Public Speaking

My life’s passion is to be a positive source of change in the lives of young people, in particular first-generation, underserved, or at-risk college students and graduate students. I bring over 10 years of diverse leadership experience in higher education, libraries, and museums. At a young age, I learned that resilience and persistence were necessary for overcoming life’s challenges.  Now, I work to help college and university students, staff, faculty, and administrators reach their retention goals thru my two workshops, Student Staying Power™ and the Power Of Persistence™.

There are two versions to my life’s story. In one version, I was born the daughter of a teenage mother and a young veteran who returned from the Vietnam War with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). I grew up for the most part in poor urban or slightly better working-class neighborhoods, and attended eight different schools before entering high school. I can remember my family squatting in an abandoned house for a year and a half and being excited about school lunches because that was my best meal of the day. I knew I was poor, but I loved learning new things and new words. During my family’s frequent experiences of economic hardship and homelessness, I often had only one book, a WorldBook encyclopedia. There were drug dealers who acted as my protectors to and from school everyday, telling me to let them know if anyone was messing with me. In the fifth grade, my physical education  teacher, who also served as a Baptist pastor, attempted to sexually assault me. I would escape, only to find out later that this same teacher had already had sexually abused two of my friends. These young women would go on to later struggle with drug addiction and abusive partners as adults.

In the other version, I started kindergarten at four years of age, skipped seventh grade, started high school at twelve, and turned sixteen my first year of college. I have had a lifelong love affair with books. As a child, the library was my oasis. Besides my mother  and grandmothers, librarians and teachers were my most valuable supporters. Their encouragement and support helped me to gain confidence as a student and go to college after my high school graduation. I hold degrees from Kansas State University (B.S., Physical Science), University of Missouri-Columbia (M.A., Library and Information Science), the Interdenominational Theological Center (M.Div.), and the Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago (Th.M.). I am now a PhD candidate in Theology and Religious Studies at VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands. In the process of achieving my academic goals and learning to navigate both Predominately White and Historically Black (HBCU) Institutions, I developed several survival strategies for success that I would love to share at your school.

My desire is to help colleges and universities to retain at-risk students by cultivating their staying power and helping them to persist through to graduation. Are you ready to start increasing your student’s staying power? I’ll be looking forward to it.