Do You Have Grit?

black woman gradWhat is “grit”? Well, it is similar to ambition, perseverance, or drive. But “grit” is a little different. Many people may be driven to succeed or have the ambition to win an important championship game. But “grit” is the ability to do those things even when the obstacles before you make said success seem virtually impossible. The Huffington Post recently published a piece on “grit” and its impact on young black men’s graduation rates. I can personally attest that “grit” is equally, if not more, important for young women of color.

In the article, “grit” is defined as “a dedication to pursuing and achieving a goal, whatever the obstacles and failures along the way.”And, a study of 140 college-level black males found that those with higher levels of “grit” found more success academically than their peers who did not.  So, academic talent and high school success were important for these individuals, but, “grit” was equally as important in ensuring that these students would graduate from college. And, when universities began implementing programs targeted specifically at this social stratum, they saw marked improvements in graduation rates. What does that mean?

Well, it means that programs designed to reinforce these students’ abilities and coach them through life’s struggles empowered them toward their goals. In essence, these students were encouraged to be steadfast even in times where success seemed impossible so that their “grit” would will them toward their goals. Sounds a lot like what we are trying to do here at The Worth Campaign.

Like young black men, young women of color face many of the same obstacles as their male counterparts. Though they have higher college attendance and graduation rates, they often struggle with pathological constraints which limit their abilities academically and socially. That is what The Worth Campaign is looking to improve.

My personal experiences have led me to understand the importance of having “grit”, and I never really knew I had it until I was tested.

When I was in high school, I found myself on my own. During my junior year, family circumstances resulted in me being sent from my mother’s home to my father’s. My parents were divorced and I had seen my father off and on for over ten years. He had started getting his life together but we had no real relationship when I moved in with him. Soon after moving in, his ongoing personal issues and anger toward me caused me to be pretty much homeless in my senior year of high school. I had always had good grades. I had always been independent. But, I had never been completely on my own.

I was blessed enough to have friends who cared about me who took me in off and on while I worked through my final year of school. With the help of an amazing nonprofit organization named Summer Search, I was able to apply to nine prestigious universities across the country and receive acceptance to seven of them. I had the drive to go to college. But, it was my “grit” that willed me to persevere even in the toughest of circumstances.

When I left for USC, I was in a deep depression about my family status. I struggled with making connections with other students because of the hardships I was facing at home. And, at 20-years-old, I found out I would have to have emergency open heart surgery to correct a leaking aortic valve or risk death. The news was not great. But, my faith kept me strong throughout that period.

And, it was my “grit” that pushed me forward after these obstacles. I returned to school a few weeks after open heart surgery. I was frail and weak but I carried a full load and managed a 3.7 GPA that semester. It was my first time on the Dean’s List in my college career. Those few years were, by far and to date, the most difficult I have EVER had to face. And, now that I am in my late twenties, I can look back at them and appreciate the growth and change in me as a result.

This. Is. Grit. It is not giving up even when everything and everyone seems to be telling you that giving up is the only option. It is embracing the struggle and believing that it will only last for a while. And, it isn’t a market cornered by young black men. Young women of color have to be tough and unmovable in the face of adversity too. And, it is the purpose of this organization to teach them how.

Worth Campaign Lessons: The Worth Campaign’s curriculum will be diverse and far-reaching. The topic on grit will be used to help young women identify their own personal struggles, confront them, and acknowledge that they too shall pass. This future lesson will also reinforce messages that life’s obstacles and bumps in the road do not diminish self-worth. Instead, they sharpen us and make us stronger in preparation for what we will become.

Food for thought: Do you think you have grit? Have you struggled through personal battles and thought they would certainly end you? Does this lesson help you to analyze how these issues made you stronger? Or, maybe you haven’t confronted your albatross yet. Does this lesson improve your outlook on what may arise in the future?

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