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A’nya Wilkes

1575

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Finalist

Bio

Hi, my name is A'nya Marshay Wilkes if you already didn't know. My main goal in life is to help those that are just like me. I would like to start a non-profit that helps lower-income people who can't afford therapy. It's very important that predominately black and low-income areas get the resources meant for good mental health.

Education

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Bachelor's degree program
2021 - 2025
  • Majors:
    • Psychology, General
  • Minors:
    • Business Administration, Management and Operations
    • Criminal Justice and Corrections, General

Mccluer High

High School
2017 - 2021

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Bachelor's degree program

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Clinical, Counseling and Applied Psychology
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Mental Health Care

    • Dream career goals:

      Clinical Psychologist

    • I work with autistic kids to help out with their behaviors.

      Hope
      2023 – Present1 year
    • Art Store Employee

      SIUE
      2021 – Present3 years
    • Cashier

      Once Upon A Child
      2020 – 2020
    • Cashier

      Lowes Food
      2019 – 2019

    Research

    • Psychology, General

      IRIS-SIUE — Lead Researcher
      2023 – Present
    • Digital Humanities and Textual Studies

      SIUE — Internee
      2022 – Present

    Arts

    • Pretty People Aren't Perfect

      Digital Media
      2023 – Present
    • I do more free lancing fashion design. It is one of the things that help me keep my productivity up.

      Design
      Present

    Public services

    • Volunteering

      ASAP — Treasurer
      2021 – 2022
    • Volunteering

      R3 — Volunteer
      2022 – Present
    • Volunteering

      Restore Decor — Painter
      2021 – Present
    • Volunteering

      Saint Louis Area Food Bank — Packaging
      2020 – 2020

    Future Interests

    Advocacy

    Volunteering

    Philanthropy

    Entrepreneurship

    Barbie Dream House Scholarship
    I am the Barbie on Campus! I embody the color pink from the shoes I wear on my feet to the hair strands on my head. When I wake up, I wake up in a pink dorm and walk around with my pink cup and pink purse. Being a Barbie doesn't embody only the color pink; it's the way you strut, the way you walk, and being a businesswoman. Barbie has had over 250 careers; you can only be a Barbie if you are about your business. If I were to wake up and be in my perfect Barbie house for my imperfect Barbie house, it would be located in New York. While we think of the classic Barbie Dreamhouse in Malibu, when we think of our dream home, I would want to be in the mean and busy streets of New York. I would be a business Barbie, so I must have my perfect pink penthouse in Manhattan. I would go to work every day because how could I afford this pink dream penthouse without any money? This place would be my pink palace of perfection when I'm done with a hard day at work. Within this palace of model and pinkness, I would have a walk-in closet with a large living room with the most enormous pink couch ever seen. The bedroom of this pink Palace in New York would be my bedroom. My bedroom is my palace in real life, so in my perfect Barbie World, it would be even more extreme. I value all things that are considered to be feminine, and I lean into feminity as strength. My bedroom would be an homage to my womanhood, which includes Barbie. It would be a Baby Pink Room with Bright Pink Decorations: a large vanity and every piece of makeup in the world. While I like vanity and things that have to do with the outside, the main attraction of my room would be my bookshelf. It would be riddled with women authors from across time, reminding me of my strength and feminity. My Barbie Dreamhouse perfectly encapsulates what it means to be a Barbie, which is a strong businesswoman.
    I Can Do Anything Scholarship
    I exude tranquility, empathy, and thoughtfulness in all facets of my existence.
    Taylor Swift ‘1989’ Fan Scholarship
    My favorite song from Taylor Swift's classic 1989 album has to be the biggest radio hit of the album Shake It Off. Most people, when describing their favorite song off her albums, try to pick the most obscure to seem like more of a fan, but the hit Shake It Off truly is one of her greatest hits not only on 1989 but in her entire discography. The musical composition makes Shake It Off a pop classic immediately. From the catchy chorus to the melodic beats, it's one of those songs that you can't help but sing along to. I'll never forget hearing it for the first time in 6th grade and just having to get up and dance. I remember if my mom or I had a bad day at school or work, we would drop everything put Shake It Off on the TV, and dance around until we couldn't dance anymore. Shake It Off spent more than 50 weeks on the chart, as it rightfully should've because of how contagiously positive it is. Not only was the musical composition and the lyrics fun and catchy, but the video doubled down and showed Taylor's more fun and silly side. From her dancing along in a frivolous manner with professional ballerinas to her twerking and having fun with bamboo earrings, Taylor truly channels joy and youth in this hit. Every time I hear this song on my playlist, it takes me back to a place in childhood when I was having a challenging transition and was scared that I wasn't fitting in. Something about Shake It Off gave little twelve-year-old me the confidence to put my silly side on display and truly strut the hallways of my middle school. I feel like with this song, Taylor told her fans I might be famous, but just like everyone else, I make mistakes, and in the most literal way, she shakes them off. Shake It Off is one of those songs that are part of the pop classics of the 2010s. It's one of those songs where people discuss what defines pop. Shake It Off is always thrown in there. Shake It Off wasn't only a commercial hit; it had a deeper meaning that we, as humans, are more than our mistakes. I think this positive message, meshed with her infectious beats and the catchiest pop chorus to date, makes Shake It Off Taylor's best song on the 1989 album.
    WCEJ Thornton Foundation Low-Income Scholarship
    My most outstanding achievement to date is starting my podcast Pretty People Aren't Perfect. Most people don't see content creation as an art form, but starting this podcast has genuinely made me realize what it means to create. I've always been into nontraditional art, such as sewing, crocheting, and knitting, but I started to pique my head into content creation around 2021. I've always been more shy, so a fifteen-second Tiktok gave me the same anxiety as giving a speech with an entire room of people. I'll never forget posting my first fun, silly video and feeling like, wow, this is the first time I've felt this. I felt excited, not because of who could see it, but because I was willing to put myself out and have fun. From there, I started posting silly videos that gained some traction. While I loved posting my fun videos, I was reaching broad audiences. What else can I do with my platform other than be funny? After a life-changing year, I decided to dig deeper and start a new series on my TikTok called "healing chronicles." Healing chronicles detailed my life, my trauma, in my way. It was a way to show people that bad things happen throughout our lives, but with that can come lessons and motivation. I kept healing chronicles at under two minutes because TikTok is a short-form media type rather than longer. People started to see and support my journey and vulnerability, so once again, I thought about how to expand this message of healing and vulnerability on a larger scale. While in college, I loved listening to podcasts. I wouldn't say I like watching tv or listening to music while trying to focus on school work, and podcasts were the perfect media where I could still concentrate and work but also be entertained. I remembered listening to one of my favorite podcasts right towards the end of my sophomore year of college and thinking hey, this is what I do with my content, but longer. That's when it hit me. Podcast is the digital media I've been seeking for my series on TikTok. Podcasts were the perfect form of media for me, especially since my tiktoks were very story bases. Summer of this year is when I began to get to work. I started conceptualizing ideas, building a set of my own, ordering podcast equipment, and filming my episodes. While I loved healing chronicles, I wanted a name that would fully conceptualize what I wanted my podcast to be about. I wanted my podcast to show that no matter how great we look on the outside, we all go through things on the inside. One day while listening to music, I heard the classic Beyonce song Pretty Hurts. The message of that song always resonated, and once again, it was like a lightbulb popped over my head, and the title Pretty People Aren't Perfect popped into my head. What makes the start and release of my podcast my most significant achievement is the message I can give to my audience. My podcast discusses everything from mental health, relationships, trauma, and queerness. I can have an open and vulnerable space for myself and others and show people that it is okay not to be a perfect person. I love that I make people have hope and realize pain isn't forever, and theirs is always another rainbow. My hope and achievement for this podcast is that it reaches as many people as it needs to. Numbers genuinely don't matter to me. I want people to feel happy and like they can conquer when they hear my story. Healing Chronicles has also taught me that a dream is a visualization with a bit of work and to always bet on myself. One day Pretty People Aren't Perfect will be a success and show the world that it's okay to be yourself. We are all humans trying to figure it out one day at a time, and it's okay not to be okay.
    I Can and I Will Scholarship
    My mental health journey has deeply influenced my entire being. I'll never forget my first panic attack during my seventh-grade track meet. I always used running as a way to escape my pain, but at that moment, right before my big meet at regionals, it felt like I was caught. My anxiety was the predator sneaky and waiting for the right moment to strike, and in that moment, I was nothing more than meek pray who could only weep and pray that I would be okay. Almost a year later, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety, which turned my world upside down. My parents had always instilled in me that if you work hard and focus on money, you will get precisely where you want to go. Before I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, that thought was all I could focus on, even at thirteen. If I'm the perfect daughter, student, and person, then maybe when I'm an adult, I will have a perfect life. I grew up to be a perfectionist and nothing less, but that nothing less would help develop my anxiety disorder. Anxiety taught me that ideal does not exist in our imperfect world. While most would see anxiety as the wrench in my plan of perfection, I see it as the cataclysm that changed the perception of me from perfect to real. Anxiety changed my morals from perfectionism to realism and changed my perspective from a competitor to a helper. I kept up with my parents' idea of perfectionism by winning. Whether it was having the highest academics, being the best at whatever sport I did, or becoming the best middle schooler on my debate team, I was on a mission to prove that I was perfect to them. Once I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and my panic attacks started to come and go, I let go of that competitiveness. With competition, there was an anxiousness, an unknown, a pressure that would trigger me and cause anxiety attacks. Going into 9th grade, I let go of anything with competitive aspects. I started to focus on who I was outside of being a competitor. I started working on things like art, textiles, and crochet. While I do not avoid competition today because I now have a better hold on my anxiety, this period helped me learn I am someone outside of a contest or race. I am not a walking trophy. I am a human with many imperfections, and leaving competition and focusing on my mental health realized that. Before dealing with my anxiety disorder, I knew as a little girl I always wanted to be a lawyer. Not to help others or for the fun of the law but because of my fierceness and leadership skills. Once I started going on my mental health journey, I realized it wasn't my dream. It was a product of my atmosphere. Once again, that pressure of picking the "perfect" career even as a young girl. As a twenty-year-old young lady, I've decided to help others like me. I want to help other young ladies who may have mental illness and think it makes them imperfect when it doesn't. It makes them perfectly them. My mental health journey has not been easy by any means, but it's made me the woman I am today.
    CEW IV Foundation Scholarship Program
    We must change how we respond to society's problems because if not, we will all become disadvantaged. We're living in a time where the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. While I'm all for pulling bootstraps up and working hard, it's becoming more apparent that if we don't switch to more community-guided ideals of solving international problems, we will all end up disadvantaged. The root of humanity is community, and every time we stray away from that, modern civilization dies. To continue to survive and thrive, we must become more community-oriented. I'm from America, which is home to individualism. When someone falls, we expect them to get up by themselves. Honestly, that isn't always plausible in the society we live in. As a low-income student from a single-parent household, it takes one emergency to wipe away my funds. After my funds are wiped away, what comes next? We must realize that these ideas of rugged individualism are good in theory, but they aren't plausible in practice. It takes one disadvantage or being born into the "wrong" family to take you from high to low. I believe that having a more community view as a society wouldn't only help individuals and benefit society as a whole. Imagine everyone getting to go to college for free if they wanted to. It would be a healthy workforce, expand more opportunities to those who might not have that advantage, and provide a gateway for those who don't have an advantage. When you're a person born with a disadvantaged worldview in society's eyes, theirs two views. You either go down the "right" path or the "wrong" path, but what needs to be understood is the complications and nuances of life. 4.0 students from high-income households might end up on the street because of their gay. Low-income students in high school might end up working low-wage jobs because of the lack of resources and knowledge to get them to college and a higher-paying job. One household might be wiped off their entire savings and living paycheck to paycheck because a family member gets sick. I feel that, though, more people need to understand that you are one life event away from being part of the disadvantage. Life is very unpredictable and unstable. While we can try to do everything plausible and possible to make plans and make them go on track, life will always through something unexpected our way. Instead of shifting the blame on one individual and their lifestyle, it's time society changed and started to view lives as nuanced and not just black and white. Creating a community-supported culture creates equality for all and equity for all. A community-based society provides a net for us if that one life changing event might come.
    Rivera-Gulley First-Gen Scholarship Award
    Attending college and finishing will be me breaking a generational chain within my family. To be a first-generation college student in America is one of the most complex task life has thrown at me. From the confusion with FASFA to housing, there has yet to be one year where I haven't been stressed about something. Also, our most outstanding teachers as humans are experienced and those who have crossed paths before that. With my journey going into college, I had no one to turn to, but the reason I choose to go back every year and I plan to finish is that college gives me hope not only in my career but my future. When I first came to college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. After defeating the dragon that is Financial Aid and paying for college, I knew I was where I always wanted to be. While I would attend my safety school because I couldn't afford my dream school, I would make the best of what I had. During my first year of college, I started to understand what it meant to forge my own path. I began to see school as a way to explore my passions and finally put myself in a forward position that I wasn't able to experience because of growing up. Two years into my college experience, I found my one true passion and love: psychology. Being a first-gen low-income student, a message is constantly pushed to us. If you want to get out of poverty, pick something that's STEM or something that isn't "useless." These capitalistic ideals of knowledge being useless are outdated. Psychology, a classic major, drew me in because of the possibilities and pathways. There isn't one way to be a psych major. While some people may double major in law to go to law school, some might want to enter the workforce and go into HR with their psychology degree. I decided to seek psychology because of the lack of resources in my community and how my one psychology degree may be able to change my community. Only four percent of psychologists are black, and even a smaller percent are black women. To put it short, the black community lacks mental health resources nationwide and worldwide. My way of helping with this lack of resources is to give back to my community after becoming a psychologist. I would love to open a clinic with another black therapist to help others out in my community of Saint Louis. Mental health is essential and fundamental; no one deserves to be left out of the conversation. Bringing the resources back to my community of Saint Louis would mean everything to me and help me achieve my goal of giving back. When asked why I chose to go to college as a first-generation student, it rounds back to being able to give back. Being able to go to college in my family is a miracle, but given that college has opened up all these resources for me, I want nothing more than to give back to my community. College is my first step in an extended plan to ensure my dreams come to fruition.
    Elijah's Helping Hand Scholarship Award
    January 17th, 2023, was the first time I said out loud that I was queer. While that was the first time I said that out loud, I knew since I was a little girl what it meant to be queer and that I fit in the category. Over the years, I locked my queerness away as a society, and my home told me that queerness isn't something to be celebrated. While shamed, I hid, but I always stayed a close ally waiting until I felt brave enough to come to my truth finally. While I could hide all I wanted, I always seemed to seek out queer folk in the community. In every school I hopped to from middle until college, I always found and stuck near queerness and queer people. While I knew I was not brave enough to live openly as myself, it felt so warm to be in proximity to what I thought I could never have. I grew up in a Christian household, and as the public opinion of queerness being socially acceptable, especially in the black community, I was bombarded with messages of queer folk being inferior. My father would always call people he perceived as weird and unnatural, not knowing that he was shaming me deeper into my personal closet. I felt like if I stuck to my rigid gender role and pushed my feelings down that they would one day go away. I was just curious or just confused, I would tell myself. It wasn't until college that I had that freedom to live openly that I sat in and realized my closeness to queerness, my odd female friends, me having crushes on girl celebrities, but them not being attentive, so it's okay was my queerness hiding in plain sight. Even after this realization, I took two years to break down my place and sexuality in society. We are living in a time where queerness and gender expression are under attack, from the smallest of comments to the bills being passed. Even with the judgment from the outside, at twenty years old, I finally decided to come out and live my truth. Since January of 2023, I have been proud and open with my queerness, even with my parents. I was pushed and shamed until a closet that I finally broke out of. It's so funny because one of my queer friends told me, girl, we always knew we were waiting for you to have your time. To be free black, open, and queer at the age of twenty after so many years of wrapping myself up due to societal expectations is like the freedom to someone who has spent their entire life in jail.
    Elizabeth Schalk Memorial Scholarship
    My mental health journey has deeply influenced my entire being. I'll never forget my first panic attack during my seventh-grade track meet. I always used running as a way to escape my pain, but at that moment, right before my big meet at regionals, it felt like I was caught. My anxiety was the predator sneaky and waiting for the right moment to strike, and in that moment, I was nothing more than meek pray who could only weep and pray that I would be okay. Almost a year later, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety, which turned my world upside down. My parents had always instilled in me that if you work hard and focus on money, you will get precisely where you want to go. Before I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, that thought was all I could focus on, even at thirteen. If I'm the perfect daughter, student, and person, then maybe when I'm an adult, I will have a perfect life. I grew up to be a perfectionist and nothing less, but that nothing less would help develop my anxiety disorder. Anxiety taught me that ideal does not exist in our imperfect world. While most would see anxiety as the wrench in my plan of perfection, I see it as the cataclysm that changed the perception of me from perfect to real. Anxiety changed my morals from perfectionism to realism and changed my perspective from a competitor to a helper. I kept up with my parents' idea of perfectionism by winning. Whether it was having the highest academics, being the best at whatever sport I did, or becoming the best middle schooler on my debate team, I was on a mission to prove that I was perfect to them. Once I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and my panic attacks started to come and go, I let go of that competitiveness. With competition, there was an anxiousness, an unknown, a pressure that would trigger me and cause anxiety attacks. Going into 9th grade, I let go of anything with competitive aspects. I started to focus on who I was outside of being a competitor. I started working on things like art, textiles, and crochet. While I do not avoid competition today because I now have a better hold on my anxiety, this period helped me learn I am someone outside of a contest or race. I am not a walking trophy. I am a human with many imperfections, and leaving competition and focusing on my mental health realized that. Before dealing with my anxiety disorder, I knew as a little girl I always wanted to be a lawyer. Not to help others or for the fun of the law but because of my fierceness and leadership skills. Once I started going on my mental health journey, I realized it wasn't my dream. It was a product of my atmosphere. Once again, that pressure of picking the "perfect" career even as a young girl. As a twenty-year-old young lady, I've decided to help others like me. I want to help other young ladies who may have mental illness and think it makes them imperfect when it doesn't. It makes them perfectly them. My mental health journey has not been easy by any means, but it's made me the woman I am today.
    Mikey Taylor Memorial Scholarship
    My mental health journey has deeply influenced my entire being. I'll never forget my first panic attack during my seventh-grade track meet. I always used running as a way to escape my pain, but at that moment, right before my big meet at regionals, it felt like I was caught. My anxiety was the predator sneaky and waiting for the right moment to strike, and in that moment, I was nothing more than meek pray who could only weep and pray that I would be okay. Almost a year later, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety, which turned my world upside down. My parents had always instilled in me that if you work hard and focus on money, you will get precisely where you want to go. Before I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, that thought was all I could focus on, even at thirteen. If I'm the perfect daughter, student, and person, then maybe when I'm an adult, I will have a perfect life. I grew up to be a perfectionist and nothing less, but that nothing less would help develop my anxiety disorder. Anxiety taught me that ideal does not exist in our imperfect world. While most would see anxiety as the wrench in my plan of perfection, I see it as the cataclysm that changed the perception of me from perfect to real. Anxiety changed my morals from perfectionism to realism and changed my perspective from a competitor to a helper. I kept up with my parents' idea of perfectionism by winning. Whether it was having the highest academics, being the best at whatever sport I did, or becoming the best middle schooler on my debate team, I was on a mission to prove that I was perfect to them. Once I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and my panic attacks started to come and go, I let go of that competitiveness. With competition, there was an anxiousness, an unknown, a pressure that would trigger me and cause anxiety attacks. Going into 9th grade, I let go of anything with competitive aspects. I started to focus on who I was outside of being a competitor. I started working on things like art, textiles, and crochet. While I do not avoid competition today because I now have a better hold on my anxiety, this period helped me learn I am someone outside of a contest or race. I am not a walking trophy. I am a human with many imperfections, and leaving competition and focusing on my mental health realized that. Before dealing with my anxiety disorder, I knew as a little girl I always wanted to be a lawyer. Not to help others or for the fun of the law but because of my fierceness and leadership skills. Once I started going on my mental health journey, I realized it wasn't my dream. It was a product of my atmosphere. Once again, that pressure of picking the "perfect" career even as a young girl. As a twenty-year-old young lady, I've decided to help others like me. I want to help other young ladies who may have mental illness and think it makes them imperfect when it doesn't. It makes them perfectly them. My mental health journey has not been easy by any means, but it's made me the woman I am today.
    Black Excellence Scholarship
    To embody grit is to be determined and truly understand what it takes to become successful, no matter the odds. Growing up, any and every odd was against me, but something within my spirit told me I was destined for greatness. I don't believe that everyone possesses grit it's a coping mechanism that you have when you're thrown into extreme situations. Growing up, everything was not candy and lollipops, but my possession of grit is why I am where I am now. I was thrown into the lion's den as a child. I grew up in a very tumultuous household with chaos and moving. I never got to stay in one spot because of my on-and-off-again parents. My life as a child was rotating doors of what will happen next. The one thing that kept me grounded as a kid was my determination and grit. When I was still in the school system, I didn't stay in one school for more than two years. I never knew when it would be time for me to leave because of my parents, but what kept me grounded at my new school was always my determination regarding my work. I never knew what turn my life would take, but I always knew I could get out of my parents' cycle by doing good in school. Every year no matter what school I attended, I was always on the A/B honor roll. I graduated from high school with a 3.8 Gpa in the top ten percent of my class, even though that was my eighth school. I also got into my dream university Howard, but I couldn't afford it. It broke my heart, but I did not let that stop me from achieving and reaching different heights. I decided to go to an instate school to save money and time, but when I graduate, I will apply to the Howard PSYD Program. My grit throughout my time in school helped me cope with the things that were happening around me. I grew up seeing abuse, experiencing homelessness, and not being able to afford the basic things, but still, I was able to flourish and thrive. I felt like I was the rose that sprouted out of the concrete. While I could not go to my dream school Howard for my undergraduate, I made the best of what I had at my state school. Southern Illinois University allowed me to reinvent and be the change I wanted to see. While that was the plan for my first year of college, I could not see it to fruition. My first year in college was challenging for me. I was dealing with the fact that I didn't know how to be social and was anxious. After my first semester, I wanted to leave and return to my convenient home, which was thirty minutes away. I went through significant trauma during my first semester of college that completely changed my perception of higher education. All the trauma I experienced made me rethink every decision I had made, and I felt depressed. Eventually, after reaching out to some people I love and being a good therapist, I turned it around my sophomore year. I'm in an internship where I'm helping out my community and telling stories in East Saint Louis; I'm in several volunteering groups that I love and help me reach out to my community, and I've started an online platform where I talk about my mental health journey throughout my life. To get through this beginning of adulthood, I had to have determination and grit. The only way to go up once you reach rock bottom is through the strength of will. In this essay, I could only show a small glimpse of what I've been throw in the twenty years of life, but I wanted to showcase that I am grit. I am determination wrapped up in a 5'3 package. Spirit is about using the drawback to empower you and step into your light. I've been going through things my entire life, but the highlights are the bounceback. At twenty, I hit a lot of different bottoms, but each and every time, my light shines brighter. I feel like my story, and my life is truly the embodiment of developing and possessing grit.
    Do Good Scholarship
    In 2022 more than 19.86 percent of adults are mentally ill. Most Americans, even with insurance, can't afford the average cost of therapy. The lack of mental health resources is a rampant problem within society. I know that I alone can't fix the issue of the lack of mental health resources, but I can be a piece of the puzzle that is a part of solving the problem. My overall career goal is to become a therapist, but I see myself as more significant than just a therapist. I want to advocate financially for those who can't afford therapy. One of the main reasons I didn't receive treatment for my mental illness is that I couldn't afford it. In my community, I want to provide people with financial support when seeking therapy, medicine, or inpatient care. Too many people within American healthcare can't afford the mental help they need. The black community is one of the most significant communities that can't afford mental healthcare. My goal within my city of Saint Louis is to get low mental healthcare and prescriptions. I'm just at the beginning of my journey with psychology, but I have always been involved with mental health. As I started diving deeper into my journey, I realized that I don't think I'm just meant to help people in a therapeutic way; I want to help those in my community access people like me. One way I would like to bring my dream of helping people like me be able to afford care for mental health is through social media. I have always reposted for crowdfunding and mutual aid, but my goal after college and on my career path is to fund mental health resources for black individuals. I want to start an organization called protect black mental health. It would focus on raising money for those resources and having open and honest conversations about black mental health in my community of Saint Louis and hopefully across the world. While it will be hard to pursue both getting my master's and starting protect black mental health, as I said, I feel like my purpose is beyond just being a therapist. Starting protect black mental health, I want it to extend beyond just me. I want to start conversations about how specifically black mental health is seen by the public and how a lot of black people around the world can't afford the treatment they need. While there is a movement right now about mental health, people who look like me are being left out of the conversation. My career goal is to be a therapist, but my overarching goal is to help people who look like me with their mental health.
    Act Locally Scholarship
    Something I want to see change in the world, especially locally, is the discussion of mental health within the black community. The lens I see from is the black female form, and I also experience anxiety and depression. While my lens is not unique, there is something that it allows me that others might not see in the black community—the absolute lack of resources, discussion, and dissection regarding black people and our mental health. While mental health is now being brought up more frequently and in a more positive light, black and brown voices are being severely underrepresented in these conversations. I would like to see change within my community and the world, in general, is black and brown voices having a more prominent voice regarding mental health. Something that I work on locally within my community to fix this problem is I work on the E-stories project with my school. I'm part of an internship called the E-stories project, where we shed light on stories of East Saint Louis, including mental health. While this project doesn't specifically focus on mental health, it does provide black and brown people from my local area with a voice to share their stories. When people think of East Saint Louis, they usually think of the negative narrative that is broadcasted, but with the E-Stories project were able to break down that narrative, and we were able to hone in on how locals feel about their experiences. Taking it back to my goal for black and brown people to have a more prominent voice in mental health, this provides a platform for those from my local area to have their say in mental health in the East Saint Louis Area. E-stories are something that I'm proud of, and my University has allowed me to share the stories of others in my area. Something else I've been trying to get started locally is the Protect Black Women Initiative. I've noticed, particularly at my University, that there aren't any safe spaces specifically for black women. While we have specific organizations on campus that can be seen as safe spaces, that is only sometimes the truth. I don't feel like every black person does have a safe space. With the protect black women initiative, it would be a meeting space once a month where issues are explicitly discussed between black female identifying voices that would give us spaces on campus. Even in black organizations, I feel we're pushed to the background. The Protect Black Women Initiative would provide a space to conversate and be us. These two projects I'm working on genuinely reflect the change I want to see within the world. I'm using my college experience to be the change I want to see. At the same time, I am still a person that carries my weight and problems. I want to provide people who look like me spaces where mental health can be discussed and taken seriously. Seeing how mental health has affected everyone, from the rich to the poor, we need to have more conversations. In those conversations, black and brown people need to have space.
    Ms. Susy’s Disney Character Scholarship
    My favorite Disney character is Princess Tiana. Tiana represented something big for young black girls, especially me. Growing up, whenever I looked at TV screens, I didn't see many people like me, but with the creation of Princess Tiana, I finally could see someone who looked like me on screen. Representation is something fundamental for young minds. Young minds internalize what they see on screen. It felt liberating when Disney decided to put someone like me on screen and give them a voice. I remember going to theaters to see Princess and The Frog and feeling absolutely in awe. I never had a Disney princess that matched exactly how I looked, but when Disney came up with the character of Tiana, they helped represent little black girls everywhere. Also, the character arc of the Princess and The Frog was beautiful. There was still a love story, but the movie's main focus was Tiana's growth. The song Almost There encapsulates my daily struggles even as an adult. I'm almost to my personal finish line or personal goal. I'm genuinely almost there. Being a movie set in the 1920's you could also see the film's racial connotation, which is an everyday struggle for me. Being a lower-class black woman, I've struggled with always having to work twice as hard as my counterparts to get a voice. Disney portrayed those struggles for their target audience, girls like me. She was consistently held back because of class and race, but she overcame it. Ultimately, she got what she worked hard for and the prince. Tiana was the first character in her lane. It took years for Disney to give us a black princess, but it was worth the wait when they did. Tiana's charismatic personality, combined with her on-screen representation, is why Tiana is my favorite Disney character.
    Lifelong Learning Scholarship
    The old saying knowledge is power absolutely rings true in my life. Academia and learning aren't just important to me; they have been my savior. Academia and education have comforted me when I couldn't find it within people. Learning has taken me to places I never could've dreamed of. The most critical thing learning has done for me is to shed expectations placed on me at home and in society. Pursuing an education at a higher level has opened so many doors that I will always be grateful. I must not only finish my higher education but also continue to go above and beyond. I grew up in a chaotic household, but I'll never forget my father telling me that education is everything. I didn't truly understand until I got a bit older, and things began to unravel in my family life. I remember being able to throw myself head for in my studies in the fifth grade when my parents were going through their divorce. The books, the homework, and the teachers comforted me that, unfortunately, my parents couldn't give me in that phase of their life. The year they went through their divorce, I ended up getting better grades than I had gotten any other year. Education and Academia provided me with an escape when I needed it the most. This was just the beginning of my treacherous home life, but it was the beginning of my lifelong love for the comfort learning brought me. Growing up in different environments but still being a black girl/woman, you experience many other stereotypical points of view that society puts on you. I remember being in predominately white schools for the first half of my middle schooling; to be transparent, it was a constant battle. My education level was constantly being made fun off and judged even though I earned some of the highest grades within the classrooms. It was funny to my predominately white peers, who made jokes about uneducated black people, but I was being berated and experiencing prejudice for the first time. I made it my personal mission to show these ignorant people that I could run circles around them and that these stereotypes weren't true. Indeed, I did, and it had my peers who continued to make these jokes irate me that I was academically better than them. At this point, I learned that academics could be used as a tool in real-life situations. I plan to continue my learning by earning two bachelor's degrees, one in cybersecurity and one in psychology. After earning both my degrees, I would like to continue to graduate school to become a therapist. Education has been an avenue of healing, so I want to give that back to the world. What I've learned through my education in life and school, I want to share that gift with others. Education has been a savior in my life, so by going down the therapist route, and I want to be that to someone. Education and learning will always have a special place within my heart because of the power it has given me in my own life and the life of others.
    Learner Math Lover Scholarship
    When most people think of math, it's almost an immediate uhhh. For me, math has been a place of solace. Math is something that's definite and doesn't change. Life is complicated full of ups and downs twists and turns, but math was always something where the rules never changed. As a child, I had a very chaotic home life, but it was something about the ones and twos that I found comfort in. I remember getting my first at-home math book because my family encouraged academia. It was a book inspired by barbie, which is absolutely hilarious in hindsight, but I remember whenever something went down that I couldn't control, I would put in my headphones and bury myself deep within my book. I remember being six and finishing this book in almost a week. My mom was impressed and called me a little genius, but I remember just being excited to have something that had rules and structure within my life. In all the chaos, math gave me a blanket to cover myself from the real world. Math was a complete escape for me, which I'm grateful for. Also, growing up as a black woman in a predominately white community, math was a way to prove my academic chops. I consistently had to prove that I was twice as good as my counterparts because of the stereotypes placed on black women, even children. As a kid, I used to sore and always be ahead of my classmates when it came to math. I sometimes got snide comments from teachers because of my advanced math skills, but it didn't matter. People saw me for my talent instead of what I presented as. Academics, especially math, was an escape from what was initially put on me by society. As I stated in the beginning, when people think of math, they usually think of boring equations and the y's and x's. What I think of is a healthy escape. Math is personified in my life because of its impact on me. Math is not just a subject for me; it's a living, breathing thing that comforts me.
    Overcoming the Impact of Alcoholism and Addiction
    I wholeheartedly agree with how we choose to respond to life challenges shapes our life seeing my very own father struggle with addiction. Growing up seeing my father struggle with alcohol addiction, I knew it was a disease, and I still know it is, but the thing about diseases is they can be cured with the right resources. My father was a military man, so I grew up a military child hopping from place to place, trying to find where I fit in the world. My father's addiction started when I was just seven years old after he came back from the Iraq war. He had always been a more aggressive man, but after returning from the war, it was like a switch had flipped in his head. He grew up with parents who were also addicts, so it honestly could be said to be a generational pattern in my family. Why I believe that how we choose to respond to life's challenges shapes our life is because of the contrast between my father and me. Yes, he was a man who went through and saw a lot of addiction and abuse growing up and even beat the statistic for a while until real life hit, but my dad had every resource imaginable to change his behavior and take charge of his own life. With being in the military, they offer resources upon resources upon resources for soldiers who struggle with addiction. Still, it wasn't almost until nine years later that my father would go to a rehab center for a DUI. Even being in a rehab center as soon as one year later, he fell right back into that same lifestyle of choosing alcohol over everything in his life, even me. My father's refusal to take in that narrative of how we choose to respond to life and our challenges is what shapes our life is why I believe the statement that much more. As the child of an alcoholic military man, I know firsthand that it has to be true for us to cope with life in a healthy manner. Growing up, I saw my dad turn to any and every bottle in the store while I got left at school, left at track practice, and left at dances. Still, with all that trauma the bottle of alcohol caused me, I decided to turn it around and fight it. I know that he doesn't want to change because that is how he copes, but that's not healthy for himself or anybody he's surrounded. As an addicts daughter who almost when down that same road my first year of college, I realized that as a human, we are our challenges, and seeing my dad go through his addiction it helped me see the only way I can face a challenge is to go through it and not around it. My father refuses to acknowledge his dependence on alcohol and the challenges in his life, which is why we can't have a relationship. Still, growing up around him, I know that if we try to escape life challenges instead of going through them, we'll end up straying away from reality and start to pitter into delusion to make our decisions seem rational. Being that said, from my point how we respond to life challenges shapes the people we become.
    Bold Joy Scholarship
    Joy means to me the healing of my inner child. I went through a lot of traumatic events when I was young. My inner child is all the built-up rage, anger, trauma, and sadness I have from that time in my life. I feel like finally putting that to rest is what helps me seek out joy. One way I put this part of me to rest is simply sometimes acknowledging my human experience. Understanding that the things I went through were a lot, but I came out on the other side brings me joy. I find happiness in looking at my resilience and strength as a person. Another way I put this child to rest and find joy in it is by enjoying "childish" things. It's hard stepping into adulthood so times just sitting back and watching cartoons will remind me of the good parts of my childhood. It brings me joy to experience the good things I experienced as a kid as an adult. My inner child is my everything. My goals revolve around giving that little girl everything she wanted because that's what brings me joy. Overcoming that trauma and anger and replacing it with peace and happiness is how I seek my personal definition of joy.
    You Glow Differently When You're Happy Scholarship
    The relationship with my mother is one of the high points in my life. One memory that is one of my first and my happiest is our afternoon picnics after school. Being able to express my day and just spend some one-on-one time with her is a key memory in my childhood. We would play around on the playground, and she would swing me till I was out of breath. My childhood wasn't the best, but it was the small moments like these that really counted.
    Bold Listening Scholarship
    "I hear you, I see you, and I understand what your saying." This phrase has completely revolutionized how I view listening and being listened to. My active listening skills involve three things. Listening, understanding, and response determine a trustworthy, active listener to me. Listening is first hearing the words that come out of someone's mouth. Understanding is truly interpreting what the other person has to say. To be an active listener, you have to listen to the tone, the emotion, the connotation, and the denotation of the words. Then we have the response or lack of response. To be an active listener, you must combine the three to give whoever you are listening to the appropriate response. Growing up, I didn't feel like people would listen to me. I felt like people would hear me but not listen, and that's when I came up with the phrase I always use. I discussed with my mom how I had felt unheard and that maybe if we had some expression for a response, it would help us grow our relationship. This phrase helped me feel like I was being heard, and I always try to do the same with others. If someone is talking to me while I'm on the phone, I'll use this signal phrase to get them to understand. It may seem necessary to some, but to others, they genuinely appreciate and feel like I'm listening to them. Also, using my three steps helps communicate with those around me and helps them feel heard. Listening is a part of being human; we all want to be listened to and not just heard.
    Rho Brooks Women in STEM Scholarship
    Abraham Lincoln, Maya Angelou, and Stevie Wonder were all great leaders who cite their mothers as their inspiration. My mother isn’t only the woman that gave me life, but she’s my most considerable influence. My life hasn’t been peaches and cream. I’ve been through so many ups, and down’s in my life, and she always stood there right beside me. My mom isn’t an all-knowing God, but sometimes I feel like she’s the only one on this Earth who can truly understand what’s going on. She has instilled in me the things that really matter in life, like honesty, hard work, and having heart. My mom taught me that I’m extraordinary, and I need to make the world know it. Being an African-American female, I would feel out of place in academic settings, but my mom always told me you don’t have to feel out of place. I would get the stares and the whispers that would genuinely hurt my feelings, but my mother was right there to tell me, hold my head high. That is some of the best advice given especially wanting to go into cybersecurity. African Americans only make up three percent of people within cybersecurity. It’s not easy entering a field where your colleagues may not understand your identity, but one thing for sure when I do become a cybersecurity analyst, I know that it’s because I earned my sport. I know that I might feel different, but I’m never going to feel ashamed because I earned my spot. My mother gave me the confidence to stand tall even if no one in the room may look like me. Hard work is the only thing that’s going to get you ahead. In my mom’s rolodex of lessons, hard work was always her favorite. You could say hard work and determination are genetic in my family, passed down from generation to generation. We didn’t grow up with a lot of money, but I always had in my head hard work will one day get me where I need to be. Now being able to pay half of my schooling with academic scholarships, I knew exactly what she meant. It’s not about taking the most straightforward way out; it’s about the elbow grease you put into what you do. I can’t predict my exact career path, but what I do know is that with the magic touch that’s hard work, I’ll get exactly where I’m meant to be. My mother gave me exactly what I needed to start my career in cybersecurity. She gave me the strength, instilled hard work in me, and told me don’t be afraid just because I stand out. My mother wakes up at 9 pm and comes home at 6 am seven days a week just to make sure that I have food to eat and a place to sleep. My mom is the definition of a strong woman, and I feel like I must make her proud and earn the success that I know I deserve. Every mother tells their child their special, but when she looks at me I know she means it. My mother gives me the inspiration I need to thrive in my future career not just to make her proud, but to make myself proud. As the great Maya Angelou said, “My mother's gift of courage were both large and small. The latter are woven so subtly into the fabric of my psyche that I can hardly distinguish where she stops and I begin.”