There are moments in life that make such an impact, they change the trajectory of your life forever. For me, that moment happened at a typical family dinner with my mom, my three siblings and our spouses. The conversation we had left such an impression that I think about it all the time. Growing up we always talked about our dreams for the future, we shared our deepest hopes and desires. That night, we were reminiscing on our childhood dreams and comparing them with where we ended up. We were all successful in our own ways, but none of us had the careers we dreamed of having.
I had an established career in the financial industry. My husband and I had just had our first child, we built a home and a stable life together. Life was good. At least, that was my perspective and I held fast to the idea that I did not need to go back to school. I came up with every excuse I could think of.
Then it happened. My little brother challenged me. He slapped me in the face with wisdom I never even knew he possessed.
He said, “Julie, you have worked ten years in a job you don’t even like. Imagine how well you would do in a career you love. You still have 30 years to work before you retire. Do you want to spend it doing what you’re doing now, or do you want to pursue your passion and have the best 30 years of your life?”
It left me speechless. He was right. That is all it took. My decision was made. I was IN.
The four of us made a pact, right then, right there. We were all going to make new goals to go back to school. We would study together and support each other through all of it.
I began researching colleges right away. When I found National University, I knew it was the right fit for my lifestyle. My chosen program offered online classes with a four-week platform. The flexible schedules meant I could complete the course work around my work schedule and home life. The expedited classes would enable me to finish my degree quickly.
I spent the next two years working full time, going to school full time, and taking care of my family (Check out my blog post “Overcoming Anxiety: Self-Care, Sleep, SilverCloud” to hear more about how I balanced all this). I woke up at 5am daily to study, worked my job from 8am – 4:30pm and completed assignments in the afternoon or after my daughter went to bed. I focused on the end goal and kept moving along. One day and one class at a time, I would get there. And I DID.
I am a first-generation college graduate. The pride and accomplishment I have from reaching this goal outweighs all the work it took to get there. My siblings are currently working toward their goals, as well. It all started with a conversation and a pact we made to strive for our dreams.
I am currently working on getting credentialed and obtaining a Master’s degree. My brother’s words have echoed in my mind at every turn. I learned new ways of managing stress, effectively managing my time, and prioritizing my goals. I learned so much about myself throughout this process and I am so happy with who I have become… a first-generation graduate, a role model for my daughter, the Vice President of a student organization, and an aspiring teacher.
If you have read this far, maybe you are considering furthering your education, changing careers or maybe you feel stuck (like I did not long ago). I encourage you to take the leap. It may be scary and intimidating, but trust me, it is worth it. Throw the excuses aside and take the leap, it may be the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself… it was for me.
“For many, Independence day represents freedoms and rights that are put forth for the American people, and in many ways, acknowledging the privileges that we have as a great nation often puts into perspective how lucky we truly are. As a military spouse, Independence day represents my husband fighting for these freedoms and making sacrifices every day. As a mother, it represents the ability to give my children a bright future with any possibility that they put their minds to. As a student, this day represents the ability to receive a degree as a woman, something many others in the world are unable to do. And as a cancer survivor, this day represents the ability to receive world-class medical care. We have so much to be thankful for as a nation. Being able to celebrate health, happiness, prosperity, and freedom is something that I value and I am proud to be an American.”
Immerse yourself in history with the National Archives. Great for kids – click here to download the accompanying activity kit. The National Archive is offering a full day of educational activities, complete with actors portraying historical figures like Thomas Jefferson, Martha Washington, and Ned Hector (a Black soldier who fought for the Continental Army). The highlight of the day will be a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence. Registration is free, with optional donations to support the great work of the National Archives Foundation.
By: Shannon D., Pride@NU President & Caroline B., Pride@NU SafeZones Facilitator
Question 1: What inspired you to obtain a SafeZones certificate of completion?
Shannon: As a lesbian, I grew up in spaces that were severely lacking regarding experiences I was facing. I had teachers that made insensitive comments, doctors that were often baffled when I explained my lack of need for birth control, and colleagues that would often ask intrusive questions about my personal life under the guise of wanting to educate themselves. I am in the Masters of Education program at National University pursuing a Multiple Subject Credential so that I can help create more inclusive and safe spaces for children where they truly feel loved and supported just as they are.
While I have my own experiences and those of people close to me to draw from, I am always looking for opportunities to learn more and find new ways to best support my future students. When I was researching the different activities at NU and came across Pride, and more specifically, SafeZones, I was ecstatic.
Caroline: The SafeZones training stood out to me as a way that I could be a better ally to my LGBTQ+ friends, family, and the community as a whole. I am someone who really seeks out continuous growth and learning. I always want to make sure I am striving to be a better person and in that, contribute more to the community around me. Inclusivity, equity, and equality are issues that are really close to my heart, and amazing trainings like SafeZones are the first steps we can make as a community to addressing those issues.
At the educational institution where I work, we have a similar training program called Safe Space. When I first started working, I was excited to find out that my employer not only offered a training like this, but encouraged employees to participate. I felt the same way when finding out about the SafeZones certificate at National University! Just because I took a similar training somewhere else doesn’t mean I’ve learned all I’ve needed to. SafeZones allowed me to challenge myself to learn more so I could ensure I was best serving the LGBTQ+ community as an ally. By challenging myself to continuously learn and grow I am ensuring I am making an inclusive space, not only for my LGBTQ+ friends and family, but also for my colleagues, the students where I work, my fellow classmates at NU, and any sphere of influence I can touch.
Question 2: What was one of your takeaways from the training?
Pride President, Shannon D.
Shannon: One of my biggest takeaways from the training is how every training is different, and entirely depends on what the participants bring to the table. Even as a facilitator, I learn something new in every training from one of the participants. The most important thing to remember about the SafeZones Certificate of Completion is that it is not an entirely comprehensive training, and there is always more to add and change. One thing that I learned from one of my participants who was a biology major, was more information about people that are intersex, and how to better include the experiences of these individuals in the training! I also love hearing about different vocabulary words that people feel should be added to the “core vocabulary” section. For example, the first time I took the training, I noticed the words homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia, were all listed, but lesbophobia was not. This is something that stood out to me because of how specific the experiences of the lesbian community can be, and how important it is to remember the specific experience of lesbophobia and not to lump it in with homophobia.
Caroline: Continuous learning every time you’re in the training is one of my key takeaways, and also something I’ve heard from many other people who’ve taken the training. I’ve been in several trainings now, a couple as a learner and a couple as a facilitator. Each time I learn something new – even as a facilitator. The human, collaborative component of the training adds a factor that could never be addressed by an asynchronous training alone. Each perspective in the room allows you to open your eyes, view a topic differently, and expand your knowledge and understandings of the way others experience and view the world.
In addition, the SafeZones training introduces something called a Genderbread Person. I won’t go into too many details (take the training to find out more! 😊), but the Genderbread Person allows you to break down elements of what you have learned while applying them together in a cohesive concept. When I first took the training, there were concepts I thought I understood that just instantly clicked during this segment of the training.
Caroline B., SafeZones facilitator.
Question 3: What inspired you to go above and beyond and become a facilitator?
Shannon: Not only did I jump at the chance to obtain a Certificate of Completion myself, but I was so appreciative of everything I learned in the training, that I wanted to share it with others. Additionally, as a future educator, one of my primary goals is to help create more inclusive spaces for children. Therefore, I wanted to become a facilitator in order to train other future educators and help the future LGBTQ+ students in their classes feel more supported by their teachers. In every one of my classes, I always share information for the next upcoming SafeZones Certificate of Completion training so that I can spread the word to as many future educators as possible. I have had several classmates complete the training and they have all said how happy they were to have the experience. I choose to believe that every educator genuinely wants to make a difference in the lives of their students, and be as supportive as possible for them.
Caroline: When I heard that becoming a facilitator for the SafeZones training was something I could do, I was so excited and instantly jumped at the opportunity. I think I actually heard about the SafeZones training for the first time through information about becoming a facilitator for those who were already certified. I had not even taken the training yet and I instantly knew this was something I wanted to do.
Question 4: Who do you think should become SafeZones certified?
Shannon: The SafeZones Certificate of Completion is a great tool for everyone because no matter your level of understanding, or your own connection to the LGBTQ+ community, you will always learn something new. Two groups of people that I try to recommend this training to the most are educators and health care professionals. Obtaining a SafeZones Certificate of Completion is taking a step into a lifelong journey of being a more inclusive and supportive person.
Caroline: Anyone and everyone! There is honestly not a single person that I do not think would benefit from becoming SafeZones certified. And more importantly than that, I hope that one day each and every person will not only have participated in something like SafeZones, but that this type of training will be a normal aspect of everyday learning, incorporated in our educational platforms as we grow up in the world.
In essence, all people should take this training! If you’re passionate about inclusivity and equity – this training is for you. If you’re brand new and have no knowledge of the LGBTQ+ community – this training is for you. If you want to be a better ally to the community – this training is for you. If you think you know all you need to know – this training is for you!
How to Celebrate Pride Month with PRIDE @ NU
Monthly Meetings: First Wednesday of every month at 5:30 PM! Zoom link: tinyurl.com/pridenuzoom
SafeZones Trainings: Usually the second Wednesday of every month at 5:30 p.m.
Join us at Pride@NU’s BIPOC Celebration Event on Tuesday, June 22 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Join students and alumni as they celebrate BIPOC diversity in the LGBTQIA+ community. Panelists will answer questions about their experiences, and then we will open the floor to questions, answers, and discussion. Register here.