Today we have an interview featuring Arianna who is a senior and soon to be high school graduate!

Today we have an interview featuring Arianna who is a senior and soon to be high school graduate! Arianna talks about her struggles with racism and her acceptance into Duke University, check it out! 

How was your childhood? What shaped you into the person you are today?

I owe who I am today to my parents and the various environments that I was raised in. My childhood was a bit different than most. My dad was in the military for most of it, so he was away serving the country. His brave but humorous personality is why I am so lighthearted and optimistic. He taught me how to not hold grudges and to be merciful. My beautiful mother, who had to raise me & my sister for a majority of my pre-adolescence, carried a strong, unwavering determination to go work, to involve me & my sister in extra-curricular activities, and to always communicate and comfort me & my sister. That was essential to my growing process and it helped me become the confident and bold person that I am today. In addition, we began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and that was a major game changer for me personally. Although I had my individual struggles being different from other kids – not celebrating holidays, doing “normal” things, etc. –  that is really what helped me to appreciate my differences and the differences of others. I eventually became more confident in who I am as a person, and began to understand that a relationship with God, family, and good associates is the ultimate key to happiness. 

Growing up, did you ever struggle with anything? If so, how did you overcome those struggles? 

Growing up, I lived in a small city in Tennessee. This town was lovely in many ways, but ugly in others. Considering that it was a small rural town in the south that was predominantly white, there were definitely issues with racism. I had a difficult time as a child understanding this situation, but things did start to become clear to me. For instance, I started to realize that a lot of the black children there had identity issues. Some were completely, for a lack of better terms, “white washed,” while others strove to prove their “blackness” by taking on the negative stereotype that society has plagued upon black people. Most of these kids lost themselves in the process of trying to be something they were not. My issue was trying to straggle between the two divisions the black community created in the town. Who was I going to be? I was confused at points. I even began to internalize it into anger against white people although I had white friends, peers and adults who sincerely cared about me. I think I overcame this through love. Self-love and love for others. I soon recognized that you cannot change people. With the 2008 election, people’s real feeling of racism really began to show in that town. But I knew that I couldn’t fight fire with fire, it could only be combated through love. I began to appreciate and embrace my black heritage and ancestry, instead of being ashamed of it. Along with trying to understand and appreciate the cultural aspects and differences of my classmates. 

What advice would you give to girls who may have similar struggles? 

For girls having to deal with racism or prejudice of any kind, I would advise them to face it and embrace it. What I mean by that is that if you begin to run away from the issue, you may find yourself a part of the problem as you ignore it and internalize feelings of hatred. If at any moment in time you feel like someone slighted you in a way that hurt your existence, you need to let them know. Most of the time, people are unaware that they are being negative. Once I began having these conversations with my white friends about how I felt, which were uncomfortable at times, they began to open their hearts too. This issue of racism that has disgraced our nation for centuries is a discussion that must be held on both sides from both perspectives. So do not shut yourself off from the “opposers” because you may not ever get the closure you need, and you could miss out on forging some amazing relationships. But the ultimate key to dealing with racism is to let go of the resentment you have for racists and to extend mercy, love, and compassion to them. That is the only way to combat racism without allowing hurt or hatred to enter your own heart. 

How was it getting accepted into Duke University? What obstacles did you face throughout your high school years? 

As I am responding to this question, I realize that all 17 years of my life was a part of the process of getting into Duke University. All of the struggles, obstacles, successes, and good times are what molded me into the person I am today. Those life experiences taught me that nothing will ever be handed to you in this life. As cliche as this is, you have to work hard. For me, that meant studying until I understood a concept, which could mean staying up until 12 a.m. and waking up at 4 a.m. Another key was asking questions. I certainly did not know and still don’t know everything, so the only way to figure those things out is to just ask. Also, my life taught me to just have fun with anything you do. When I am handed a task that I am not too fond of, I just have to think of it in an optimistic way. Then it transforms from a job to an exciting event. Throughout high school, I did face the obstacle of not having the seemingly “cool” social life that everyone else did. While others were partying, going on weekend trips, I was working hard for my future and serving my God. At first, this may have suppressed my high energetic spirit, but then I realized that there was a whole cohort of people at my school who were experiencing the same thing. I eventually forged friendships with them and my social life has been out of this world! 

What are your 5 year goals? 

In 5 years, I see myself happy. I see myself, having a close relationship with my God, Jehovah. I see myself, being a recent graduate of Duke University’s outstanding Biomedical Engineering program, with a job or internship of some sort. I see myself, enjoying using math and science to create devices or methods that will improve people’s health conditions. I ultimately want to be at a point where I am actively making a difference in the lives of others. Effective change and improvements. 

We truly believe you will accomplish everything you set out to achieve!