Meet Our Blog Writers

Ashleigh Tonic-Hayman

Hi, my name is Ashleigh. I am 19 years old and honestly, still trying to find so much about myself. All my life, I always blocked my true self because I never felt like I fit in with people. Perhaps, I felt this way because I changed schools pretty often. However, the longer I did it, the more I lost who I really was. There was a time where I began to really be someone I wasn’t and thankfully, my parents found out certain things before it could get any worse.

 

Fast forward to my junior year in high school...This was quite an adjustment for me. It was the first time I was moving to a completely different state, where no one at all has ever heard my name. This was my chance to reinvent myself and start over with being my true self. As I began to do just that, I learned more about who I am and what I want to gain from the world. My confidence grew, I became more independent and humbled. I created strong friendships with girls that I would never trade for anything. They have stuck by me through some of the worst moments in my life such as losing my great grandma after I graduated. Summer of 2016 felt like the ground was falling right from under me. I lost my grandma, and I was not able to go to the school of my dreams. Not going to Temple University crushed me and put me in a depression I didn’t realize I was in.

 

Eventually, I got back on my feet and registered for a few classes at Broward Community College. Although my family didn’t agree with me wanting to only do one semester there, I was set on going to a university no matter what. I did what I had to do and made certain moves so that I could attend a university in the Spring. It was not an easy process, but I got it done. I now attend an HBCU as a sophomore at Alabama State University and I could not be happier! Going to an HBCU was not my first choice when applying to colleges in high school, but after some self-analysis and deep thought, I realized that it was somewhere I needed to be. I realized that majority of the reason why I never felt I belonged somewhere was because I spent most of my grade school years attending predominately white schools.

 

Going to an HBCU is allowing me the opportunity to discover myself in a different light and more fun as well. I am learning more about who I am and where I come from. While we all somewhat share the same race, we are all diverse. We have different laughs, personalities, languages, backgrounds, and perspectives of society. In fact, I believe that HBCU’s are more diverse than PWI’s. However, there is a magical, unexplainable bond of identity that we hold together. Being exposed to more culture and the black community, I truly see things differently and more beautifully. I am a communications major aspiring to be a photojournalist. I can best express myself through photos and tell a story through pictures and videos.

 

One day, I want to tell my story by writing a book, but first, I want the world to follow my journey by actually seeing it. It is one thing to tell your story, but it is another to let them really see you. If there is one thing I can tell young girls, it would be what my great grandma has always told me and I still follow it now, “Never stop finding yourself. Trust Your Journey no matter what it may be or how hard things may seem.

Contact Ashleigh: ashleight2016@gmail.com

Zaniya Lewis

Zaniya is a sophomore at The George Washington University. Zaniya has won two national contest within a year.

 

In the summer of 2015, Zaniya was chosen 1 out of 3 student-athletes in the United States to travel with the NBPA and NBA on an amazing community service trip to South Africa. Recently, Zaniya was a co-winner of First Lady Michelle Obama and Seventeen Magazine Better Make Room National Contest. She interviewed First Lady Michelle Obama and appeared on the cover of the May issue of Seventeen Magazine. Zaniya served on the New Jersey National Guard Teen Panel for six years, where she helped to create programs, camps, and trips for military kids.

 

Additionally, she served on the Ronald McDonald House Teen Advisory Council for two years, helping to raise funds and volunteering to support the families of sick children. With the help of friends at her school, Zaniya co-founded The Kindness Project, a community service club that organizes and manages school-wide service activities at her high school.

 

She currently serves as a Day of the Girl Action Team member. She is a writer, activist, and speaker. She loves participating in extracurricular and volunteer activities.  She recently received the New Jersey Civilian Meritorious Service Medal in honored of the community service she has done in New Jersey. She wants to inspire others to use their passions to make a difference in the world.

 

One Piece Advice for young girls: I would say is to take advantage of the opportunities you have here in America and to not be afraid to ask for help. 

Contact Zaniya: zlewis2016@gmail.com Website: http://www.yesshecancampaign.com

Adriana Chavez

Adriana Chavez is a high school honors student living in New York City.

 

Outside of the classroom she is a Girl Who Codes, and spends her time writing, volunteering, and participating in a plethora of other extra curriculars. In the past she has interned for Startup52, New York's only diversity focused startup. She now works as a Day of the Girl-US Action Team member helping girls across the country. Most recently, she has written, in collaboration with First Lady Michelle Obama's college readiness campaign Better Make Room, to promote the text based financial aid tool Up Next. She is also the co-writer of In Solidarity; a toolkit designed to help train school administrators how to respond to sexual harassment. 

 

Adriana plans to attend university in 2018 to pursue a degree in English. She hopes to become a full time writer, and eventually work towards a PhD in English Literature, to teach at the college level. 

 

One piece of advice I have for young girls: Your voice is one of the most powerful things you own; utilize it. Your opinion matters- don't be afraid to speak out for what you know in your heart to be right.

Contact Adriana: adrianamayachavez@gmail.com

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