of adults dedicated to working with kids in a way that prioritizes social and emotional learning similar to SNEAKERS!
Crittenton also piqued my interest in philanthropy after volunteering with them. As an alumna, I learned about other NGOs and their missions to serve youth through different mediums. I began interning, volunteering, and working part-time for three different Montgomery County nonprofits. Then, at 23, I started my professional career as a full-time Youth Development Program Coordinator and Training Coordinator for the Montgomery County Collaboration Council.
For five years, I researched and developed digital platforms for youth workers, coordinated over 200 public events and symposia, and supported the distribution and monitoring of over 1.5 million dollars to fund countywide youth development programs–including Crittenton. Talk about full circle! I am proud to be a Crittenton girl who is not only an alumna but someone who is equally invested in uplifting our youth of color through advocacy AND action.
Now, 12 years later, as an Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Wife, and the proud mommy of two, I am forever grateful for the impact Crittenton programs have had and continue to have on my life. Crittenton puts the WHOLE girl first so that the future woman can prosper and evolve.