I consider myself to be a role model, and I—along with other role models—have a huge responsibility to positively inspire and empower the next generation. I humbly accept this responsibility.
A role model is someone others look to for inspiration, hope, and guidance. We are all role models from a fundamental perspective because all of our actions are being perceived by, and often influenced by others. Young people develop life skills by what they see, hear and perceive growing up. It is therefore critically important that we exhibit the traits of a positive role model because we have a responsibility to positively inspire and empower the next generation.
A positive role model shows others how to live a life of integrity, resilience, optimism, inspiration, commitment, compassion, and faith. I grew up in the inner city of Newark, New Jersey, where positive role models were few and far between. My grandmother was my first role model because, although she didn’t have a lot, she gave a lot. She lived a life of service, integrity, and compassion, but due to her limited education, she could only empower me to a limited point.
Growing up, there were no community programs and hardly any positive role models outside of my home. I ultimately became a teenage mom. My son became my motivation to do better in life, but I really didn’t have a clue how to do better. There was no one in my family or community, at that time, who could give me the guidance I really needed to overcome my situation and improve our lives. So, I did the best I could on my own with the love and support of my family.
Then, a few months after having my son, my high school guidance counselor called me into the office and asked, “Why haven’t you applied to attend any colleges?” I explained that I was a teenage mom and I did not have resources or childcare to attend college. She immediately stepped in and began mentoring me. She became the first positive role model outside of my home and the one who had the greatest impact on my future. She instilled in me the importance of higher education, assisted me through the entire college admission process and guided me on obtaining the resources to attend college.
As a result of the guidance and mentoring I received from my role model guidance counselor, I developed critical life skills, went on to attend and graduate not only college but law school. I then became an assistant district attorney for the City of Philadelphia. This is the power of mentorship and having a positive role model in your life. My life journey has caused me to truly appreciate role models and the importance of being a positive role model, especially to young girls. It is also one of the reasons I am committed to helping charitable organizations like my favorite, I Dare to Care Inc. in Camden, New Jersey, because the mission and impact of that organization hits so close to home for me.
I Dare to Care is a non–profit that provides mentoring and after school care services to inner city girls. I was once an inner city girl with no mentor, no after school care services and no structured community programs like many of the girls in this program, so I recognize how important early intervention, supervision, a structured environment, and mentoring can be for young girls.
Mentoring programs are critically important in African American inner city communities because these communities often face additional obstacles such as single-parent headed households and mass incarceration, problems that typically result in additional challenges. Programs like this can be a beacon of light to the young girls that attend and to the entire community.
Women who are able to give back—who have been through tough situations and can relate to others going through it—need to step into mentorship roles. It’s up to us to help guide others so they can follow in our footsteps, care for their families, make positive change in the world, and be happy. I always say that I am blessed to be a blessing. Mentors made a difference in my life so I can now make a difference in the lives of many women and girls.
I encourage you to reach out to organizations that touch your heart or start your own. Become a mentor and be a blessing to someone who needs it.
Shevelle McPerson’s new podcast “Soarpreneur Uninterrupted” is a great place to discover role models, as well as the business and legal strategies you need to grow and scale your business. Listen at ewnpodcastnetwork.com/podcast/soarprenuers-uninterrupted-shevelle-mcpherson/.