‘Rather than being bitter about all the ways I’ve felt I was wronged throughout the years, I choose to be grateful.’
“I was born in the Republic of Georgia and shuffled between orphanages until I was 4 and was adopted with my sister by our new family in Baltimore. I spent a long time feeling unable to fit in with my environment.
“When I was 12, my adoptive parents got divorced, and my great grandma, with whom I felt a strong spiritual connection, passed.
“I didn’t make the greatest choices. When I was 19, conflicted on the inside and out, I moved in with a boyfriend on Long Island, which didn’t turn out to be the best choice. If I could go back in time, I might tell myself this is not a way to go. But that step was a catalyst for developing into who I am today.
“I didn’t realize that it wasn’t people I was searching to belong with, but a purpose to pursue. Since my son was born 5 years ago, I earned three graduate degrees and teach in a local middle school. He has been my drive and been by my side for every graduation.
I formed a new organization because I’ve always wanted to make sure that people feel a sense of belonging.
“When I got my first teaching job, I said there has to be a way students can be set up so adults can give them people in their corner so they’re not falling to the wayside — that they feel like people care about them and they have avenues for success.
“So I founded Fiercely Leading Youth Inc. It’s meant to be a system of social-emotional interventions for students. I was lucky to find a really good team. Due to many challenges I began experiencing in my home life, the team took over and the organization is growing. They bring my dreams to life. I’ve learned the most important thing is the work getting done, not who is doing it.
“Recently I formed a new organization because I’ve always wanted to make sure that people feel a sense of belonging. As someone who didn’t feel that in many ways and in many places, I think it’s important to take those feelings and address the need that you can identify in people.
“I want an organization whose only goal is to give people that sense of belonging during the holidays. So Meals of Meaning Inc. is what I’m working on now.
“Rather than being bitter about all the ways I’ve felt I was wronged throughout the years, I choose to be grateful for the experiences I’ve been able to turn into wisdom and carry with me in my understanding of others.”