Every year proves significant in a person’s life for one reason or another. For me, 2022 has been a year of change, growth, and revelation. Just a few months ago, I graduated from West Virginia University (WVU), where I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications Studies with an emphasis in social media and communications technology. After graduating, everyone kept asking me “What are your plans?” and “Where do you see yourself going?”. Being only 21 at the time and not entirely sure of what I wanted to do yet, I didn’t have answers for these questions, nor did I have a plan. Communications studies is a broad field, with what seems like unlimited directions one can pursue. The uncertainty of what the future held made graduating from college feel complicated, challenging and a bit overwhelming, and the amount of pressure I felt was almost unbearable at times because I feared disappointing myself and the people around me. I learned so much in my time at WVU and was eager to put this knowledge to use, but just wasn’t sure where.
Although I’ve spent the last 4 years in Morgantown studying at WVU, I’m not a West Virginia native; I’m actually from Queens, New York. For those who might not know, Queens is considered one of the most diverse cities in not only New York, but in the entire country, and has often been referred to as the melting pot of the world. Growing up here was an experience like no other, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. In many ways, it made me who I am today. The city was so unique, welcoming, and accepting, and everyone took pride in their individuality. Being raised in New York as a mixed child of teen parents, I knew that I was different from most of my friends, but also that I was lucky to be raised in an environment that valued diversity and didn’t treat me differently. Because of this, I was able to learn from an early age that being different is cool, standing out is in, and that diversity is important.
Because my parents were so young when they had me, neither of them were able to pursue a college education. Despite the challenges and difficulties this presented, my mom was able to find work in non-profit and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) fields. Eventually, she worked her way up to becoming an influential figure at the firm she currently works at. For me, watching her work her way up to the top and fall in love with her job left a great impression on me. I remember when we were growing up, we were inseparable, and I was her mini me; I viewed everything she did as spectacular. In many ways, I still do. She is my role model, whom I look up to and admire. She has played a huge role in me becoming who I am today and has inspired me to follow in her footsteps.
It is my mom, where I grew up, the experiences that I’ve had and my passion for diversity that led me to the Marketing and Outreach Internship with the WV Women’s Business Center. Throughout my time with the organization, I have grown to appreciate, even more than I already had, the importance of diversity and inclusion in communities. The primary focus of my internship has been researching and developing effective communication and outreach strategies to raise awareness of the WV WBC so that we can better support minority-owned and women-owned small businesses in West Virginia. It is important to me that all women and minority-owned small businesses gain access to the support, resources and tools they need to succeed and thrive. I believe everyone deserves a fair shot at success and I believe at the WV WBC we strive to provide our clients with just that.
In both my time with the Women’s Business Center and in my experiences prior, I have found that diversity drives creativity and innovation; it keeps things dynamic. Being exposed to diversity also allows people to challenge their perspective and put themselves in another’s shoes. Living in a diverse society allows people to experience new and exciting things and to be more accepting of others’ differences, while understanding the importance of diversity in society is crucial for creating and building relationships in this crazy, colorful world.
I am still uncertain of what life looks like after this internship but through this experience I have grown, evolved, and flourished as a person. I have gotten the opportunity to meet and learn from so many influential people who make me strive to be a better version of myself. I have learned to be okay with not knowing exactly what will happen next, and I am finally getting more comfortable having those uncomfortable conversations. Even though this season post-graduation has been a little confusing, I have been learning about my own strengths and weaknesses, and how I can be used as an asset to others. My experiences in 2022 have allowed me to become the best version of myself, and it has given me the confidence and skills to navigate through any situation I face.