I’m determined to show up as the best version of myself because most of the time I feel underrepresented in society. In this world of unrealistic self-images and expectations of beauty, I find that just being myself is enough for me. Although social media’s influence is all around, I choose to always sift through the superficial and focus on what is real. If my individuality of thoughts, actions, and/or beliefs can encourage even one person to march to their own drum, then I am happy to stand out in the crowd.

I am sure that my 90s experience of being one of several minority scholarship students of color in a predominantly white town must have also helped to solidify this inner strength I wear as a shield each day. The daily reminders of my supposed inferiority via the whispers, stares, and the absence of even my name (as I was often called “the ABC girl) motivated me to want to be known for the beautiful, intelligent, talented, and individual person I am and have always been. This is my drumbeat. This is also the drumbeat of my 90s Andover A Better Chance Program housemates: Tawana, Eurekera, Michelle, Shontay, Lakisha, Alison, India, Ayanna, Christina, Karyna, Renee, Natasha, Rolanda, Keisha, Janice, Karen, Caridad, Cirila, Nolia, and Latrice. Women I proudly call my sisters and who I call on for support, encouragement, and love. We marched then and we march on today to our own drumbeat with our heads held high.