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A personal story for TED Women

Posted Oct 10 2010 1:33pm

In filling out my application for TEDWomen http://conferences.ted.com/TEDWomen/ it asked: Can you share a memorable anecdote from your life that will give us a further sense of what makes you tick?

I was talking to my daughter Amber trying to explain to her what I was thinking about saying. She said, “Mom, that is powerful- let me write it. I think you are too humble in the way you say it.” This is what she wrote– telling my story. After I quit crying, I decided to share it with you.

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This is me beside the van I practically lived in during high school

Can you share a memorable anecdote from your life that will give us a further sense of what makes you tick?

In my mind’s eye, I picture myself sitting amongst my classmates at my high school graduation ceremony. I watch classmate after classmate walk up to the stage and receive scholarships. After a dozen or so students had left the stage to thunderous applause, I looked at the person sitting next to me and whispered, “What’s a scholarship?” He told me, then I thought about it for a moment and decided that if no teacher ever deemed me worthy enough to tell me what a scholarship even was, much less to award me one, then I must not have what it takes. I figured I wouldn’t amount to much in life.

It was with this low self-concept that I began my life as a young adult. Later at the age of 26, then a mother of two, I decided to put myself through college. I had the desire to one day educate my own children and set a good example as an educated woman and a good mother. During the course of one of my classes, a professor spoke into my life and told me how incredible I was and emphasized the unrealized potential that I had.

I was speechless.

It was in this moment that I fully realized the power we have to speak into the lives of those we influence. We literally have the ability to make or break young, impressionable minds through the words we speak. In that moment, I realized I would not let my kids, or any kids if I had anything to do with it, wait until they were 26 to realize that they could become someone and truly make a difference. I have spent my life working to make sure that kids whose lives have conspired against them and young adults who have truly never been allowed to see their potential get to realize that the value in life is not what you are handed but what obstacles you overcome. I love working with educators to help children and young adults self-actualize and realize who they can become. Everyone can make a difference; we all have something to give.

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