Learning in the Journey: Stories about Taking the Bold First Steps to Find Your Destiny
“I'd only intended to spend one semester [at PGCC], but I found the experience extremely nurturing and chock-full of academic opportunities that I decided to stay.” –Tameisha Henry, U.S. Diplomat
It’s astonishing how taking a simple step forward in our journey can impact our entire life’s path, and take us on a ride we couldn’t possibly design were we left to our own devices. In Paolo Coehlo’s novel, The Alchemist, a king speaking to the character Santiago tells him that, "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."
While a powerful statement, it is also thought-provoking and reminded me that everything we send out to the universe inevitably returns to us—positive and negative. And in moving that sentiment further along in my mind, it caused me to think about a young woman I recently had the good fortune of meeting. She is the epitome of a seeker, and her resourceful nature has helped her uncover an entire world of opportunities that have made her academic path nothing short of remarkable. As a smart high school student, Tameisha Henry made a singular decision that would chart an exhilarating course for success. Several innocent but fateful hiccups in her plan, however, prevented Tameisha from applying to a four-year institution in high school, so she decided to begin her college coursework at Prince George’s Community College.
Preparing for takeoff!
After pow-wowing with the American University graduate, I felt inspired and knew that I had to share her story. Awards, honors, accolades and racking up degrees is impressive, but what makes Tameisha’s story so fascinating is her mindset. She lives in a “big picture” state of being, and fully understands the importance of embracing the right opportunities at the right time. She’s unique, extremely bright, and a fun conversationalist—but mainly, she’s just very down to earth and pretty much just wants live on purpose. And that makes her very cool!
Here's her story:
J: What did you want to be when you grew up?
T: I had all the same dreams as most people. I wanted to be a ballerina, a lawyer, a doctor and a bank manager, among other careers. Growing up in Barbados my exposure to the breadth of the world's job market was very limited but my dreams were largely TV-fueled.
J: Was government, public policy, politics, etc. always part of your game plan?
T: Government and diplomacy was definitely NOT always part of my game plan. I moved to the United States and studied Business Administration at PGCC, and later at American University, and figured I'd work in that field. However, the DC/MD/VA area had different plans for me. While the Peace Corps was not traditionally a popular job for my fellow business students after graduating, it was a popular path for many of the students from AU's School of International Service. The Peace Corps' Small Enterprise Development volunteer program allowed me to meld my business training with my passion for service and launched my international career. Several jobs and a master’s degree later, here I am - a U.S. diplomat.
J: Who influenced you as a child, teenager or even now as an adult, to strive and work hard to achieve your dreams?
T: My parents are my biggest motivators. I am the living, breathing evidence of countless sacrifices on their part and I am eternally grateful to them. My parents gave me a legacy of working hard that I strive to embody. My sister is also a huge motivator for me. She lives a life of purpose, driven by her personal barometer of success and integrity and I aspire to have her sense of self one day.
J: As a bright, enterprising young lady, why did you choose a community college as part of your academic journey?
T: I happened across PGCC along my academic journey. I moved from Barbados to the United States late in the summer intending to enroll in high school but the Maryland Department of Education reviewed my transcripts from Barbados and recommended I go straight to college. By then I had missed the application period for four-year universities so I went to PGCC which has late-summer admissions. I'd only intended to spend one semester but I found the experience extremely nurturing and chock-full of academic opportunities that I decided to stay. I was very fortunate to be accepted to the Honors Academy and later received a scholarship to go to American University so, by far, that was one of the best decisions I'd ever made.
J: What was your major, favorite course(s) and/or professor while here at PGCC?
T: I finished my A.S. in Business Administration at PGCC. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at PGCC but, by far, my work for, and later relationship with, Dr. Melinda Frederick was the most rewarding. I studied the works of Machiavelli and others with her - my first introduction to politics and leadership.
J: How has having a diverse education (PGCC, four-year institution) influenced or impacted you as a professional woman?
T: My time at PGCC gave me some of my closest friends, caring mentors and an experience that is unmatched. Unlike many four-year institutions, my classmates at PGCC were of diverse ages, professional experience and even nationalities. I felt incredibly nurtured in that environment. Moving on to a four-year institution with the academic foundation I received at PGCC was an ideal path for me. I think my time at PGCC, and later AU, showed me I could be effective in multi-cultural, diverse settings - a skill that I have relied heavily upon in my professional life.
J: What advice would you give a young student contemplating college? Same question, but an adult desiring to go back to school?
T: College is a significant investment and I think far too many young people do not appreciate this fact. I would advise a young student to look inwards before looking at schools. What do you want to do? What kind of job/lifestyle do you want to have? How do you plan to pay for school? After identifying the things most important to the student only then would I suggest surveying what schools are out there and what they have to offer. Sometimes, based on circumstances, a community college makes more sense than going straight to a four-year school. An adult going back to school is likely more sure of what they want to get from their education so my advice would be to survey the available schools widely to ensure the most bang for your buck.
J: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
T: This is an interesting question. I joined the Foreign Service specifically so my life would be dynamic and unpredictable. I don't know where I'll be but with my passions and interests rooted in service and working abroad I can see myself in the State Department for many years to come.
J: What is your favorite food(s)? Places to travel? Hobbies?
T: I love to eat! It's hard for me to pin down a favorite cuisine of meal. Now that it's getting colder I have been eating a lot of pho which is a Vietnamese soup I fell in love with when I worked in Vietnam last summer. My favorite place to travel will always be Barbados. I feel at home there but can also enjoy the beautiful island as a tourist would. I love to read so that is definitely my hobby. I also love cooking and experimenting with fusion cuisines.
J: Last or best book you have read?
T: I'm moving to Sri Lanka next year for work so I have been slowly making my way through relevant Sri Lankan literature. The book I'm reading is Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje and it is set in late twentieth century civil war Sri Lanka. ^