In response to the question, “What drives you to success?,” I wrote a short essay about how my personal success is measured not by the number of commas on a paycheck, but by my ability to induce meaningful change within the entertainment industry and society at large. In it, I outlined my plans to create comprehensive and uplifting media content for minorities who have grown weary of one-dimensional representations of their people. Knowing that thousands of inner city youth are depending on me to dispel the lies that their dreams are too ambitious, my closing sentence read: “As a young Black woman, I am the epitome of resilience and am determined to free hope-deprived minorities from the mental suppression that plagues my community.”
Last Saturday, at the culminating Awards Brunch of the 15th Annual Taylor Michaels Scholarship Leadership Conference, I was awarded a brand new 2013 FIAT 500 for winning the first ever “Drive to Success” Essay Contest. A few minutes prior to this, I was named Graduate of the Year, an award determined by the popular vote of fellow scholars. I couldn’t even finish thanking God for all that had come to fruition in the span of two hours before more blessings came my way. That same evening, all of the 2013 TMSP graduates were transported to the J.W. Marriott in Downtown LA for the night. We dined together with an impressive group of TMSP alumni and enjoyed our last night in the program. (My fun consisted of a private praise party and catching up on much needed sleep.)
Words cannot express how grateful I am to Magic Johnson and the Foundation for providing the vision and resources that this program is built upon. I desperately want elementary, middle and high school students who are disillusioned with class to see that this is what can happen when you stay in school. As I walked through the J.W. Marriott, I felt like a superstar, soon realizing that I was one. For the first time since graduation, I realized the significance and gravity of my accomplishment. Only 30% of Americans and 6.7% of the world’s population hold a college degree.
Thankfully I know that my USC degree is much more than a fancy piece of paper; it’s a responsibility. Now that the graduation celebrations are almost over, I’m committed to sharing my success stories with others so that they can follow suit. Getting into and graduating from college is no easy feat. Without the Magic Johnson Foundation and the Taylor Michaels Scholarship Program, I honestly don’t know where or who I’d be today. Before starting my freshman year, I got to interact with minority college students and recent graduates who showered me with advice and support. Every summer for the last five years I have bonded with fellow scholars in the struggle and developed meaningful and lasting friendships. Just last week, I connected with a rising sophomore at Loyola Marymount University majoring in Screenwriting and we’ve already activated our master plan to take over Hollywood.
When I say that TMSP is the most powerful and effective scholarship program I’ve ever encountered, I sincerely mean it. This year, scholars had the opportunity to learn more about Taylor Michaels, the late COO whose legacy inspired the program. Taylor was an uncompromising woman of God who dedicated her life to serving others. Her sister, Ms. Kay, who has been heavily involved with the program since its inception, shared a selection of her poems throughout the conference. Hearing and feeling Taylor’s words validated my belief that writers never die. This had a profound impact on me, reinforcing the importance of my work as a writer and activist. The fact that I won a new car and blogging deal with FIAT only added to my excitement and renewed sense of purpose.
Not only do I get to drive around in a beautiful new car that is an answer to some very specific prayers; I now have an international writing platform. I couldn’t have come up with this in my dreams. To God be ALL of the glory!
I am forever grateful to Magic Johnson, the Magic Johnson Foundation, Taylor Michaels, TMSP, FIAT, Shaver Automotive, and everyone who has contributed in any way to my social, academic and spiritual success. In reflecting on everything that has happened over the last week, my motto scripture comes to mind:
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. –Matthew 6:33 (NIV)