It has been a month since our official launch and it is time to put our words into action towards our mission, "... to educate, foster professional mentoring relationships..."
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with Vanessa Taylor, a senior basketball player from Johnson & Wales University, and the student who I will be mentoring. Sitting across from her outside of Little Village in downtown Charlotte I could see why we were matched. Not only did she bring me a birthday present of sour patch kids but every student that walked passed us would stop by to show love and say, "What's up Vanessa?" or ask her about the upcoming volleyball game. If you have ever had a meal with me in my element you have had the same experience. We are the perfect match. She is even one of the shortest people in her group of friends with a tall girl mentality, just like me!
We enjoyed our lunch and discussed the first topic laid out in the Winning Edge Play Book, "Discovery". The goal for our first meeting was to get to know each other. We talked about how she ended up going to school in downtown Charlotte from Minneapolis, Minnesota and how I went to school in Bemidji, Minnesota. She told me all about her full schedule that includes a daily 7:30 AM class, working as chief of game operations in the JWU athletic department with basketball workouts and homework finding its place. I thought to myself that her schedule was a mirror image of my senior year in college and how I would be able to relate to the challenges she is facing or that she will face.
Her major is Sport/Entertainment/Event Management and she is doing what she can to ensure when she graduates she separates herself from the pack. Vanessa has goals and the motivation to achieve them. Believe it or not but this 5'2" shooting guard wants to work for the X Games, summer X Games to be exact. She also told me what she has already done in order to obtain an internship with the X Games and the names of other people she plans on contacting to get her foot in the door. That is what I already love about her. She has the desire to do what it takes to get what she wants. All this is meeting #1!
The Winning Edge was created to help students like Vanessa. We are going to be that support system she will need in the middle of basketball season when she is trying to juggle a full class load, work, and getting buckets. We will be that network that helps get her that exposure in front of the right people. I am over the moon excited for Vanessa's journey and I am lucky to now be a part of her journey.
The day ended with me, Maria, a couple members from "The Squad" attending a volleyball game. This was a special night for the Winning Edge family. Johnson & Wales was taking on two of our students, Gracyn Doctor and Khadijah Segura from Johnson C. Smith. This means we had three Winning Edge students putting in work that night (Vanessa was running the show) but that is not what made it special. On this night Gracyn, a senior middle blocker, played against her sister Kailyn Doctor, a freshman outside and middle blocker from JWU, for the first time at the collegiate level. This happening just three months after the sisters lost their mother, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, in the June 17 shooting at Emanual AME Church. We came out not only because Maria is Gracyn's mentor and lives for volleyball but to remind Gracyn (and her sister) that we are more than an organization to help her professionally, we are a family that will be there, wherever and whenever!