Telling Her Story
DaShonta Sterling has learned to view life differently through having a Big Sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri. After she graduates from high school, she plans to also become a Big Sister, to mentor younger girls in Cape Girardeau and help them find peace within themselves as she has.
This is what Dashonta wrote about in her essay that won the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) Essay Contest in response to the question, “Once you graduate from high school and begin your career, how do you plan to give back to your community and help others?” DaShonta wrote the essay as an assignment for her JAG class, a state-based national nonprofit that helps young people who face challenges and display promise reach economic and academic success. Her teachers chose her essay to go on to the state-level essay contest, where the governor and Missouri first lady chose her because of her essay to present all of the schools’ winning essays on stage in Jefferson City, Mo., where she met Governor Mike Parson and Missouri First Lady Teresa Parson at a ceremony held at the Missouri State Capitol.
The success is one DaShonta has worked hard for; writing is not something that comes easily to her. Although she says she always knew she could be successful at school, she didn’t receive the knowledge and support she needed until she transferred to Central Academy. Before that, because she was struggling in school and felt she couldn’t keep up with it, she became frustrated and didn’t want to be there anymore — so much so that at one point in time, she stopped attending classes. When she enrolled at Central Academy, however, that changed. Now, she is set to graduate in March 2021.
This effort of perseverance makes winning the essay contest even sweeter.
“It meant everything,” DaShonta says about winning. “I went from being at the high school to failing my core classes and to not showing up to come to a different school with less kids and really putting all my knowledge to work, and it made me look at things different, real different.”
As the only girl amidst three brothers, DaShonta credits her Big Sister, Keke Glimer, for helping her learn to carry herself differently. Keke, DaShonta says, has been a positive female role model throughout her life. She has also helped DaShonta with her school work and talked with her if she gets in trouble at school, explaining to her why she should or shouldn’t behave in certain ways.
“She just took her time and got to learn me,” DaShonta says.
That has made all the difference to DaShonta. When she graduates, she plans to go to cosmetology school to become a cosmetologist and then attend Southeast Missouri State University to become a nurse. DaShonta hopes that when she is a Big Sister, she can also be a positive role model who is there for other girls like Keke is for her.
It is important for parents and other caring adults to be a positive role model in teenagers’ lives because it can truly make an impact, DaShonta says.
“Young people follow their parents’ steps and other people’s steps that they see around them,” DaShonta says. “If adults show their respect in the way that it’s supposed to be, teenagers will follow their lead. … It don’t make sense for a parent to guide their child in the wrong way. And a lot of people don’t see it as that, but anything you do, your child is watching you do.”
She also has words of wisdom to offer her peers and younger girls.
“Don’t try to fit in, don’t try to be like somebody else — be your own self. People going to hate regardless, but if you know your own self, you’ll know that you’re true,” DaShonta says. “I’m just me. I be me daily. I just try to stay in my own world because I don’t want to be like everybody else.”