Reflecting on my time in college, I would have never expected my life to turn out the way it has. Between my athletic accomplishments, personal and spiritual growth, I would’ve never dreamt this life for myself.
While learning more about me as a person, I realized a huge fault in my mindset.
I have always doubted my abilities mostly outside of track and field. I constantly looked at others and thought:
“Wow, that is amazing! I can’t believe they are doing that!”
Even today, I still find myself regressing to that mindset from time to time.
Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone
Throughout my years at the University of Georgia, I recognized that I could really achieve anything I wanted if I worked hard and had faith in myself.
While I do want to emphasize that you should “NEVER” look at other people and think that you can’t do what they are doing—because you totally can—that isn’t what I’m going to talk about.
This is about the impact I was able to make on others from the combination of understanding my insecurities and stepping entirely outside of my comfort zone.
I have always loved helping people. As I met more and more people during college and learned about their lives, I was able to discover my own passion for it.
A Dose Of Reality
Growing up, I witnessed a loving and committed marriage. With parents who allowed my siblings and me to be whoever we wanted to be while giving us the best life possible.
I was never concerned about my safety. My mom helped us with homework if we needed it. We never had to worry about food, electricity, and water. We could play sports and do any activities that we wanted. Both my parents went to college and stressed the importance of education to us.
But what about all the people without these privileges?!
What if you don’t know anyone who has been to college, so you think it’s best to get a job after high school? What if everyone you know has never gone to college, so you don’t think it’s possible? What if you grow up in a single-parent household and struggle with school because you don’t have anyone to help you with your homework?
After considering all of these questions, I came to a conclusion. There are many people in this world that make certain life choices because they were never exposed to other options. There was no one to suggest an alternative and no one to exemplify a different route.
I also began to recognize the inequalities in education, incarceration rates, access to healthy food and healthcare among impoverished groups. By learning about all of these disparities, I was motivated to make a difference.
This was when I discovered my passion for mentoring. I strongly believe that people investing, teaching, and caring about others is a significant step to trying to end the cycle of poverty that exists in countless families.
Carla Williams, an administrator at UGA, suggested that I start my own mentoring program, but I was extremely apprehensive. I doubted my abilities to lead a mentoring program much less how to even start one! In spite of my reluctance, Carla aided me in founding what is now known as Amara’s Pride, a mentoring program for 8th-grade girls.
A little background: Amara comes from my middle name, “Amarachukwu”, which translates to “God’s grace” in the Nigerian Igbo language.
I wanted to use this because grace is unconditional and freely given, not earned. I hope each girl would feel unconditionally loved.
The second part "Pride" is used to describe a group of lions. I want the group of girls to protect, encourage, and build each other up like lions in a pride. I also want them to be fierce, brave, and strong; similar to lions.
Making An Impact
Carla Williams reached out to the principal of a middle school, who was excited about UGA's involvement. I felt this school was lacking investments from others and wanted to change that. The principal then found some girls who were interested, and I immediately started thinking of activities, speakers, and potential mentors to help each girl grow.
Since starting this program three years ago, the girls have made vision boards, painted bowls for a food bank, heard from a male panel, written thank you notes to important people in their lives, packed care kits for the homeless, and taken personality tests to learn more about themselves.
Through this experience, I have discovered how much I LOVE teaching and watching people grow into the best person they can be.
I want every person to believe that they can achieve what they want despite their individual circumstances.
From my personal experiences of founding a program for the youth, I want to leave the readers with six tips.
1. BECOME A MENTOR: Find someone whom you want to invest your time and energy into and help them reach their full potential.
2. FIND A MENTOR: Alternatively, find someone to invest in YOU. Life is hard, but having someone to help you along the way is important. We’ve all made mistakes and you can learn from other’s mistakes.
3. REMEMBER YOUR WORTH: Don’t EVER look at other people and think you cannot be just as great as them. Everyone has specific gifts that they can work on to make an impact on people.
4. START TODAY: If you find something you are passionate about, you just have to start somewhere. If I waited until everything in my life was aligned in order to start mentoring, I would still be brainstorming and dreaming. Just take the first step.
5. FIND YOUR PRIDE/TRIBE: Find people who are passionate about the same things as you to assist, support, and encourage you on your journey.
6. DON’T FORGET YOUR WHY: Remember why you are doing what you’re doing. This will give you purpose and a focus while keeping you motivated and focused on your goals.
PC: Georgia Sports Communications