Latoya Lee, our newest Inspiring woman of the week, knew she was destined to become a leader at a young age. Latoya from Hot Springs, Arkansas, is a Junior at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She majors in Health Sciences with a minor in Sociology. Her primary goal is to become a Nutritionist for obese children. Her passion towards children, volunteerism, and a recent trip to Africa all inspired her to pursue become an advocator for Young Women. Latoya, hopes to start up a non-profit organization that aims to empower women and encourage them to “accept themselves for who they are.” Read more about Latoya and her goals and aspirations in the interview below!
What can you tell me about yourself?
Well, I’m a southern girl. I was born and raised in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I will be transferring to Arizona State University next semester, and majoring in Early Childhood Education. I am very passionate about children. I currently work at Good Samaritan’s Simply kids Daycare, where I am the lead teacher for a group of toddlers. I discovered very early on in life that I was a born leader. I would put candy in the mailbox for the mailman, and volunteer at local shelters all before I reached Middle School.
Wow! That’s impressive! How long have you been working at the daycare?
Thank You! I have been an employee of Simply Kids for about six months now, and I plan to transfer once I relocate to Arizona. I am not sure how I will handle a job that doesn’t involve the caring of children. Every time I walk inside the classroom, I get a euphoric feeling; smiling faces and shining personalities make my day worthwhile.
So when did you first start working with children?
My first experience with children was in the summer of 2008. I was one of twenty students chosen to represent my community, state, and nation in the underdeveloped cities of Africa. My entire experience consisted of working with children. The trip lasted five and a half weeks, and I was able to volunteer at three different sites.
I spent almost six weeks volunteering in both Namibia and South Africa. Our first destination was Eenhana, Namibia. There, we worked with the community to build homes. I also had the privilege to be a Nurses’ aide. My duties included documenting temperature readings and weight/height measurements for many of the children in the community. I would be on the work site from 8-4:30 on a daily basis. I looked forward to my midday breaks, because I had the opportunity to play with the children. We would play tag, and I introduced them to “Ring around the Rosy.”
I spent the remainder of my trip in South Africa. We visited the Sinegugu School. The community was gregarious and welcoming. Although I was hesitant to take on such tasks, I became involved with teaching, Physical Education classes. I also helped to prepare six new classrooms for the school. My last stop was the Emtshawazo School. At Emtshawazo, we completed similar work to that at Sinegugu School. At this school, I was able to spend more time to spend with the children. My favorite part of working there was teaching Math and Science to a class of more than 17 students.
That’s so great. So what would you say has been your most difficult leadership test?
Great question! I think it has been to be able to tell Americans about my experience in Africa. As a proud advocate for Africa and volunteerism, I feel like it is my duty to spread the word about volunteering around the world. Switching from a luxurious lifestyle to a workers’ lifestyle was not hard for me at all because I gained so much knowledge. Daily things we view as necessities suddenly seem to lose value, and I wish more people could view the world through the eyes of a person that lives in an underdeveloped country. The quote from the song “Africa” by The Paul Coleman Trio, “Africa-I came to change you, but instead you changed me,” perfectly illustrates my experience in Africa.
How do you hope to be an advocate over the next few years in school and your career?
My primary goal is to become involved in leadership clubs on campus. I am also working on creating a non-profit organization targeting women and self-acceptance. I am working with a friend who resides in Kenya on a non-profit organization he created, The Urban Hope Project. This program targets youth in challenging communities. I also plan to volunteer weekends at any place needing assistance. I would prefer to work with Children’s Hospitals and Animal Shelters.
Do you want to talk a bit more about creating your non-profit? Why women and self-acceptance?
As I was growing up, I felt as if I was a victim to society. Magazines and the media place a lot pressure on women and their looks. I struggled with trying to be someone I was not by creating different looks to be like someone else. In the midst of struggling with my look, I learned that I was born Latoya Lee for a reason, and in order to be a leader I have to be positive within myself. I am proud to say that I love myself, and take pride in who I am. I want to share my story, and hopefully encourage and motivate girls, and women of all ages to take pride in their skin, hair texture, and features.
That’s great! What advice do you have for young women who want to be leaders in their schools/communities, etc?
What are you waiting for? We must be the change we wish to see in this world. Do not let fear, doubt, or worry hold you back. Come up with a plan and put it into action. Find individuals with the same goals and aspirations as you to befriend, and surround yourself with people who encourage and build you up. Positive thinking is the root to success. In whatever you do go above and beyond. Good Luck!
That’s great advice. Who is one woman leader who inspires you? Who is your role model/mentor?
One woman leader in the media who inspires me is Angelina Jolie. She is a Good Will Ambassador, and has traveled the world volunteering, donating, and spreading love. My role model is my older sister. She has traveled to Israel, and recently visited Belize on a Children’s Crusade. In everything I do, she is my backbone and guide. I admire her leadership qualities and in return she admires mine. I am grateful to have her in my life.