Education – Prom Night: Van Steuben High School​ Toi Davenport and friends

Bright smiles lead the way for six teens as they open a door to a world they’ve never known.​Sparkly formalwear helps usher them into a new phase of life. Like the lively, idealistic girls pictured here, I, too was ready to take on the world ten years ago when I graduated from high school.

​But it came with a hefty price tag. Noticing my dreams and the world ahead of me, I knew that the transition from girlhood to womanhood would be more than the difference between high school and college. It meant transitioning into a world that I would shape, a future where I’d eventually be able to call the shots, but most importantly, the survival of the fittest.​

As the youngest of three, I was forced early to learn how to advocate for myself. Simple lessons my mother taught me like keeping track of my own doctor’s visits, and holding my files in a special place, started me on and early track of​ independence and responsibility. It was then that I learned that only the strong can survive college and make it in the “real world.”

I’d always been a studious child, but agreeing to put aside childish ways, accept the invaluable advice given to me by my parents, family members, peers and mentors, developing a faith life and finally putting into action the lessons that had been poured into me from the birth took me to a consciousness that I’d never seen before.

The consciousness gave me the courage to chase my dream of becoming a news correspondent.

While in graduate school, I began to see my career form before my very eyes. In addition to achieving good grades in Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism broadcast Masters program, I made an extra effort to learn other forms of media, subjects and skill sets to make me more marketable in the industry. I took that same consciousness and ambition to several networking events and coffee chats with industry pros who were kind enough to give advice and help steer me into my dream. It was that same consciousness that after working two years as editor for AOL’s Patch.com, gave me the courage to take the leap of faith and pursue freelancing full-time. The same consciousness took me to the 2012 London Olympic Games with no initial plan of how I’d report from there, other than the strong desire, skills to fall back on and knowledge that I could make anything happen. And I did.

​I consider myself living proof that only the strong do survive. Recognize your strength. Take the sound advice from others. Most importantly, apply these values to life so that you, too, may serve as an example for these six girls.