Meet Hope Marshall. One could say that her commitment to service began right after high school, when she enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Hope always had the desire to be a part of something bigger than herself. After 7 years of service, she returned to Maryland and later graduated from Towson University with a BS in Sociology/Anthropology.
As a civilian, I officially began my career in Human Services in 2006, specializing in challenging populations. Throughout this journey, I’d noticed that the individuals I worked with who had some semblance of independence i.e. employed, always fared a little better than the others who didn’t. I came to understand that it wasn’t the job per se’, that contributed to that independence, but more so the sense that it was the one thing that they had a say in. The one thing to look forward to each day. From then on, I made it my business to help people reach economic empowerment through meaningful work.
However, I did not have the proper credentials/experience to become a career/job coach, so I joined a national service program called AmeriCorps. For 2 years, I worked on a Veteran career management project, where I developed employment support programming for Veterans. During my service I was able to create a student Veteran club on campus, create and distribute a 25 page Veteran career resource guide, and held 3 career expos that included over 30 organizations from the community. I loved the work. This experience helped me land a position with St. Vincent De Paul, as a Career Development Specialist.
My greatest accomplishment to date has been:
Two great things have happened, almost simultaneously:
Serving 2 years as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I have had both the honor and the privilege of meeting some great people, doing extraordinary things in the community. I saw, first hand, what can happen when people work collectively. My service solidified my belief in, and affinity to, grassroots-efforts. I gained a deeper understanding of the science behind career development. In addition, I was the recipient of the President's Volunteer Service Award for my works with the Veterans Career Management Project.
Having the courage to start my own business. Pre-dawn hours and weekends find me tinkering around with “The Laffin' Afro”, which is home to wearable art, stationery and other items that lampoon the supposed-to-be's of femininity, with a unique blend of humor and empowerment. I created The Laffin Afro as a way to combat the messages of how women are "supposed" to behave. There’s always some rule, top-ten list, Youtube video, or something else, relegating women to ‘get in their place’. Where ever that is. So rather than be upset about it, I point and laugh. In fact, among other things, catch new memes every Tuesday, #funnygirlfindings at www.facebook.com/Thelaffinafro, or on Instagram: @TheLaffinAfro.
The most challenging thing I ever experienced is:
Walking away from a “seemingly perfect” relationship. A few years ago, I threw caution to the wind and moved clear across the country-Oregon to be exact, to be with my then boyfriend, whom I was certain I would marry. However; once the excitement wore off, and the smoke cleared, I’d realized that although he seemed “perfect” for ME, I wasn’t the right woman for HIM. Knowing that, I could not longer, in good conscience hold onto him. So I let him go. I’d seen the enemy. And the enemy was me.
Most often, when we leave relationships, we tend to place the blame on the other person, as to why it didn’t work out. That relationship forced me to face to hard truths about myself. So, with my broken heart, pride and ego in shambles, my 14 year old Honda packed to the gills, my pet cat, and GPS, I found myself back in Maryland.
Most Valuable Lesson:
I spent a large part of my life, trying to create a safe bubble where nothing bad could happen. It was exhausting. I’ve since learned that bad things are inevitable. No religious dogma, no avoidance tactic, no relationship, or anything of the sort, will shield me from misfortune. This is not to say I go looking for trouble, but I’ve now learned to accept that the bad, is as fleeting as the good. My new motto is: no matter what happens, I’ll be okay.
There is a quote from Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to, is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” It is extremely important to find your passion-something that you believe in whole-heartedly, and let it fuel you. Maybe you like animals. Maybe you play a mean ukulele. Whatever your gifts are, you can improve the lives of others with them. Always know that.
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