Myiah Smith, recipient of the Henry D. Owen Scholarship, shared reflections on her CPE high school experience and the relationship with her mentor Ellen Gee at CPE’s Annual Cap & Gown Celebration. Myiah graduated from the SEED School of Washington D.C. in May 2016, enrolled at Georgetown University in the fall of 2016, and is now a part of the CPE Transformer program. The Transformer program will continue to support Myiah’s mentoring relationship with Ellen and help ensure that Myiah graduates on-time with a bachelor’s degree and the skills and network necessary to succeed in the modern workforce.
“I come from a legacy of advocates, business owners and leaders. The bar of expectations was set high within my household. Being the eldest of five siblings, I was always honored to lead by example. When named Valedictorian in the eighth grade, each of my siblings followed suit, graduating no less than Salutatorian. It was difficult coming to grips with my parents’ divorce, which happened when I was just entering middle school. Over the years my father’s home, located in the historic Deanwood neighborhood of the District, was robbed nine times. The robberies further compounded my father’s ability to maintain financial stability. The trying times continued when I was shot during an armed robbery as an innocent bystander in my own home in 2010. As a 12 year old I became despondent. It took me an entire year of self-reconditioning until I felt I had recovered.
Obstacles always hit me in waves. Like many American seniors in high school, the cost of college is a huge burden to accept. My determination in finding what I lack allows me to have success within my own life. I actively seek resources and opportunities that can propel me further and faster.
Joining Capital Partners for Education has been one of the greatest decisions I have made thus far. Being a part of the CPE family is what contributes to my success as an individual. CPE also allowed me to meet Ellen Gee, a brilliantly beautiful and educated woman. She’s like my second mother and I love to consider myself her first child. We’ve walked, hiked and jogged together. We discovered new places to dine. Ellen’s read and edited endless essays for me over the years. She’s given me advice and has helped me in ways that I could only seek to return.
I recall jogging with her on a breezy June day. It was a year after my traumatic experience and I was still struggling when doing a physically demanding task due to PTS. Whenever I was extremely stressed or nervous, my body would physically lock up and freeze. In moments like that I felt trapped within my own body, unable to move. It would render me speechless and motionless. I struggled with the simplest of task like getting dressed, or walking up stairs. I remember it was Ellen who was most helpful during my time of recovery. She helped me accept that I didn’t have to push myself – that it was okay to take my time. Ellen was able to ease my nerves and taught me how to be stronger when I was feeling trapped. Now, I’m back to who I was before the incident and I’m able to truly enjoy being active! Ellen has been a friend when I needed one during my most critical growth period. I love her and look forward to growing as a person with her for the rest of my life.
I enjoyed attending CPE workshops over the years and discussing, laughing and interacting with my fellow CPE students and staffers. I remember writing raps about finances. I still recall our first retreat when we were all shy doing icebreakers in that large room. I enjoyed watching the growth of our CPE family. CPE gave me a sense of home and family during a time when mine wasn’t quite ideal. I felt I had a place to be myself in an environment of support. When I think of CPE, an image of being surrounded by intelligent and driven individuals comes to my mind, all beaming with bright smiles.
I am well aware of the good CPE does for students across the District. When I think of my high school education, the memories are most complete when I remember a workshop or career fair hosted by CPE. The contributions of CPE to my high school education are immeasurable. As my senior year comes to a close, my CPE life will continue thanks to the Transformers program, which continues CPE programming and relationships with students throughout their undergraduate education. Knowing I will continue to have access to opportunities and CPE’s network will truly be of benefit. Considering the Transformers program didn’t exist when I first entered CPE, knowing it exists now and I’ll be a part of it makes me feel like I’ve won a secret lottery! I look forward to being part of Transformers through college, but I do not plan to stop my involvement then. After college, I look forward to returning to Washington to mentor my own mentee. Until then, I shall continue to empower individuals and encourage them to conquer their world to the best of their ability.
To my fellow CPE students I wish to say aspire to who you want to be. Never stop growing because nothing in life is indefinite and set. With this in mind, be prepared for success, and humble yourself. Be ready for hardship and prepare yourself. Be open to love and show empathy and compassion toward your world. Never let someone tell you that you’re not the center of the universe. You are the center of the universe. You’re a bright sun, a shining star, amidst the universe of life. No one can make decisions for you. No one thinks your thoughts for you, dreams your dreams. No one can talk for you, or take steps for you. With that in mind, live your life for you. Stand by all your choices and take pride in who you are. You are a unique individual who will never walk this world again, never grace the universe. Be forever you and love who you are. Have a wonderful rest of the evening, enjoy your time. We’ll all be going quite far in life, so step up and be BOLD!”
Myiah recently starred in the original musical “Wind Me Up Maria!: A Go-go Musical” at Georgetown, check her out in the Washington Post here