I have shared my story many times, so you may already know that at a very young age, I had experienced a few lifetime’s worth of heartache and trauma. Then people came into my life and took an interest in me. I refer to them as Pushy Angels; they pushed me to achieve more…but they did it with kindness.
The more I look at my life and the key changes that took place, the more Pushy Angels I recognize. When I was injured at work, my doctor told me I could no longer do my job and strongly encouraged me to enroll in school and get an education. He pushed me.
Later, when I was in graduate school, I often called my younger sister Brenda and told her I was walking out--I couldn't take school any more and I was quitting.
Her response was, "That's fine. Quit. But not today."
This was the perfect way to push me into going back to school for another day and then another.
Without these people, among many others who believed in me even when I didn't...
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive"
- Harold Whitman
I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world, but I didn’t know how.
One day I was talking to a friend who told me about a gentleman who was building a school in Uganda for 800 students and needed funding. The Garden of Knowledge (GOK) Nursery and Primary Day and Boarding Schools, Gulu, Uganda, East Africa were founded by Komakech Charles to pay forward to his community, for the education he received through the goodwill of a New York Rotary club and other well-wishers from the USA. GOK opened in 2015 with only 70 students, mostly from disadvantaged families..
I was very impressed with Mr. Charles’ work and I was delighted to find that it doesn’t take much money to build in Africa. I took on the project and was able to help the school get permits...
Too many of America’s children grow up without the skills needed to thrive in the twenty-first century. Low levels of performance among the most disadvantaged create long-term problems, particularly in an economy in which higher skill levels are more and more valued and the wages available to less-skilled workers are deteriorating. Inequality persists.
In the photo above, I am in 9th grade, posing with the neighborhood gang's graffiti. I grew up in Downtown LA in an 800-square foot apartment building. The kids in my neighborhood were routinely involved in drugs and gangs. Teen pregnancy was a huge issue. My family was on welfare. Ours was a five-kid, one-parent household. And I was a direct beneficiary of the programs where the city reinvested in at-risk youth programs.
When I was in 12th grade, I was hired to work at a courthouse, and I was paid through the Joint Training Partnership Act which aimed to keep at-risk youth off the streets. The courthouse positioned me in a job...