Thursday, January 07, 2010

Ambitious Leader Award of 2009

The Ambitious Leader is one whose determination and spirit pushes one to fulfill their goals. Two people I've gotten to know this year deserve this award.

Tameshia Rudd-Ridge
Like Terrence, Tameshia was originally hired to teach in our After-School Academy. However, two weeks before the programs started, we were told we had received a grant for a Digital Connectors program. All we had to do was have an instructor. Having an instructor was a daunting task considering that the grant didn’t pay for a full time person, besides the fact that the instructor had to be someone who knew technology and had a relationship with the teens in the community.

Luckily, during Tameshia’s interview, we had asked her how she felt about technology (thinking in terms of our After-School Academy). Her answer stuck with me. “Oh! I am the QUEEN of technology!” Partly because of that answer, we hired her on and gave her a technology coordinator title so she could begin helping us get our After-School Academy better equipped and ready to do technology projects. Knowing this information, I was able to advocate for Tameshia to be a full-time AmeriCorps member and oversee the Digital Connectors program as well.

The interview had allowed us to get a glimpse of the ambitious leader that she was. Tameshia has ambitions and desires to do amazing things…and none of her ambitions are small accomplishments. Law school, a humanitarian, diplomat, philanthropist, entrepreneur, visionary, non-profit founder, president, nobel prize winner, educator, and having multiple degrees are some of the things on her to-do list. Since, at 23, she’s already completed some of these, I know she’s on her way to finishing the others as well.

Fabiola Perez
As happens with many of the kids, teens, and young adults I meet, I met Fabiola through her boyfriend, Gustavo. I found out Fabiola wants to be a teacher so I instantly tried to recruit her. Unfortunately for us, she was working another job and didn’t have the time to dedicate to the After-School Academy as well.

Through different conversations, I discovered that Fabiola is undocumented and has different struggles because of that. I tried to connect her with different resources whenever she asked, though I didn’t feel I was able to be that helpful.

At the end of the summer, Fabiola needed help and guidance again. She was determined to go to UT-Austin, but once an undocumented immigrant student moves on to a four-year university, expenses are higher and cost often becomes a barrier. Besides that, fear was setting in as the school began to ask a lot of questions. Knowing what had happened to other friends and family when people start asking questions about immigration status, Fabiola got scared. But her determination to reach her goals caused her to persevere.

Before I could ever get back to her with a resource I’d found or information I might have discovered, Fabiola had already moved forward. She was not disabled by her fears. Quite the contrary. I believe her fears propelled her. She utilized resources, calling people she knew could help guide her in the right direction and quickly following up on their advice.

Through my different conversations with her, I found out that Fabiola is an extremely determined person with a variety of interests in putting her stamp on the world, much like Tameshia. In a few years, she will be a great educator who I look forward to having in our school systems. But she does not intend to stop with her bachelor’s degree. Fabiola is determined to get a master’s and doctorate and move into the role of a principal or a dean.
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