On September 14th, I attended my first ever Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio Beat the Odds event. As a new Board Member, I was excited for the opportunity to see how the research and policy work of CDF-Ohio connected with the scholarship program and learn more about these amazing young people. The event provided me with more than that – the Beat the Odds Legacy Event caused me to reflect on my own story and think about my own upbringing and the opportunities that were afforded to me as a child.
I grew up in Toledo, Ohio, in a loving two-parent home. While I was an only child, I was surrounded by family actively participating in my upbringing. I marvel now how in growing up, my paternal grandparents, my maternal grandmother, my godmother, my aunt and cousins all were less than 10 minutes away in any given direction. I was blessed to have everything a child could need to thrive.
Both my parents were first generation college students. My father did not finish his degree, instead he joined the air force and my mom went on to earn her graduate degree. Opportunity was not something we spoke of explicitly, it was inherent in our American dream that each generation would continue to do better than the first.
I know that for what I have achieved in life, I am here because of the love, provision, and safety that was afforded to me as a child. However, this is not the daily reality facing so many children in our community. There are so many children and young people with talent and promise who aren’t afforded the basic necessities and opportunities to help them thrive. It can be almost impossible to get ahead when you don’t have your basic needs met. This is why I support CDF-Ohio.
How many children in our communities like the one I grew up in don’t have those same opportunities? They may not have access to mentoring, or even transportation, electricity or internet. Most importantly, they may not have someone telling them that what they dream or aspire to be is possible.
Meeting and hearing the stories of CDF Scholars who are achieving amazing things in their academic and professional careers was awe inspiring. Despite significant challenges, these young people have the potential, desire, and fight inside of them to succeed. The Beat the Odds program provides them with some financial support through a scholarship, but more importantly with a community of caring adults who provide them with encouragement, mentoring, love and help along their journey. I am proud to be a part of an organization that does just that.
Not having children of my own can lead people to sometimes ask why I care about the needs of children in our communities throughout Ohio. It’s simple. These young people are the future of our communities. Our future doctors, scientists, politicians, entrepreneurs, and leaders. I recognize that we are in a time of needed leadership and this next generation will provide it. I want to support them in their journeys. Anything I can do to give them the same type of support and safety that I experienced growing up, I will do every time. That support starts with giving our children access to resources that they need and helping them achieve their dreams and aspirations through education.