I grew up in a working-class family in the suburbs of St. Louis. I had a great childhood, the middle of three boys, with two great parents and mischievous friends; I look back on my adolescent years fondly. Life wasn’t perfect, however. We lived paycheck to paycheck. If the lights didn’t turn on, it wasn’t due to a blackout. My parents loved one another, but would argue often, mostly about money issues. They separated when I was 10 and divorced thereafter. I learned a lot from them, but knew that, as an adult, I never wanted to worry about money. Since the tender age of 13, I had a singular goal in life – to become a millionaire by the time I was 30. “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” is not something you hear from people struggling to put food on the table, pay rent or keep the lights on.
Now having hit my goal, I’ve looked back to determine how I accomplished it. Would I attribute it to luck? Sure, maybe, but if luck was a factor then so were a number of other variables. Have you heard the proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.“? I believe that is only part of the equation. You need access to fishing supplies. You need to know where to fish. You need the social skills as well as the business and financial acumen to negotiate and trade fish for other wants and needs. Importantly, you need to know what opportunities other than fishing are possible. For our communities to prosper, opportunities must be democratized and the education and resources accessible to all.
I grew up in a small city in central Wisconsin. The youngest of two girls, I had a great childhood, in what now seems like a bubble world. We had a modest family income, lived far from any large cities, and in effect, we lived a pretty simple life. Birthdays were celebrated at a bowling alley, roller-skating rink, or movie theater. My classmates were nearly all Caucasians of Polish or German descent. We didn’t have a ton of culture. This predictable, unvarying life was comfortable but left me feeling unfulfilled.
What I learned from having great mentors in my adolescence was that there is more to life than what I saw in my hometown. Without my high school finance and economics teacher, I wouldn’t have taken my first trip abroad after graduation. He was always teaching from the comfort of his Dutch clogs, showing us pictures of the catacombs of Prague, and talking about finding bathrooms in Europe by looking for doors marked with the designation WC – water closet. Without my career driven Aunt showing me Nevada, California, and Virginia, I wouldn’t have known that I could go to school and live anywhere in the country. Had my grandparents not been snowbirds, I probably wouldn’t have realized that you don’t need to spend every winter buried in three feet of freezing cold ice and snow!
It takes just one person in your life to open your mind up to a whole new world of possibilities. My goal with SLĀ Foundation is to share that inspiration with our youth. I want to show them that just because no one in their family may have gone to college before doesn’t mean that they can’t. That just because their friends and family are in Austin, doesn’t mean they won’t find more friends, happiness, and success outside of their comfort zone in a new city. I want to help them face their fears and see what the world has to offer so that they can find their true passion and reach their goals.