Sunday, June 28, 2015

Privileges

Now that the chaos of the move has settled, I am eager to share updates on the blog. Thank you to everyone for your encouraging words and thoughtfulness throughout the process, I think I responded to every text, comment, FB message, and email and I hope I did not leave anyone ignored, although I realize that my average response time was significantly delayed. I have been working on a little piece detailing the adventures of the move in an overly dramatized series of bog posts. Stay tuned.

Before diving into my usual nonsensical discussions on the spectacle that was my move, I thought I would share a brief reflection on one specific recurring thought. Privilege. A couple weeks ago, I had an in depth conversation with a friend about some of the non-tangibles of privilege such as encouragement to question, exposure to environmental enhancers (like listening to NPR on the radio), and the privilege of voice (while we have freedom of speech, not everyone has the ability to use it equally.) All thoughts for a different posts, but as I made this signifiant life change, I consistently reminded myself of this privilege. 

The privilege to reduce my annual salary by more than half to make a career change. The privilege to still live more than comfortably despite this financial change. The privilege of parents who were able to take two days off mid week to come to New York City and search for an apartment with me as the process would have been too overwhelming on my own (and I needed a Guarantor, thanks Mom!) The privilege to work for a company that can accommodate your flexible timeline and even names a conference room after you. The privilege to have a parent take a week off of work, book two, last minute, one way tickets, drive a 16 foot truck along the east coast, and scrub the apartment floors in a non air conditioned apartment. The privilege of a Dad who is willing to sell your car for you because you were too intimidated to publicly list your car for sale. The privilege to have a week off in between jobs to adjust to life in a new city while being able to financially support myself. 

These are only a few of the many privileges that I've had the last few weeks. This city, this new role, the opportunity, all would not have been possible without my privileges. I think about the people who can't take a chance like I just did for the hope of a new opportunity in a city with a significantly higher cost of living.  People who are stuck in a position or a city or a life because they don't necessarily have the same privileges that I do to make a spontaneous change. 

I am so incredibly grateful for all that I have and those who give advantages to me. It would be beautiful if one day, we all had access to the same privileges, but for now, I will take advantage of mine and do all that I can to provide similar privilege to others. 

xoxo,

Danielle


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

One Year Blogiversary

I admit, I've been more than a bit absent recently. With making a career change, moving to a new city, and starting a new relationship, I almost missed my one year celebration of my blog! Considering every journal I've ever started only continues to about page 1.5, I am quite proud of this accomplishment and thank you, readers, for holding me accountable and supporting each and every post.

Reflecting on the past year, I think I started this blog unconsciously as a search for what was next in my life. I've never considered myself a writer and would have always chosen to solve a series of complicated equations over writing an essay, but I appreciate how much writing has made me grow. I didn't start the blog with a vision and big goal. Instead, I was eager to see it where lead me. My initial encouragement came from comments on my #ootd posts on Instagram, but surprisingly, the outfit posts were not the most popular. Admittedly, when I started the blog, I would do things #forthegram and constantly worry about likes, views, comments, and all of the other nonsensical metrics that accompanied the blogsphere of which I had decided to join.

What I've discovered through this process, is me. The real me. The happy me. I honestly feel like within this past year, I've truly come into my own, true self and I am thankful for the opportunity of blogging to lead me there. So many happy things happened along the way including being featured on The Everygirl, attending the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit, taking my first trip to Africa, hosting events, and realizing my unwavering commitment to helping students navigate the complexities of the college application process to not only impact the enrollment gap, but the graduation gap as well.

I will leave Charlotte in a matter of days. Hopefully, move into my yet to be board approved apartment in New York City. Spend my final two days at Search Solution Group where I am trying to implement the "Danielle Leach Board of Superstardom and Fantastical Achievements" in a clear avoidance tactic of the reality that I will no longer come to work each day with my best friends. While there is so much I want to write about Charlotte and my time here, I am taking a mini-blog-vacation. I want to enjoy the present of my final days in Charlotte instead of focusing on how I will write about this time on the blog.

It's been a roller coaster these past few days of excitement as my girls walked across the stage at their high school graduation, sadness as I say goodbye to people for the first time, glee as I savor every bite of fried chicken and sip of sweet tea,  then eager for the coldness of New York winters as my skin melts off my body every time I step outside in the 100+ temperatures we are having this week.

Since I am desperate for eight hours of sleep, this girl is off to bed. Thank you all for supporting my endeavors this past year (all of them) and the ones I am about to take on. Without the constant influx of motivation, not sure I would be able to do it all.

Hopefully, here's to many more years together!

xoxo,

Danielle

PS. Henry is glad to have taken part this past year too. However, he is already asleep and has no comment for tonight's post.

Monday, June 8, 2015

College Celebration Party

Saturday, June 6th, will forever be one of the happiest days of my life. In the spirit of the girls graduating high school and my leaving, I hosted a College Celebration for them. I refuse to acknowledge the party as a celebration of their high school graduation because for them, graduating high school, is not an accomplishment. I am proud of the skills they have developed and the opportunities they have earned based on their resilience in high school, but I will truly celebrate in four years when each of them graduates from their perspective college with their four year degree. 

As I am sure each of them will have other priorities on the day of their graduation aside from all getting together for one last group hug with me, I recognized this event as my last opportunity to be with all six of them together. I invited my friends and people who had contributed their finances and time to us these past two years. They invited their friends, family members, teachers, and anyone else they could think of. It really was the perfect day. 

I hosted the event at Nolen Kitchen, primarily because it's my favorite lunch spot in Charlotte, but also because I adore their patio that we used for the space. I shared my favorite pictures and moments from the day below.

I created this invite using Paperless Post. Since I was not celebrating their high school graduation, I did not want the color scheme to reflect their high school. I also thought incorporating all six of their future school colors into one them may not be too complimentary. Therefore, I decided on a gold, cream, white color scheme and somehow, pink worked its way in there! 


My love for these six girls runs incredibly deeply. They are the little sisters I never had and I am happy they will become my lifelong friends. 


My heart overflows with love for Destany. While it took a while for this love to grow,  I am consistently impressed by the young woman she has grown up to me. From starting her own organization to her initiative and drive. As she will be attending George Mason University in the fall, I would expect to see Destany as the next Olivia Pope. 




To define my relationship with Paloma, during the event, when there was a line for the food, I ventured to her plate and took a bite out of one of her chicken fingers. She gave me a stare and then realized that in the true battle of princesses, I win. Paloma has taught me to be a better person and has shifted my perspective (for good) on so many things. While her journey to Elon University is still in process, we are both willing to do whatever we can to make it happen. 




Shawna has a heart for helping others that is captivating from the moment I met her. The resilience in this girl is one of a kind. Given any hurdle, she was willing to struggle, until she reached the top. It is this resiliency that will enable her to be successful at Spelman and beyond. One of my favorite moments from the day was during Shawna's speech, when she shared that I deleted her first two essays, entirely. Yes, I did, and that third essay, was phenomenal, and that is the resilience and determination that will always enable Shawna to continue forward. 


They probably won't love me for this one, but I adore this picture of Shawna and her friends. I knew all of the girls two years ago when I was in the classroom and I am grateful for each of their smiling faces. 





My friend Emily made these beautiful boards with each of their girls' schools written in her gold calligraphy. Throughout the event, all of the guests were encouraged to write a message for each of the girls on their boards (in pink!) for the girls to have as a keepsake with them at college and to serve as a constant reminder of all of those who are already invested and believe in their success. 





Recently, Ana had the opportunity to decide between Brown University and Morehead Cain Scholar at UNC Chapel Hill. While I pushed for her to attend Brown, thinking more futuristically in terms of opportunities and challenges, she decided on UNC Chapel Hill as a Morehead Cain Scholar which is still pretty impressive. While I gave her a hard time about not taking my advice (truly, both decisions were good decisions) I am secretly proud of how fiercely independent she is. Despite all of the persuasion from many to attend Brown, she made the decision that she wanted to, and for that, I admire her. 





She may not love me for posting these two pictures, but I absolutely adore them as they capture Nichea so incredibly well. Nichea is autonomous and always a few steps ahead of you in regards to schedule. When I would meet with her for our regular meetings, she was always the most prepared student with all of her checklist items already completed. She has dreams and aspirations that I so deeply admire. She will be attending North Carolina State University in the fall where she plans to obtain her Bachelors and Masters degrees to share financial knowledge with those of her community. 



Zadriuna, I am sad this was the only picture I had to share but there are a few below in the group shots that truly capture you. Zadri and I decided while I was her teacher that we would become best friends, while I am sure this was a secret ploy on her behalf to sweeten me into her likings for good grades, she earned those on her own. I can always count on Zadri to do exactly what I told her not to do (in a good way, we share the same quality of defiance) and it's something that I deeply admire in her. While I am not proud of the fact that I may have passed on a few of my shopping habits to this fashionista, I am proud, come the fall, she will be attending Howard University. 


Hey Sugar Shop made these gorgeous custom, sparkly, perfection of cookies! Fortunately for us, they taste as incredible as they look. I've worked with MK for events before, and she is truly wonderful. (As a side, she is opening a location in Rock Hill this summer. I will certainly be visiting on my first trip back to Charlotte.) 


While I did not work with Ayanna the past two years, we have spent quite a bit of time these past few months collaborating as she makes her college decisions. I may have even slightly over-prepared her for a scholarship interview. While I deeply regret not including her in the original group and I truly wish I could have taken on all of my former students, I am so thankful for her presence in my life. If there was ever one to be living by the hashtag #makeithappen, it is this girl. I'm excited for her to attend UNC Pembrooke next year at very little cost to her family and herself! 


One of my sweeter moments. I truly love this girl. 


The girls surprised me with a gift! 


I thought about it obsessively until I stumbled upon the most perfect gifts for the girls. I've written about Shop Compliment on the blog before and was really excited for the opportunity to collaborate with Melissa on these custom pieces. The shop's motto is "we rise my lifting others" and a portion of sales goes towards a scholarship fund for young women. Truly, a match made in social media heaven. I had her make a necklace for each girl with their school colors. In my family, we always gift jewelry for the big moments (birthdays, graduations) and so it was especially meaningful for me to gift each girl with hopefully a timeless piece for themselves. I LOVED the excitement. 




The best day. Thank for all who attended and for everyone who has supported us these past few years.  I certainly could not have done it alone. I am immensely grateful for all who believed in me and the future of these six girls. I promise, they will be changing the world, in no time. 

xoxo,

Danielle

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Career Changes


This past month, a lot has happened. As I treat the process of change delicately, there has been many happenings within my life recently that I decided not to share on the blog. I felt like I needed to digest the excitement first and create a detailed plan, of course, before sharing everything. 

I am truly so incredibly over the moon excited to share that I am going to be pursuing college advising as my career. The past two years, working with my girls,  has only deepened my investment in ensuring college access and readiness for all students. I routinely wake up in the wee hours of the morning thinking about the complexities of the college application process and how we can improve accessibility, particularly for first generation students. In my spare time, I read books and articles on preparing students, primarily low-income, minority students, to not only enroll in a four year university but to also graduate within four years once there. My friends agree that this is simply all I can talk about and I find a way to incorporate "college" into every discussion. I feel incredibly fortunate to have realized my passion and to now have the opportunity to continue this work as my career. 

As of July 1st, I will be the founding College Counselor at Democracy Prep Harlem High School. While I've had a month to process this reality, I am still in awe of the opportunity. When I submitted my application, I was hopeful for at least one opportunity to speak to someone on the hiring committee as I was eager to give my best argument as to why I would be the best possible candidate for this position despite my lack of a Masters degree and only having experience with my six girls. The moment I heard that I was being offered the position, I cried tears of pure happiness, probably leading my future principal to question his hiring decision as to why he was offering this role to the sobbing girl who was unable to articulate a single word. Since then, I have created a running document on my computer where I am consistently contributing all of my thoughts and ideas since I think it would be slightly obnoxious to send the principal my daily thoughts now. 

The past few years, I've been told how much I have changed the lives of my students. While I'm not one to admit it, I am sure I have influenced their life in some capacity, hopefully for the better. While I am honored to have been given the opportunity to have played the role that I did with them, I think they impacted my life far greater. It is because of them and the willingness of the girls and their families, that I have been able to discover this passion of mine. Two years ago, when I approached them about working together on this opportunity, they had no reason to trust me with this incredibly daunting task as I had no experience aside from completing my own college applications seven year prior. When people congratulate me on their accomplishments, I honestly feel selfish because while I may have assisted them in finding their home for the next four years, they've impacted the trajectory of my life. 

I am easily overwhelmed as I think about moving to New York City, ending my time with Search Solution Group, teaching Henry to live in the concrete jungle, cutting my salary in half, and living in a city where sweet tea is not a dietary staple. When these moments of uncertainty come, I pause, think of the school and my role, and it all subsides. I quickly become overwhelmed with feelings of complete happiness and pure joy. I wish there were words to describe my excitement for this opportunity, but I honestly, can't think of any. I am truly grateful for this new role and cannot wait to see what is next. 

xoxo,

Danielle

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Perspective

I've never been one for comparing emotions. Yes, I am hungry and I am aware of the fact that there are staving members of my human family around the world, but that fact does not negate that at the given moment, I am feeling hungry. Sometimes, I am sad. I realize that there is someone somewhere who just had their life turned upside down, but again, that does not alleviate my feelings of sadness at that given time. It's ok, to have these moments of emotions and feel them, without wondering how they are relative to someone else.

That said, sometimes, I realize how trivial my emotions can be. I recently had a text conversation with a friend about how precious each moment of our lives are and how we should savor every opportunity, even the ones that may not seem so glamorous. Somedays, I am too exhausted to play with Henry and his stuffed animals, but I am incredibly thankful that I have him to come home to and I will gladly will play with each of his slobbery teddy bears. After a long day, it may be stressful to worry about providing dinner for your family, but be thankful you have a family to provide for.  I don't like driving in a car for six hours, but I am thankful I have a family I can drive six hours (or hop on a plane) to see.

My intention is not to minimize your emotions because we all have them and they are powerful and relative to our own experiences. I find calmness in stopping to my remind myself that as much as I don't want to, I am thankful I have a house to clean. While the decision between the pink or blue skirt may seem overwhelming at 7:15 when in the morning when I am running late to work, I am thankful I have more clothes than I could ever possibly need. Some nights it really is difficult for me to decide what to watch on Netflix as I fall asleep, but I am thankful I have the luxury of watching my favorite TV shows repeatedly. You could easily compare your life to others and realize that there is always someone, somewhere in the world, who has it slightly worse than you do, but it's also OK to acknowledge your emotions, however trivial they may be, and then be grateful for the opportunities before you.

xoxo,

Danielle