Sometimes there are people that touch our lives in such a way that we are never the same. I am fortunate because I had such a person, Ms. Yvonne Ashe. She was my math teacher at Riverside Polytechnic High School. I can remember sitting in her class, admiring the way she dressed and how she carried herself. Her demeanor was very professional and warm. I enjoyed being around her so much that I would volunteer to help her clean up her classroom after school. I felt she held me to a higher standard than her other students, but I realized she just wanted me, as well as her other students to just be and do our very best.
Over time our relationship grew, and I not only met her family, I felt like I was part of her family. I grew up with an amazing grandmother, but I sometimes missed having a maternal figure in my day-to-day life. The more time I spent with Ms. Ashe I felt her motherly concern for me. She not only taught me math, but she also provided me with guidance on what it meant to be a lady. She taught me the importance of being part of the community and helping others less fortunate than others. In my senior year, I was nominated to be in the homecoming queen court. I was excited but unsure what I needed to do to prepare. Ms. Ashe took me shopping to get a beautiful gown, she also took me to get my first hair styled at a beauty shop. Her support and encouragement were instrumental in my becoming the first African American in the history of Riverside Polytechnic High School to be crowned homecoming queen.
As I continued to grow and mature, she took a keen interest in my future. She helped me think about life after high school, as well as where I wanted to go to college. I thought about those things, but I did not have concrete answers. She took my hand and guided me along my path. One day she invited me to her home and a few of her Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (AKA) sisters, that are now my sorority sisters, sat me down and walked me through the college application process, and helped me to identify my next steps. For her care, concern, and confidence in me, I will be forever grateful.
Each of us has the power to impact the life of someone else if we are willing to take the time, effort, and energy to get to know them and see what they need. This is especially true for those of us who work with young people. Children are vulnerable and need guidance, it is up to us to step in and provide it. During National Women’s History Month, Ms. Yvonne Ashe is one of the women I pay homage to and publicly say thank you for sowing into my life which was instrumental in helping me become the woman I am today. Ms. Yvonne Ashe, I see you, and I speak your name.
In closing, I would like to share a few words penned by Pearl Cleage from her book, “We Speak Your Name,” Because we are strong women, born of strong women, who are born of strong women, we celebrate your strength. You could not have known how closely we (I) watched your every move. How we hung on your every word. Thank you for being you and helping me become me. #ISpeakYourName #WomenHistoryMonth
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Visit www.WendyGladney.com and www.forgivingforliving.org to learn more. Wendy is a life strategist, coach, consultant, author, and speaker.