These last couple of days have been spent inside California Institute for Women. Aka CIW. CI/Wonderful for the old timers.
I went in with my job, Defy Ventures. It’s a 6 month entrepreneur course that “transforms hustles” for the largest group of underdogs.
Yesterday we had 34 women graduate, many wearing a cap and gown for the very first time.
These events begin with a Business Pitch Competition, much like Shark Tank, and end with them walking the stage, dressed in their beautiful caps and gowns, tassels dangling, sporting huge smiles, receiving their hard earned certificates from our CEO, Andrew Glazier, and the Chief Deputy Warden, Mr Jones, (who personally shakes every girls hand.) All this while their families and volunteers cheer so loudly that you can hear the excitement through the entire prison yard. (I know this to be true because there’s a bunch of lookie loos peeping in to see what going on!)
I have worked several of these events with many different roles, but this particular event is always a little more personal for me.
You see, this event is held in a prion I once resided in. Some of these girls are my friends, but all our my sisters. Because we are bonded. For life. So it effects me differently.
I always give my heart, I’m always committed to give my best, but this place…it takes my dedication to a whole new level. I feel like it’s expected of me. I made a promise when I left that place…a promise to never forget. To continue to support them, fight for them, and to never stop fighting for them. Thanks to Defy, I’m able to keep those promises as part of my job. Which I count as a HUGE blessing.
While planning this event I asked my boss if I could take the lead in one of the exercises. He agreed. But like a boss, he made a stipulation; I had to share with the crowd exactly why I wanted to do this. I acted like it was a sacrifice, but between us it was a joy. Any opportunity to bring attention to them or raise money for them to Program is a joy.
However, what happened earlier on the day was where the real joy transpired.
I was standing along the side lines preparing for the next event while the names of the finalist were being called. And as I watched each of their faces light up at this news I was moved like never before. Their confidence lit the room up! The smiles, confidence, and pride would make a dead heart beat again. I have never seen anything like it. (Yes, I cried)
So with that. I have added a new event to my agenda; “To see them smile.”
So as I lay here in bed, nursing my aching body from 2 long back to back days, I whisper a ”thank you” to God for allowing me this amazing opportunity. And to my boss too if he sees this.
Defying the odds. One life at a time. 🖤