I AM so unbelievably grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to slow down and prioritize my well-being. I knew since 2013 that I wanted to be a BUSH Fellow. Each year I found an excuse to not apply. I stepped out of my comfort zone in 2020 and applied for the first time. The process was transformative. The questions allowed me to spend time identifying what I wanted to do and what kind of impact I wanted to have. I was not selected that year however I walked away with a better understanding of who I am and what I wanted to do to improve K-12 education. When the application opened for the 2021 Bush Fellowship I applied. I was nervous. I devoted more time to dream about my vision and the role I will play in improving K-12 education. Each step of the way I kept reminding myself “If it’s meant to be, it will be.” This calmed my nerves a bit and I knew my plan aligned with the vision of the Bush Foundation. I learned how to tell my story better and I was selected to be among 23 other highly motivated and impactful leaders in 2021. I was so happy and nervous about how I would spend my fellowship funds. Luckily, the staff at the Bush Foundation were ready to assist me with bringing my vision to life. My vision included starting my doctoral studies and having my fellowship pay for my tuition. I received a notification that my tuition balance needed to be paid off by a certain date. I worked with the staff to meet this deadline. It hit me then that this was for real. That I have an entire community backing me financially as I pursue my doctorate in educational leadership.
The Bush fellowship has given me the resources to prioritize my health and well-being. I am now more intentional with what I say yes to. I am more comfortable with saying no. I am no longer hustling for my worthiness. I am able to prioritize my family, work, and my doctoral studies. This has been a game-changer for me. As someone who cares deeply about the well-being of others in my community, I’ve learned that collective care includes having good boundaries. Boundaries where I am not overcommitting and have time to do the things that are a priority. While my priorities can change, at this time I am prioritizing my family, work, and my doctoral studies. It’s empowering to know this about myself as I make decisions about what I say yes to and what I turn down.
Another significant benefit of having a community and the resources to pursue my dreams has meant no longer searching for opportunities. Instead, opportunities are finding me. I'm focusing on what I have instead of searching for what’s next. The Bush fellowship has changed my quality of life. It has changed how I view myself. This shift is made possible through the many hours I have and will continue to spend talking with my leadership coach. I will continue my journey of relearning, unlearning, and learning to grow my capacity to lead large-scale change in K-12 education.
The Bush Fellowship has helped put things in perspective for me. Wellness is a huge area of focus for me as a result of being awarded the Bush Fellowship. I am intentionally slowing down to ask myself “ what do I really need to do to take care of myself?” The question focuses on my well-being instead of hustling for my worthiness. I know that I am enough. The focus is to fulfill my destiny to inspire and lead systems to transform K-12 education to new levels of equality and access for all. I know that transformation evolves through a deep focus on equity and social and emotional learning, and through the cultivation and manifestation of healing, love, joy, and connection. This begins with me and cultivating and manifesting my own healing, love, joy, and connection.
This opportunity wouldn't be possible without my amazing community. I wholeheartedly believe that my community is the source of my success. I am who I am because of my community. From my references Dr. Joe Gothard, Sheri Harris, and Salma Ahmed to my loving husband Jeremy and my hooyo and Aabo, and siblings Fatimah, Ahmed, and Musse and everyone else who cheered me on I appreciate you. I appreciate you for seeing me, for hearing me, and for supporting me. I had to believe in myself and it made a difference to have such a loving community to belong to. While this fellowship is competitive I knew "If it's meant to be it will be." I knew that I deserved this investment and needed to work on telling my story and vision better. I did not need to be anyone else but myself. I needed to work on communicating my vision and reason for seeking the fellowship, and with my community's support, I was able to do that. I continue to celebrate this victory by celebrating members of my community and supporting aspiring future fellows. We all need a champion, and I am learning to be a champion for those who share a deep love for community and improving outcomes for every member of our community.
I am excited about this adventure that comes with being a Bush Fellow. Throughout this experience, I will with all my being continue to listen to what I need instead of what is convenient or expected. I will continue to remind myself of my personal mission statement “To facilitate love and strength-based system change.” I carry many responsibilities on my shoulders, and with the support of the Bush Fellowship, I have been able to have better focus and a greater impact. I will continue to give and serve my community with the sole purpose of making a difference.