Winning Essay by Kiyah S., University of Memphis

Dr. Martin L. King Jr. said “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” His “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech was very inspirational! Shirley Chisholm said she faced “a double handicap as both black and a female.” Without Althea Gibson, there would not be a Serena Williams. If not for John Lewis, there would not have been President Barack Obama. Without NASA’s mathematician and computer programmer, Dorothy Vaughan, I may not be majoring in Computer Software/Programming. These individuals have changed history and indirectly paved the way for me to attend the University of Memphis, but my mother has been the African-American that has been inspirational and influential in my life directly.

She is the seventh of ten children raised by a skilled labor father and a house wife. Sacrifice is not unfamiliar when it comes to caring for her family and others. She is selfless and enjoy helping others. She has been working since age 16; graduated from Humboldt High School (1988) with a 3.7 GPA. She has always encouraged me to work hard, be kind and pursue my dreams. She joined the military (1989); earned her associate in Sociology at Jackson State Community College (1995); earned her bachelor’s in Social Work (SW) at Union University (UU) (1997) and has worked in behavioral health since. She became an army officer (2001); trained four months in VA (2002); then left a week prior to my fourth birthday for the Iraqi War (2003). While defending her Country, sacrificing her life, supervising/mentoring soldiers, she managed to call me once a week ensuring when she returned, she would take me to Disney World. I definitely went.

While earning her Masters’ in SW (2011) from UU, my mother cared for me, my infant brother, my dad, the home, coped with the death of my her father, worked a full-time job, and completed a 16 hour weekly internship at the VA Clinic in less than 36 months. She has been recognized for several awards, including three Army Accommodation Medals and the State of Louisiana Military Humanitarian Award (Hurricane Katrina). She has told me funny, sad, scary, and exciting stories from childhood, her jobs and the military with lessons learned and wisdom gained. She is a retired Captain after 21 years of service. She is a licensed master social worker (LMSW); works as a Pathways’ Crisis Counselor II and works as a SW for the TN Army National Guard while earning her clinical license (LCSW).

Thank you, Regions, for the opportunity to apply for the Riding Forward Scholarship. I hope I am selected. I will make it to the “Mountain Top” one hill at a time and will never let my race or gender handicap me. I do not expect my college experience to magically transform me into a wise, all-knowing adult, but I am relying on it to educate and arm me with knowledge, so I may be capable of emulating the strongest, most courageous person I know, Angela Yvonne Stokes.


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