Editor’s note: Cierra Chambers spoke at this year’s Taste of Rappahannock fundraiser for the Headwaters Foundation; the following is an edited version of her comments:
I am Cierra Chambers, a former mentee of Headwaters’ Starfish mentoring program, a graduate of Rappahannock County High School last May and now a freshman at the University of Mary Washington. I am pursuing the five-year program for a masters in business administration with a dream of running my own event company. I am proud to tell you that this very event, the Taste of Rappahannock, is the first one I have worked on, as the Headwaters “Taste” intern this summer.
I am the Rappahannock County student that Headwaters was created to support. My family has been in the county for generations; I am a first-generation college student, and the support of a mentor through middle and high school has been invaluable to me. In sixth grade, a family friend familiar with the Starfish program realized that I would benefit from another adult connection. Seven years later, Linda, my mentor, is a member of my family. She has offered a port in the storm as well as some of the loudest cheers. Along with my father and sister, I know there are people who believe at their core that I can touch the stars — what an amazing gift that is!
College was not a topic of thought for me until my senior year of high school. The summer between my junior and senior year, a serious transition occurred at home that shook my focus, and I began to think about my next step. Before last year, college didn’t feel like an option, but neither was failure. I was unsure what I was left with. I am lucky to come from a loving family with a father who believes you are only given one life and there is no room for making excuses. I am also lucky to be part of the Headwaters family.
Together with my mentor, the Next Step program helped answer the many questions I was facing. Making my way through the college process was incredibly daunting. And yet, all of these people together helped me to articulate my goals and pushed me to go out there and make them a reality. There was always an open door and guidance for every question. It is such a gift to have that support. I am lucky because I found the college of my dreams where I now feel at home, and I am lucky because of the amazingly generous financial support I have received from this community.
They say it takes a village. Thanks to my parents, my sister, Rappahannock County High School and my Headwaters family, I know I have a village behind me. I have been taught leadership and shown devotion. I have been shown how to achieve success, and I have been awarded scholarships for the education needed to pursue my dreams. By supporting Headwaters, you are a part of this, and I thank you deeply.
Freshman, Mary Washington University