Seven incoming college freshmen have many of the supplies they need to move into their dormitories, thanks to members of the Bertha Black Rhoda Section of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) in St. Louis.
At its ninth annual Legacy Trunk Presentation Luncheon, held June 8 at the Orlando Garden’s Event Center in Maryland Heights, the seven young women were each presented with a trunk of supplies valued between $400-$500, including bedding, rugs, cleaning supplies and a gift card for personal items. The items were donated by NCNW members and purchased through a grant by the Zonta Club of St. Louis.
The seven awardees were nominated by their school counselors. NCNW rotates high schools each year. Once accepted, the students have three NCNW events to attend – a meet and greet where the young ladies meet the NCNW women who mentor them over the course of their senior year; a college preparation day, where the students learn about studying, health and safety and budgeting; and the Legacy Trunk Luncheon.
"A wonderful black woman named Georgette Banks took me shopping for my trunk and school supplies just before I started college,” said Lisa Johnson Haire, president of the NCNW Bertha Black Rhoda Section. “She saw how hard I worked and wanted to see me flourish. Being prepared and having someone else's support was just what I needed at that time. I am forever grateful to her. Being a part of NCNW Bertha Black Rhoda Section and our Legacy Trunk Program has given me the opportunity to pay it forward to others. I hope others will do the same in the future, making it a true legacy."
All but one of this year’s Legacy Trunk recipients plan to pursue higher education locally.
Deja Austell, an Incarnate Word Academy graduate, will attend Fontbonne University to pursue a degree in social work. Austell’s NCNW mentors are Karen Banks and Tracee Lewis.
Shakira Bent, a Riverview Gardens High School graduate, will attend Lincoln University to earn a degree in elementary education. Bent’s NCNW mentors are Gayle Jackson-Evans and DeNisa McGraw.
Gabrielle Brown, a Normandy High School graduate, will attend the University of Missouri-St. Louis to pursue a degree in computer science. Brown’s NCNW mentors are Ruth Jamison Banks and Claudia Dillworth-Turner.
Breana Lee, a Hazelwood East High School graduate, will attend Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, to pursue a degree in nursing. Lee’s NCNW mentors are Sharron Burroughs and Lisa Johnson Haire.
Shawanda Martin, a Jennings High School graduate, will attend the University of Missouri-St. Louis to earn a degree in computer science. Martin’s NCNW mentors are Ckarla Banks and Sandra Murdock.
Shyann Sampson, a McCluer South Berkley High School graduate, will attend Berea College in Kentucky to earn a degree in nursing. Sampson’s NCNW mentors are Deborah Baker-Dukes and Carolyn Creswell.
Annika Williams, a University City High School graduate, will attend St. Louis Community College, to pursue a degree in neonatal nursing. Her NCNW mentors are Laura Mabry and Stella Hughes.
Mistress of Ceremonies Ruth Jamison Banks said many mentees and mentors stay in touch throughout their higher education journey.
Luncheon guest speaker was motivational speaker and millennial Kendra Elaine, who encouraged the young adults by letting them know that what they want out in life is available to them – but they must put in the work to achieve it and stay focused on their goals.
“Know and own your power” is what Elaine said she would have told her younger self on that same journey. “You really have the power to create the kind of life that you want and the legacy that you want.”
She said after going from being a youngster with almost no control, in college she was in control of almost everything and kind of got lost in all that power and focused on the wrong things – like where she went or what time she got up.
“If I could go back, I would focus on the power to really control my life – make choices and plan for my future and be more strategic with where I want to go,” Elaine said. That is, having an idea of what you want to be, where you want to go, and how you can get there.
“I think the best way to do that is to always have a northern star – have something that you’re working toward – understanding, for you, what does success mean to you?”
She suggested journaling and taking time to think about what a successful life would look like for them, beyond material things.
“That way, when you go throughout your life and you come against those difficult times that are going to come up during college and come up during life, you have that goal that is going to keep you focused and keep you steady in where you are going,” Elaine said.
“There are going to be a lot of things that knock us off our path, and they’re going to try to distract you and they are going to try and take you away from what you’re trying to do. But when you have that solid vision of what you want for your life, it’s easier to stay focused. It’s easier to remove those things that are not in line with the vision that you want for your life.”
The trunk committee members are Karen Banks, Ckarla Banks, Ruth Banks, Debora Baker Dukes, Gail Jackson Evans, Lisa Johnson Haire and Laura Mabry.
For more information about membership in the Bertha Black Rhoda Section of the National Council of Negro Women or its mentoring program, email email@example.com.