Environment Matters

Fortunately for me, my mother, Herlean, knew how important environment was to becoming your best. As an only child, living with older parents in a neighborhood with very few children my age, my mother recognized that without the right environment, I could become spoiled, self-centered, and dependent upon others to do for me things that I should do for myself. Those were not the outcomes she wanted for me; in fact, she wanted just the opposite. To that end, she and my dad decided to enroll me at 2 years of age in Southside Kindergarten. My hours were 9:00 am – 2:00 pm, Monday – Friday.  Would you believe the cost was $1.55 per day?

When it came time for my first day at Kindergarten, it was my Dad who took me to school. kclass He loved taking pictures, so before leaving, my Dad would always take a picture of my classmates. It’s hard to find me on the picture because I am near the back, “crying”.  For the first three days, I cried when he left. Magically, on the fourth day, when my Dad had decided if I cried he was going to take me back home, I didn’t cry. Instead, I waved good bye like a big girl. You see I had a caring, and nurturing teacher, Mrs. Susie Curinton. She knew just what to do to make me feel that I was in a safe, welcoming, and fun place. It didn’t take long for me to start mixing and mingling with my classmates and begin developing friendships, many of which I still maintain today.

Mrs. Curinton kept us busy with lots of activities. We played outside, learned to sing, and dance. Then she would invite our parents and community to witness our performance.kprogram (2) Because our school was too small for such an event, the auditorium of our local college, Bethune Cookman, became the venue. So at four, I made my first visit to a college campus and sang a duet. I don’t know how that went since today I can barely carry a tune.

It wasn’t all fun. There were educational activities too.  I started imitating my classmates- coloring, counting, and copying letters.  It was the beginning of my learning to enjoy the basics- reading, writing, and math. One day, my mom was writing a letter to my dad who was away. I told her I wanted to write him too. She pulled out some of paper and pencil and I began writing. For the words I didn’t know how to spell, I would ask her for help. You can see my writing wasn’t the neatest but you can make out most words. Not bad for 4!

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I could hardly believe that it was time for me to leave a place and teacher that had become dear to me. kgraduationBut the time had come and at five years of age, I was the Valedictorian of my class. Sitting next to me on the stage was the speaker, Mrs. Turie T. Small, the Principal of my soon to be elementary school. While sad to be leaving, I was excited to be going to the “bigger school” and couldn’t wait to get to know the Principal.

The people and your physical surroundings influence what you think and do. They bring out your best.

Environment matters! 

Do you have dreams and goals that you want to achieve?  Learn more about how important your environment is in my book, “Be Your B.E.S.T.”

Outside or Inside?

Do you let outside circumstances, situations, labels, people’s perceptions define your destiny? OR  Do you look inside and choose to rely on the power within to guide you to your destiny?

NOAA few years ago, I attended the National Optometric  Association’s Awards Banquet with my husband and thought it was going to be a typical banquet experience. The featured speaker was Tom Sullivan. I had not heard of him but was intrigued by the description provided in the program- “Being blind has never kept Tom Sullivan from competing in a world where he realized that to be equal, for him, meant that he must be better. He has proven that one need not be limited by a handicap.”

Tom was escorted on to the stage, introduced, and immediately he kicked off the presentation displaying his melodious voice.tomsullivan Not surprising that he had been invited to render The Star Spangled Banner at the 1976 Super Bowl Game Bicentennial Celebration and that his regular appearances on the Tonight Show had garnered him a national reputation. Then Tom began sharing his personal stories, chocked full of humor to motivate us to recognize that “ordinary people can indeed do the extraordinary.” As a young boy he found himself fenced in his backyard, but refused to be fenced in by his blindness. Together, he and his father, created “Sullivan Rules” so that he could play baseball with the neighborhood boys without the benefit of seeing the ball. One of the Sullivan’s first rules is that any negative can be turned into a positive.

Time and time again, Tom’s capacity to look inside and rely on the power within resulted in him defying what the outside world would say was impossible. I was in awe… Tom graduated first in his class at Harvard University. His best-selling book, “If You Could See What I Hear” became a motion picture in 1982. Tom composed and performed much of the music for the film. Tom became a regular morning fixture in the homes of millions of Americans as a special correspondent for ABC’s Good Morning America. He was nominated for two Emmy Awards and has acted on TV series, such as Designing Women, Highway to Heaven, Fame. Tom fell in love, married Patty and they have two children.

Tom challenged us to take PRIDE- our personal responsibility for individual daily effort, connect it with our purpose and passion to achieve extraordinary results.

As Tom exited to a standing ovation, he had demonstrated in just 30 minutes the power of our internal spirit. He had chosen not to let labels, boundaries, naysayers prevent him from his destiny. He had chosen to experience love, travel, serve and teach others.  That night I was inspired by an ordinary man who chose to be extraordinary. Whenever, I find myself permitting the outer world to tell me “no,” “not you,” “it can’t be done,” I  remember Tom and reach down within and choose to be extraordinary.

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Don’t Ignore Who’s Next to You!

It was early in the morning, and I was traveling on a business trip. I had been up late the night before and was hoping that the plane would not be full. All I wanted to do was find my seat and go to sleep so that I would be energized when the plane landed. As I boarded the plane, the side of the plane where my seat was located was comprised of only 2 seats. 2seatsI sighed to myself and hoped that the seat next to me would be vacant. Looking around, it was apparent that the plane wasn’t going to be full. So I thought to myself, if someone is next to me, I would just move to an empty row. With a plan in mind, it now didn’t matter if there was someone next to me.

Approaching my row, right next to the window was someone already seated next to my assigned seat. I thought, “just my luck.” I put my things down, spoke politely knowing it would only be minutes before I would be able to move. I closed my eyes in preparation for hearing the magic words that we had reached the altitude that would “free” me to move. But instead, I heard the pilot say “Please, keep your seat belts buckled, the weather is going to be turbulent for a while. We need for everyone to stay in their seats.” Now I opened my eyes to assess the situation. The man next to me, seeing my eyes open, comments. I think “oh no, he’s talking to me and I really don’t want to engage.”  Hesitantly, I respond. Then he asks me if I am traveling for pleasure or business. I then explain that it is a business trip and that I am the owner of my consulting company, the Outcomes Management Group.NewLogoWCopy  Now, it’s hard for me to resist talking about my company. So now I explain what I do and my passion for outcomes. Then I ask him about his trip.

Now I learn that he has just relocated to Columbus for business and was also headed out for a business trip. I share with him that I had relocated to Columbus too and that my husband was the “Buckeye.”  osusweatshirtThen I tell him about my Ohio State Sweatshirt welcoming gift, describe how the City transforms itself on game days, suggest he gets prepared to become a part of Buckeye Nation, and remember that it is “The” Ohio State. He thanks me for the tips because this would be his first experience living in a community that was so engaged in college football. I remind him this isn’t just college football, it’s the “Big 10.” We share a laugh and then hear the pilot say “we are almost approaching our destination.”  “Well, so much for sleeping.” Since, we’re about to land, I decide to continue engaging. “So what will you be doing in Columbus?” I ask. To which he replies, that he has joined McGraw Hill and would be overseeing research associated with their products. mcgraw“I’m interested in outcomes too,” he replied and smiled. Now we can hear the pilot asking us to prepare for landing. He then gives me his business card and asks for mine. “It was great meeting you and thanks for welcoming me to Columbus. Look to hear from my office when I return. I would love to invite you to McGraw Hill and share information about an outcomes project that I am planning to undertake. Perhaps, it will be something of interest to you.” To which I respond, “ I look forward to hearing from your office and would welcome the opportunity to learn more about your project.”

mcgraw columbusTwo weeks later, I get a call from his office assistant who schedules a meeting at their corporate office. One month later as I signed the contract with McGraw Hill, I was grateful that I had chosen to “speak to my seat mate” versus keep my eyes closed and “sleep.” Staying focused on “me” would had resulted in missing the blessing that had been placed intentionally beside me.

DON'TFORGET

 Stay alert, focused on others- your blessing may be where you least expect it!

Don’t Let Age Stop You!

Have you heard these quotes about AGE?  ali

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When these quotes have been shared, a response that I often hear is: “You need to face the fact that there are some things that are going to change because you age.  You just wait and see.”  While that is true, as I age I may move slower, my visual and auditory acuity may change, my memory may not be as sharp, boundariesBUT what I never want to allow is my age to become a boundary that prohibits me from achieving my goals and dreams.  

Recently, I was reminded that age has no boundaries when I saw a picture of a fellow Hamptonian, William (Bill) Goldborough. Bill graduated in the 1949 class at Hampton University (Institute). This class fondly called themselves the “49ers.”  Bill and I met at a meeting of the National Hampton Alumni Association and later served together on its Board. Bill was the Technology Committee Chair in 1998. My initial impression of him was a man of innovation and a trail blazer. He was fearless, perhaps in part, because he bravely fought as a World War II Veteran.  I often admired that Bill was unafraid to speak what was needed to be said and likewise was unafraid of change. No wonder Bill was recognized by the President of our National Hampton Alumni Association as a “trailblazer.” I wasn’t surprised when I saw this recent picture. Bill, at 91, made history becoming the oldest initiate of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.  See the details in this article.

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When I reached out to say congratulations, Bill responded:

“I live my life like “A CANDLE IN THE WIND” and look back only to direct my path FORWARD. God is my constant CO-PILOT and continues to guide me.”

Bill’s message reminded me to look back as a reference point to continue moving forward and not forget that I need my co-pilot, God, to guide me.

My message to you. When you think you’re too “old” to accomplish a dream that was placed on your heart, remember the dream is a “calling” AND if you stay in tune with your co-pilot,  God, your dream will become a reality.

Achieving your dream is not about AGE; rather, it is about YOU!

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Her Voice

So many of the paths that I have traveled during my lifetime can be traced to Josephine Anderson Kennedy, my mother’s dear friend who became my Godmother. She grew up and was educated through the collegiate level in Daytona Beach, Florida. Early on, my Godmother’s parents recognized that she had a God given musical talent. They encouraged her to develop and use this talent. And that she did! At nine, she began sharing her gift by serving as pianist for the Sunday School at her church.  Once I was able to read, she told my mother “It’s time for Patricia to learn how to play the piano.” While music was not my gift, under her tutelage I learned how to play the piano. Like her, I faithfully played for my Sunday School and Sunbeam Choir.

Josephine Kennedy was driven by the urge for excellence to earn her Master of Arts degree in Music Education and Music Supervision from Columbia University, New York.  She returned home to teach in the schools and become the County Music Supervisor. My Godmother was committed to exposing youth to music. peabodyaudiotoriumIn 1955, she under-wrote the First Youth Concert for Blacks in Volusia County, thereby enabling more than 2,500 children to witness their first symphonic presentation. I can remember when I was in elementary school, boarding the bus to hear the Florida Symphony orchestra. Every child was dressed for the occasion because she had sent a letter home with instructions about “what to wear.” On the way to the concert, we were reminded of the expected decorum-how to behave appropriately, how to recognize when the concert was about to begin, when to clap, when to exit, etc. Today when I am at a concert with my husband, he looks to me for the cues because he knows I was trained by my Godmother. I really didn’t understand the significance of her commitment to our learning to appreciate the arts until much later, when I found a tribute to her.

       “At the Peabody Auditorium I saw an audience composed of 2,500 or more Negro children, youth, and young adults sit in breathless attention listening to an hour’s program of the finest production a Symphony orchestra could offer. They participated in that cultural hour with an appreciation equaled to that of any group of music lovers… I bring my gratitude to our marvelous Florida Symphony, and to our efficient Music Supervisor in Volusia County, Mrs. Kennedy whose persistence in promoting this program, demonstrated to our entire county that little Negro boys and girls  who have so long been denied the better things, do have great appreciation for the music of the ages.”  Mary McLeod Bethune (February, 1955, Daytona Beach News-Journal)

My Godmother was an effective leader in the community as well, serving as Past President of the Daytona Beach Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Daytona Beach Chapter National Council of Negro Women, and Daytona Beach Chapter, The Links Incorporated, to name a few. She exposed me to two of these groups in hopes that I would follow in her footsteps. Upon arrival at Hampton, I knew there was only one sorority for me to join and that was Delta Sigma Theta.Deltacharm I would have been disappointed if I did not make the line and was elated to inform her when invited to pledge that I was following her footsteps. My Godmother passed before our Sorority’s Centennial Celebration. But I was able to carry her with me as she had given me the charm she purchased at the Golden Anniversary Celebration which she attended. Similarly, I was delighted when invited into The Links, Incorporated. Unfortunately, she was unable to know that milestone. On a trip, when serving on the National Executive Council, I found in our new national headquarters a plaque that bore her name. She had served as a National Officer during her tenure as a member. I smiled knowing she would be happy to know that I was following in her footsteps.

When it was time for me to think about a career, my Godmother was right their telling me about the opportunities that were available to speech-language pathologists.book Needless to say, this was not a traditional career for minorities, but the exposure to it peaked my interest, resulting in me heading to Hampton in pursuit of my degree. Of course, my Godmother was right there reminding me that I must continue on and get my master’s degree like she did. Many years later, when I authored my first book, Opportunities in Speech-Language Pathology Careers, I reflected on the path that her suggestion in the 10th grade had taken me.

 

Now there was one area in my life that she remained concerned about and that was my love life. She constantly reminded me that I needed to balance my professional career and personal life. Every time she would see me as the years passed, she wanted to know “who” the boyfriend was and “when” I was going to get married.Mrs.Kennedyatwedding At Last, in 1994, my Godmother was by my side, coordinating my wedding. She smiled and whispered to me that I had completed all of her wishes for me on that day. She reminded me that “love is the greatest gift.” As I look at the both of us on that day, I see something I hadn’t realized before- we have a similar smile. Perhaps, that too is something I emulated.

I am grateful for HER VOICE!  Today, I honor Josephine Anderson Kennedy as we celebrate Women’s History Month. Take time this month to reflect and honor those women whose voices have made a difference in your life!

“You give but little when you give of your possessions; it is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” – Gelbran

 

There Is Always Another Side!

HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) are important to me for many reasons. Situated in the heart of the Black community in my hometown is Bethune Cookman University. mcbGrowing up as a child, I was constantly reminded that the late Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune founded the college with $1.50, five little girls, and faith in God. So much of my early exposure to college life was through my participation in events on BCU’s campus. Through my involvement in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, I grew spiritually. A part of that growth took place during YPD (Young People Department’s) trips to Edward Waters College, an HBCU, located in Jacksonville, Florida. I looked forward to my trips to Edward Waters and getting a chance to meet with young people from all around the state of Florida. In fact, it was through these meetings that I learned about the other HBCUs that were owned by the AME church, to include the oldest privately owned HBCU, Wilberforce University. hu Through that exposure, I recognized the benefits of having a network of higher education institutions. When I think about my professional accomplishments, I cannot think about them without reflecting on the place that most significantly impacted my personal and professional growth, Hampton University. It is my “home by the sea, where I made lifelong friends, developed an appreciation for a standard of excellence, and was equipped with an education for life.

 

So recently, when I saw an article that referenced a quote by the Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, it immediately caught my attention. The following reflects her statement.

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have done this since their founding. They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education. They show that the systems wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution. HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. This success has shown that more options help students flourish.” (Betsy Devos)

Immediately, there were reactions to the statement, many of which emphasized how Secretary Devos got it all wrong. Below is an example of one such response.

“But HBCUs were not created because the 4 million newly freed blacks were unhappy with the choices they had. They were created because they had no choices at all. That is not just a very important distinction, it is profoundly important. Why? Because, if one does not understand the crippling and extended horrors of slavery, then how can one really understand the subsequent history and struggle of African Americans, or the current necessities and imperatives that grow out of that history and struggle?” (John Wilson, Jr., Morehouse President and former Executive Director, White House HBCU Initiatives)

Dr. Wilson makes a valid point which presents the other side of the story. Indeed, it is profoundly important for everyone to have clarity about “what” precipitated the creation of our HBCUs. elephant The lack of acknowledgement of slavery and its impact on African Americans by many continues to be the “elephant in the room” that prevents our country from making the best decisions for all of its people. Now to the other side, there is also another profoundly important message. Because African Americans did not have equal access to education institutions, our ancestors didn’t just focus on convincing others to allow us access to their institutions; some took it upon themselves to focus on access by creating their own institutions. bcuThat choice made it possible for many African Americans to have access to education, lead a better quality of life, and make an impact upon the world. I am reminded of that solution every time I drive by Bethune Cookman University and see it today, now sprawling across 85 acres and providing access to over 3500 students. I am reminded of that choice every time I tell someone of my professional growth that started at Hampton University which afforded me the opportunity to become the first African American to receive a doctor of philosophy degree in speech-language pathology from Memphis University.

There are two sides to the story. Let’s hold people accountable for having an accurate understanding of the root causes of our problems AND let’s all utilize the intellect and resources we each have to create solutions. I learned from a former boss, “you control what you own.”  Regardless of the story, there is always two sides. According to Lonnie Keene, each side is shaped by the individual’s perspective, exposure, and time frame of reference.

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Saluting a Civil Rights Pioneer

programOn September 8, 2004, in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol, the Honorable James E. Clyburn, United States House of Representatives (from South Carolina) welcomed those in attendance to the Congressional Gold Medal* Ceremony.  I sat, listening attentively, with a special sense of pride. The Reverend Joseph A. DeLaine, one of the recipients, was a family member. The Congressional Gold Medal was being bestowed upon him posthumously for his pioneer civil rights activism. In the Clarendon County town of Summerton, he stood up to the power white elite and made a simple request for a school bus so that black children would no longer have to endure walking nine miles along frost-covered back roads to get to their primitive, segregated schools. His plea turned into a lawsuit against local officials and became one of five cases collectively known as Brown v Board of Education, which resulted in the Supreme Court decision that ended the “separate but equal” doctrine in America’s public schools.

goldmedalAs I watched his children receive the medal in his honor, it reminded me that family had always been important to Rev. DeLaine. In fact, it was because he valued family that I had come to know him. His father and my grandmother were brother and sister. At an early age, my grandmother passed and my grandfather and their five children moved from South Carolina to Florida. Consequently, Rev. DeLaine did not grow up with his first cousins. But that did not stop him from wanting to know them. Over fifty years later, my mother received a letter from him introducing himself as her first cousin and explaining their family lineage. He and his wife made a special trip to Daytona Beach to reconnect with her. I remember how excited my mother was that he had never given up on finding her, after all she had been five years of age when they were separated.  As I sat in the Rotunda, I wondered how he had found us in an era of no internet or google. I smiled- no wonder it had taken fifty years. And then I thought, “he was always persistent and had resolve to obtain his goal.” Now the stories all made sense to me.

He had shared lots of stories and articles about his life and experiences with us. In fact, he had self-published in 1954 a booklet that he had written about “The Clarendon County School Segregation Case.”

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I now wondered how he had produced this publication. Again, ahead of his time and recognizing the importance of personally documenting events. After seeing the pictures of his house burned to the ground and hearing about how the KKK had chased him and his family out of South Carolina and how they had survived in New York, it became apparent to me that my cousin was a bold and courageous leader who never gave up.

delainefamilyPreparing for the trip to DC, I thought I would look back at some of the pictures he had given to my mother. When I took his family photo out of her scrapbook, there written on the back were these words in his handwriting.

“After getting adjusted in N.Y. everybody thought it was an awful tragedy but, in addition to the education revolution set in motion, beginning  in 1951 and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, May 17, 1954, it looks like the tragedy all worked for the best interest of all concerned. Bless the Lord O My Soul, And Forget Not All His Benefits.”From this handwritten message, I left knowing that his strength had come from his joy in knowing and trusting God as his source.

As we celebrate Black History Month, take a moment to reflect upon the life of a pioneer who has made an impact upon you. Now is our time. Let’s commit to paying forward so that others will benefit from our lives as well.

*The Congressional Gold Medal is the most distinguished award bestowed by the United States Congress. It is the nation’s top civilian award presented to those individuals that embody the best quality in America’s heritage. Before it can be awarded, legislation must be approved by the Congress and signed into law by the President. Congress first awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to George Washington in 1776.