Amongst all of the key words and catch phrases used by my mother growing up, this word “excellence” is one that is now and forever will be embedded in the core of what makes me who I am. Excellence was a standard which, in our household, you were expected to live by. Excellence meant giving 100% and then doing 10, 20, 50 percent above that. Excellence was striving for perfection as if it were possible to attain. Excellence was never allowing myself to settle for good enough but for the best. Excellence was coming home with a 90% (A-) and having to explain to my mother how, on the next test or next grading period, that 90 could be 100. Excellence was hard. It was nights spent frustrated and in tears because I couldn’t understand why my mother pushed so much, so hard and was so relentless in engraining into us this spirit, which is now one of my KEYs to success, greatness and leadership. Excellence, along with a healthy dose of fearlessness and lots of love and support is why I have been able to live my dreams, literally. Excellence was NOT about being perfect, but it was about doing everything in my power to be better and do better than I thought I could and others thought was even possible.

Damali and I had a very real conversation with our ladies this week about the mission and purpose of Petals-N-Belles. We reiterated our commitment not only to the organization but our commitment to them. We have committed ourselves to being a resource of excellence and opportunity. More than anything, we want to provide all that has been provided for us and, when needed, be the extra push, the extra hand and the voice that makes realizing their dreams and potential possible. Living out our dreams is not something done alone. Discovering that we have a dream and knowing what those dreams are is something that starts with being inspired. Doing what needs to be done in order for those dreams to become reality takes hard work, love, support and team work. Nothing that I have done has been done alone. I’ve had help EVERY step of the way.

As the mission states, Petals-N-Belles has been designed to empower, inspire and cultivate young women, but in order to do this, our young women must WANT all that we are ready to give them. And what we give them, they have to choose to use to grow and develop into the young women they want to be. This is the choice we have given them. It is one of the biggest decisions we have pushed them to make.

In middle school I was apart of an after school program funded by the YWCA. Looking back, being apart of this program was one of those life-changing experiences. The kind that I’m sure I’ll never forget. The conversations had with the women who ran the program were some that changed and shaped me. The program was called CHOICES. Their tag line: “The choices you make, dictate the life you lead”. For me, this saying serves as a reminder that our lives are all about choice and the power to choose always lies in our hands. Yes, there are circumstances and situations we come across that may be beyond our control but at every point we have a choice. We often have to choose how we will deal with the hand that life has dealt us, the path(s) we will travel and the steps we will take AND those we will allow to join in our journey or those who we will allow to lead and follow. We choose to win, we choose not be defeated when we don’t, we choose to succeed. We choose who we become.

I pose this question to all those reading, especially my young women, who do you want to be and what choices are you going to make today that will shape your tomorrow? What will you choose right NOW?


“Strive to be better than you think you are.”- Ella Louise Pruden Jackson aka Aunt Louise

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