I was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in West Africa, and immigrated to London to attend college. I moved to Boston in 1984. Leaving the security of my parents’ home at a young age was scary, and I have had to confront and overcome numerous challenges. I have been able to follow my dreams and overcome adversities because of the values of hard work, determination, perseverance, hope, and faith my parents had instilled in me. These values, and my clear vision for what I wanted in my life, have helped me to build my skills as a leader dedicated to serving others. As an immigrant and full-time working mother of three sons, persevering through challenging times has taught me patience, made me stronger, and helped me maintain the energy and motivation it takes to keep moving forward even when there are obstacles. Also, my important role as a parent means that I have to be efficient and effective so I can successfully balance work and life.

My progression from working as a bank clerk when I first moved to Boston, and not having any family and friends to support and guide my career, to being in my current position where I am making a difference in the lives of 12,000 vulnerable residents in the communities my organization serves, has required discipline, a steady focus, and a willingness to evaluate my experiences and learn from them. I continue to look for opportunities to remain current and appropriate so I can serve as a role model to others.

As a leader, I make it a personal priority to create energy in others, make things happen, pave the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, and empower others to act. I did not have a mentor to rely on, but had the strong support and example of my parents, especially my mother’s wisdom. I also joined several professional organizations that gave me access to resources and learning. Because of my experiences, I believe great leaders must be teachers, and should make the mentoring of others a priority.

When I speak with young people, I encourage them to pursue their dreams with a clear vision, determination and plan of execution; to make active changes when needed; and stay focused in spite of adversity and challenges.