Third Culture Mid

by Michele (Cruz) Phillips, ’98

I’ll never fit in. That’s one of my best qualities.” – Terri Willingham

I’m a Third Culture Kid (TCK).  For those who don’t know the term, a TCK is someone whose childhood years were affected by multiple cultures. Most of the time the term is used for kids who are expats and spent much of their childhood moving from one country to another.  But I didn’t. In fact, my parents still live in the same house I grew up in.

I’m on the far right, and apparently a big Tigger fan

My dad boarding the plane to America, 1970

I’m a TCK because I’m a first-generation immigrant.  My parents came from the Philippines in 1970 and I’m the only natural born citizen in my family. So we had our American life on the outside, our Filipino life in the inside, and I operated somewhere in between. We lived in a predominantly white neighborhood; in elementary school, kids asked me if I was Chinese, Japanese, or Black. Older kids would yell “Chink” when I walked through the school hallway.  No one knew what Filipino was, or at least that’s how I remember it. Maybe that’s just because these are the memories that stick with me.

My sister Anna and I in 80’s fashion

I remember bringing a tin of Barquillos to a school Christmas party only to have it left untouched, so the next party I begged my mom to make peanut butter on celery sticks instead.  I remember feeling uncomfortable having to call my sister “Ate” or my brother “Kuya” out in public because I didn’t want to have to explain it was “Tagalog”. I can remember the waiter’s face when he couldn’t understand my parents’ orders because of their accent. I can still feel the embarrassment, the guilt of feeling embarrassed, and the anger of wanting to punch the waiter in the face.  I remember feeling conscious when my parents made a big (loud) deal of seeing another Filipino family in the grocery store and everyone found out they grew up near each other. Even our doctor was Filipino. For goodness sake, I thought back then. Can’t we just. Blend. IN?

The life of a TCK can be complicated.  It can be lonely since you never feel like you quite fit in.  You want to connect with the people from one side of your life, but are not sure how that will impact the other side.  You worry somehow you will be alienated. You’re not on either side. You learn to live on the outside of your two worlds, moving in and out and knowing how to blend in just enough.  Sound familiar? Yes, it’s not unlike being a female midshipman (in the 90’s at least).

Plebe year in the Chapel

The traits of a TCK served me well in some ways while at the academy.  TCK’s can easily adapt. They make acquaintances easily. They are skilled at flying under the radar so nobody will notice them.  The downfall is deep connections are harder, and that, in particular, was vital to my well being at USNA. It’s not that there weren’t opportunities to connect.  I vaguely remember networking opportunities for female mids only (Sharon Disher ‘80 spoke at one). I think there was an Asian American Club and a Filipino American Club.  But my memory is faint because I never took full advantage of these potential support networks. Some small part of me felt like participating in these minority groups meant I needed them, and if I needed them, then it meant I wasn’t good enough to do this on my own.  Perhaps it was the little girl in me (the one that wanted to punch that waiter in the face) trying to say I can do this and I belong.

Here with my sponsor brothers and sister (there were more!)

I was adopted by a Filipino sponsor family that took me in along with other Filipino midshipmen.  Ironically, I had spent my whole childhood feeling out of place, and yet among other Filipino mids I felt too white! It was my own insecurities keeping me from making better connections, but I will be forever grateful for their generosity. However I look back on that time with a twinge of regret.  Regret that I did not build on the support network that was laid out for me. Regret that I felt so much like I had to blend in, that I let go of some parts of who I really was.

Here with my sponsor mom and sisters

I’m not alone. Since the creation of Sisterhood of Mother B, other women have written emails or comments echoing these same feelings of wishing they had done better. We can’t change the past but we can certainly influence our future. And let me tell you, as a “double” minority, hiding our differences and huddling in smaller groups is not the way ahead.  My parents had it right all along: be proud of what makes you different. Share those bizarre traditions because everyone’s got them, trust me. Seek out others like you and support them – loudly. Advocate for one another. Look for others who are earlier on their path and lend a hand. Help them make better choices and give them the advice you wish you had known all along. Be open about struggles you are having, because others are going through the same thing. But lastly, and probably most importantly, if you are reading this and you are still at the point in your path where you aren’t ready or sure how to reach out – it’s ok. I see you. I’ve been there, too. It took me some time, and when you’re ready you’ll know. We are here waiting.

Midshipmen past and present ‘80-‘21 at the Officer Women’s Leadership Symposium, April 2019


She’s Got the Look

by Anna Cruz ‘93

We were warming up for another day of “peppering” before volleyball practice.  It was plebe year, so we shared our stories of making it through come-arounds, how cutting your t-shirt halfway helped give you a less bulkier uniform “tuck”, and how it was nice to not have an away match next weekend, so we’d get to watch a home football game for a change.

My classmate and teammate Courtney asked me,  “Hey, LT X watched us play and she thinks you and I would be perfect for an Army-Navy spirit spot video!  Wanna do that?!”.  LT X was a Public Affairs Officer on the yard at the time.  My response —”Sure!” (Cool, that meant we didn’t have to march on with the Brigade!  By the way, I had no idea yet what a spirit spot video was).

We were instructed to show up at Navy Stadium a good couple of hours before the game.  And next thing you know, LT X is doing our makeup.  “We have to accentuate your features for on camera”.  I really had no idea how MUCH makeup that meant. We did all the motions and gestures as LT told us.  You’ll see in the video.  Courtney’s assignment is at 1:35 and mine at 2:50. Afterward, once the Brigade marched on and made it to the stands, we were given one last act.

LT:  “Now walk down in the crowd of midshipmen with big smiles, and pretend like you’re chatting and having a great time.  Find a seat, and cheer for the team!”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  We’re female plebes and have loads of cosmetics on.

Those few minutes of stares as we laughed with leisure.  I wasn’t sure what made me more uncomfortable… upperclass males thinking we were being too much like women, or upperclass females thinking we were ruining it for the rest of the Sisters.  Maybe the most uncomfortable feeling was seeing clips of the video on the Jumbotron at Army-Navy ‘89 at Giants Stadium.  People cheered, people snickered. There, on the Jumbotron, to the tune of “She’s Got the Look”, were clips of males doing badass things like driving submarines to launch ballistic missiles, or funny things like chasing Whoops.  But Court had to flip her hair?  And I blinked… in slow motion?

Sure that was embarrassing, but the most uncomfortable and demeaning moment was the Monday after the video shoot, when my second class (male) stopped me in the p-way:

“Cruz, what the hell were you doing at the football game?”

“No excuse Sir”

“No, really, what was that?!”

“I’ll find out Sir.”

“My girlfriend doesn’t wear that much makeup.  You looked like a whore!”

I spoke with Courtney recently.  She reminded me that her Monday was worse.  The upperclass females in her company tore her apart!

Bam.  That was it.  Don’t do anything a “normal” woman would do.  Instead, just fit in.  Don’t be a woman.  Don’t do anything that someone could perceive as you asking for attention.

What exactly was the look we were supposed to have in that video?  It’s funny because 30 years later, I’m still not sure. It looks like the video gave women three choices (in this order): stoic professional woman, fun and flippy hair girl, or slow motion blinking seductress.  I’m thankful to see that today’s female midshipmen feel more empowered and have the confidence to celebrate their femininity.

To some degree, I think some of us women from the older generation think we need to continue knowing when to be “one of the guys”.  Courtney has come across it still in aviation as an airline pilot.  I travel a lot for work and am constantly meeting new colleagues, struggling between being “just everyday me” or recognizing that small window you have to make a first impression that could last.

Over the years I’ve learned so I remind myself:

Be the woman you feel you are.

Be friendly.

Be kind.

Smile often.  It’s a universal language.

When you don’t feel like smiling, smile anyway because that will be a positive influence on somebody for that day. And do your best to surround yourself with those who smile.  I’ve found those are the things people worth knowing recognize in “your look”.

Video Link:  “She’s Got the Look”; Army-Navy Spirit Spot Video; Dec’89.

Anna and Courtney, Service Selection night 1993. 

Play Like a Girl / USNA Volleyball ‘93 “minus 2”

When we weren’t playing volleyball

February 2017.  That coincidental day when my parents recognized Courtney as they boarded their plane.  She was the pilot for that flight, and she safely flew them from Long Island to Baltimore!

Our firstie year, then at our 20 year reunion.

Recollections from the Class of 1980

Why they Persevered
By Shannon Martin ’98

On 28 May 1980, the first class of women graduated from the Naval Academy.  It’s complicated being the first one to do anything, maybe especially to blaze the trail of a minority at a Service Academy.  In the summer of 1976, 81 women joined the ranks of Midshipmen.  Four years later 55 of them graduated and commissioned in the Navy and Marine Corps. We often say that Midshipmen live in a fishbowl, but these women lived in a petri dish, constantly under a microscope.  The press, politicians, military leadership and the nation were interested in their experiences, successes and failures.  Their public comments were parsed and often twisted in ways that would be difficult for a much more experienced adult to handle.  One individual’s public comment could affect all of the women in some way.  One respondent stated, “After Christmas break my plebe year, my roommates and I were screamed at by three upperclassmen because of comments in a newspaper given by one of our female classmates.”

A few months ago, when the Sisterhood of Mother B asked these women to fill out a questionnaire, it is no surprise that some chose not to participate.  Many never replied.  Others replied to say that they had no interest in reopening that chapter – that they still had nightmares about their time at the Academy.  Some wondered if others felt the same (many do).  Still others answered reluctantly, wanting to share their journey with the Sisterhood so that we could understand and maybe, so that they could heal, but worried their words would once again be twisted or misconstrued.  There were those that answered stridently and with passion, glad for the opportunity to speak their truth.  We are thankful for all of them – the women who made our journey possible.

This is the first in a series of articles that will take a closer look at the answers to this survey and some of the conversations that ensued over email because of it.  The questionnaire involved more than 20 questions covering time at the Naval Academy, in the Fleet and beyond.  Thirteen women from the Class of 1980 have filled out the questionnaire for public release so far – all of them graduates, all of them Navy. We wanted to explore and share these experiences with the Sisterhood and the body of alumni at large.  In honor of the anniversary of the Class of ’80’s commissioning and the recent commissioning of the Class of ’19, this first article explores why they stayed and what they would tell their younger selves if they could take a trip back to their time as Midshipmen.

Fear, Commitment and Grit

Why did they stay in the openly hostile environment of Bancroft Hall? In some ways, the reasons might sound familiar to later classes.  We all had a classmate who had no choice – there was no money for college or other options back home.  We knew someone who faced familial and social pressure to stay and who felt they lacked the guts to disappoint mom and dad.  There are the patriots who always wanted to serve and knew their whole life that the Naval Academy and the Navy were what they wanted to pursue. Living life in the petri dish both instilled a determination to finish and sometimes increased the feeling of being trapped in the conundrum of wanting to leave, but knowing many would view this as failure of the entire experiment.

Jill Votaw, Marjorie Morley, Peggy Feldmann and Tina D’Ercole credit their goals to serve their country for their success at the Naval Academy—Each had a life-long dream that included the Naval Academy, and nothing was going to stand in their way.  Kathy Clore and USNAAA Women’s SIG President, Barbette Lowndes, expressed the concern that they either didn’t want their parents to have to pay for school or knew their parents could not afford other opportunities.  However, both of them also expressed the desire to succeed.  Barbette called it “SSS – too scared, too stubborn, too stupid to quit.”  Others also felt the fear of leaving, Elizabeth Rowe expresses this so well, “Once I was there, I felt I had no choice.  The more attention I got, the less options I felt.  Looking back, that seems so silly, but at that age, it felt insurmountable.”

One woman considered resignation for reasons Midshipmen throughout the years have considered leaving. “I actually resigned and did most of my out-processing during the summer after my second year.  I did it for a number of reasons, most of which boiled down to not having a clue what they would do with our class for service selection.  That uncertainty, coupled with my resolve to get married and have a family and my lack of a vision about how that would possibly work made resignation seem like the only option.  (Also – remember this was 1978 – not a lot of role models around).   My parents urged me to stay, and of course, I talked to many folks ‘on the way out.’  Eventually I changed my mind and withdrew my papers.”

But she stayed for the most common reason of all, to prove that she could. “The main reason I graduated was to prove to myself, and the world, that I could.  As we all know, USNA gets to be a lot more fun the closer you get to graduation, so that helped as well once we got past the midpoint and especially into first class year. Ultimately I was very proud of what we did.

Many stayed not just because of their internal motivation to succeed or the need to stay for family or society.  Their fellow Midshipmen inspired them in ways that perhaps those men never expected.  Three of the women who responded specifically credit their male upperclassmen and classmates for their drive to stay and graduate. For two of them, specific instances on I-Day fueled their fire for four long years.  Sharon Disher, author of the book First Class, wrote, “At dinner on I-Day, my platoon leader told me he didn’t want women in his school, he didn’t like women in his school and it would be his mission to see that I was gone long before he graduated.  I wanted to prove him wrong.  And I wanted to serve in the military no matter what type of school I went to.” Maureen Nunez’s story is eerily similar.  “On I-Day, as I chopped into Bancroft Hall for the first time, a firstie stopped me just inside the Rotunda, looked at my name tag and started yelling at me that he was going to see to it that I never graduated from HIS Academy.  At that moment, I decided that I would graduate, no matter what it took.  I had wanted to go to the Naval Academy and serve my Country for as long as I could remember, and I was not going to let anyone take it away from me just because he didn’t want women there.” For Stefanie Goebel and others, there was no single moment driving them to graduation, but the pervasive culture that so many wanted the women to leave steeled their resolve.  As Stefanie stated, “The reason I made sure to stay and graduate was simply knowing how much the men (or many of the men) wanted us to quit. This gave me the strongest possible motivation to persevere and stay the course. I would never ever give them the satisfaction to see one more of us leave.”

Advice to Their Younger Selves

With few mentors and an unknown future in the Fleet, 55 women graduated.  The Academy was tough on them.  They were tough on each other and on themselves.  They were isolated from each other. Many of them still have nightmares of their time at school.  They have memories of experiences that no woman—no person—should have to endure.  They answered our call for information, because they want the classes behind them to have it better.  To that end, they offer current midshipmen – and all of us – the advice that they would give their younger selves.

It is OK to leave.  You won’t be letting women down by quitting, your parents will still love you. —Kathy Clore

1) Get out there and experience what was offered.  Go to concerts, plays, pep rallies, or sporting events (not just the mandatory events in plebe year). 
2) You are smarter than you think you are.  I didn’t have anyone pushing me to believe in myself academically.  Telling me to study more is not the same as building confidence in my efforts.
—Barbette Lowndes

Be more forgiving or yourself.  Do your best.  Help others.  Take some risks—but not the dangerous kind.  And for Heaven’s sake, go “over the wall” at least once!
—Tina De’Ercole

1) Don’t be so afraid of standing out in the crowd or standing up for yourself (our favorite survival mechanism was to keep head low and stay out of the line of attention).  You have every right to be where you are and do what you need and want to do – you don’t have to take s*&t from anyone.
2) Find something you really love to do and learn about instead of just trying to get grades/ credits or punch tickets.
3) Life is (hopefully) long, so don’t have too short a horizon.  That is, you will still be REALLY young when your service commitment is over!  USNA and active duty commitment is but a short chapter in your life.  (Real adults did try to tell me this ☺).
4) See as much of the world as you can while you’re in the Navy.

Get involved in a female sports team, they had access to more women without pressure to not congregate.  I remember at the beginning of Plebe Summer, my Squad Leader, a 1/C Midshipman, recommended that the women not band together ‘like the blacks’, we needed to focus on integrating with our male classmates.  We ended up being isolated in 2-4 women companies.  I was very lucky to have Melissa Harrington as my roommate. We were very close throughout the four years, she was definitely a positive influence and helped me get through the tough times.—Carol Desmarais Hoffman

Hang in there, it’s all worth it! —Jill Hawkins Votaw

You’ll be fine. Don’t let them get you down. It’s their problem, not yours.
—Elizabeth Belzer Rowe

That standing up for yourself and brushing back the bullies is empowering and important.  That one woman making a mistake does not reflect on all women.  That one man being a bully does not make them all bullies.  That anyone who acts one way in a one-on-one setting, but differently in a group/mob setting should be avoided.  That naval officers are not all enlightened.  That crying is OK if nobody sees you.  That if someone truly loves you, they will be proud of you and what you’ve accomplished.  That women should support other women- we have it hard enough without battling or belittling each other.
—Maureen Foley Nunez

Don’t date a firstie (senior) as a plebe. —Sharon Hanley Disher

Perhaps I’d tell myself to not take the bullshit so seriously and try to laugh a little everyday.  Hindsight is 20/20!! —Marjory Morley

Some moments here may seem like the worst you will ever encounter and that the difficulties will never end, but they will and you simply have to persevere and wait it out. Just like high school, many of your problems are specific to this unique place and will evaporate the day you graduate. Be kinder and more patient with yourself: you are young and still growing up and finding your way. You cannot know everything you need to know to succeed here. Like most of life, only trial and error will teach you what you need to know. Lean on your friends more for support and advice, and find mentors. There are always adults around you who are waiting to be asked to mentor you. Look for ways to mentor the women who are coming behind you. Tell them what you would have liked to know when you arrived!—Stefanie Goebel

Here is what I have been telling my younger self for the last four years – our daughter graduated from USNA last week with the Class of 2019.
1.)  Grades do matter – there are so many additional opportunities in the Fleet but many of them require a 3.0 or 3.2 GPA to apply;
2.) Have fun but weigh the consequences; and
3.) Do not let your fears rule your Spirit.
For me, 40 years ago – #1 still holds, 2.) Do more ECAs, not just swim, 3.) Learn to love running—Peggy Feldmann

Thank you, women of the Class of 1980 for sharing a piece of yourselves with us.  While we cannot fully understand the trials you endured, we appreciate your sacrifices.  We look forward to sharing more in the weeks and months ahead.











Into the Wild Blue Yonder

(How I Managed a Torn ACL, my Love of Dentistry and a Marine)
By Rachelle Nowlin ’92

So, my household goods and I have moved every leap year. It seems every other tour took me overseas or home from there, so my furniture has been to four Olympics while I watch the Games from folding lawn chairs in echoingly empty rooms. In the summer of ’92, after a fantastic 45 days of Cox Fund madness in Spain, I nursed my second ACL reconstruction. Delaying flight school (I selected NFO) was a great thing – I got to help Carla Criste and Karen Boyle coach the track team. On to Pensacola, joining 300 of my closest friends in waiting for $$ to drop so that we could fly for one week and sit around in the Ensign Pool for months in between.

Turns out I loved flight school, but wasn’t so great at flying. A third ACL tear on the same knee landed me back on injured reserve, thus the brown shoes and I made a clean break. What to do with my life, now?  I was shooting the bull with one of our fixed-wing instructors one day while sitting on phone watch at the training wing office. He was stressing his MCAT exams, hoping to become a doctor. Seems there was a neat pathway from active duty to medical school. What the heck?  I checked out the literature and made a phone call or two, and, lo and behold, while Atlanta got ready for the XXVI Olympiad, I was packing for the University of Florida College of Dentistry.

Gator Nation. Danny Weurffel won the Heisman while I was dissecting cadavers and carving wax bicuspids. The Health Professions Scholarship Program is one of the best deals in the military. I loved my time at UF, and I loved my new profession. The fact that I got to go back to the Navy and take care of my friends was an added bonus. From Gainesville, I spent a year at NAS Fallon, NV. I dubbed my clinic “Top Gums.”  I took a hot-fill billet at Naval Hospital Okinawa- best job I’ve ever had. In ’04 it was on to New Orleans, Louisiana, where I fell in love – with a city and a cute Marine. We weathered Katrina and decided to make the Big Easy our forever home. I decided to separate and open a private practice on St. Charles Avenue. But fate and the DoD had other plans.

They BRAC’ed MARFORRES and NAVRES, and my husband’s billet evaporated. The Marine Corps always equals at least one set of orders to Okinawa, so I packed once again for the overseas PCS, this time as a dependent spouse. UGH. I wasn’t ready to quit dentistry for 3 years, so I looked into GS options – nada. My Navy recruiter lost a bunch of my applications, and the Air Force guy was much more squared away (GASP!)  So as we unpacked the household goods, I found myself at Kadena Air Force Base Exchange shopping for a TV to watch the Games in London. I also had to pick up some pickles and ice cream, as we discovered we were pregnant before we were out of Temporary Lodging.  The Dental Squadron Commander was rather surprised to see a new officer who wasn’t in the possession of a single uniform item (let alone the maternity version) and hadn’t been to Commissioned Officer Training (COT) –  that’s Officer Indoctrination School (OIS), in Air Force-ese.

We figured it out, and I’ve been an Air Force Dentist who’s generally known as “the laughing blonde one who has wacky ideas.”  From Oki, we really thought I’d just hang up the boots, but they offered us joint assignments at MacDill AFB. I happily went back to Florida to reconnect with dental school friends. After a tour near old friends, it was inevitable that the detailers collaborated on twilight assignments to make us completely insane – The Pentagon.  Now, here I sit smack in the thick of it, 21 years active service from the gal who figured she’d do only the payback commitment as an NFO, and then pull chocks. I’m planning a retirement ceremony for 32 years to the day that I recited my first oath of office. Most assuredly it will be sweaty and bright there on Stribling Walk. I’ll be missing my dad, who loved Annapolis and consistently (to my chagrin) wore reg PT gear to run inner perimeters when he visited. But my amazing mom will be there, standing beside my best friend (who I was lucky enough to marry) and my two incredible kiddos. My “brothers” from 29th company and the track team will show up for the free food and beverages. Coolest of all is that the ladies I consider family will be there, too. Love to the ’92 Sisterhood. I’m forever blessed to have you as friends.

Leadership LINKS: Developing our Future Leaders

By Tracey Nicole Hayes ‘92

“It started with a dream and a prayer,” begins visionary founder, Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, U.S. Naval Academy, class of 2002, when asked how she brought together six Naval Academy graduates to form a nonprofit with a mission to offer leadership education that facilitates impactful living, spiritual and character development.

Natasha prayed for a connection to like-minded people who were interested in coming together with the understanding that whatever would be done together, united in faith, would be stronger than anything that could be done individually. She developed a list of names of men and women, all of whom were Naval Academy graduates from different generations and backgrounds.

Natasha holds dear a quote from cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Her initial thought was to create a network—a community—that would encourage and support one another in their dreams for the future. She envisioned a safe space where people could thrive individually and collectively, continue their personal and professional growth, and commit to raising up the next generation of leaders.

“When you attend a place like the Naval Academy, you’re taught the importance of honor, courage, commitment, giving it your best shot every time, being people of integrity, looking out for others and telling the truth,” Natasha says. These are the people she would choose to partner with, and she reached out to them in 2012.

Natasha contacted QuaWanna Reddick Bannarbie (1999), Tracey Nicole Hayes (1992), Arthur Johnson (1979), Davede Alexander (2001), and Tasya Lacy (1997), all of whom would become the founding board members.

The group was inspired by William Wilberforce and his group of friends referred to as “The Clapham Sect,” credited with ending the slave trade in England. This group of friends was bound together, sharing moral and spiritual values, a sense of mission and social activism, and a true love for one another. They did not shrink from tackling the problems of their day, and exercised their philanthropy on a generous scale. Natasha prayed the group—later to be named Leadership LINKS—would stand for something, take risks, and live unafraid.

Having a common and strong foundation, Leadership LINKS defined its core values of Love, Inspiration, Network, Knowledge and Service, with a vision to connect people with Purpose. In 2015, Leadership LINKS became incorporated in High Point, North Carolina as an official 501(c)3.

The flagship program is the “Walk in Purpose” Leadership Summer Program for Girls, which services rising 6th-10th grade girls in a holistic one-week day program. The summer program introduces girls to career fields traditionally underrepresented by women in positions of leadership, and includes STEM, Business and Entrepreneurship, Military and Government, Media and Arts, and International Justice. Community leaders provide hands-on leadership training using real-time interactive scenarios, tools, and experiences. The goals of the summer program include modeling female leadership, displaying appropriate and professional male-female interaction, challenging thoughts on what it means to be a leader, identifying individual goals, embracing differences in leadership traits, promoting collaboration in finding solutions to community challenges, and bringing out intrinsic leadership qualities through intentional group interaction. Last year, 33 girls from 16 different schools and six different states completed the program; this year, participation will be capped at 40 girls.

The “Walk in Purpose” Leadership Summer Program for Girls differs from other summer programs, as the program goals are supported by leading research, rooted in character-based leadership, and designed specifically for girls as early as sixth grade. Additionally, the program model emphasizes servant-leadership, has a built-in mentoring progression, and provides practical and professional learning and life skills to increase employability credentials. With almost 100 collective years of proven leadership experience, the Board of Directors are all military veterans, having devoted their lives to service in the military, government, church, academia, and local community.

Upon successful completion of the leadership summer program, girls are invited to participate in the follow-on mentoring program which includes women leader focused reading groups, bible study, college preparation, public speaking, community service, and networking. Mentees will also participate in college campus tours twice annually (one in state, one out of state), and an annual three-day Leadership Experience Trip.

Leadership LINKS believes in exposure and opportunity. Small groups of mentees are regularly invited to participate in adult professional networking opportunities, introducing them to community leaders and demonstrating leadership by example. In addition to local exposure and opportunities, Leadership LINKS has provided funding for international service and immersion trips for three mentees to travel to Nepal, Israel, and Japan.

Leadership LINKS is an all-volunteer organization, and 100% of the funds raised go into the established community programming. For additional information on the “Walk in Purpose” Leadership Summer Program for Girls or any of the programs and community offerings, and to learn how you can become a part of the Leadership LINKS network, visit or follow on social media (@LINKSLead (Twitter), @leadershiplinks (Instagram), and @leadershipLINKSinc (Facebook).


Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, Visionary Founder, Author, Mentor for Life and A Sojourner’s Truth


Tracey Nicole Hayes, Ph.D., Founding Board Member, Author, When You’re Called ‘Mommy’: The Joys and Heartbreak of Being a Foster Parent