Growing up in a household with a fairly strong male presence and simply living in a male-dominated world, I am forever grateful for the strong women that chose to become a part of my life and, more importantly, change it for the better. I was given the chance to be around influential women who were not only doing things to change my daily life but also the society that I was living in. While teaching me how to advance as a woman in America, they were leading lives as teachers and businesswomen. To my role models, I say thank you for molding me to be the best student, athlete, and woman I could be.

Having role models such as these taught me three very crucial things that I choose to carry with me all the time: I am equal, I am valuable, and I am independent.

Whether it was on the volleyball court or in the classroom I was taught to believe that I should see myself as equal. No matter if they were more athletic than me or had more knowledge on a subject, I could be just as smart and just as amazing as anyone in the course. I always had someone encouraging me to do better and be better. It was this type of encouragement that enabled me to compete successfully. I knew that I needed to work hard, not only to be seen as an equal but also to be respected.

Thank you to these amazing role models for instilling an important concept in me: I have value. In a world where women are underappreciated in the workforce, I was taught that despite the hateful comments of some saying “you can’t” or “you shouldn’t” be able to complete a task, it is good to persevere.

Michelle Obama has a quote that said: “Whether you come from a council estate or a country estate, your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude.” Although Michelle Obama was not able to be as present in my life as I would have liked (living with such a boss like her would have been amazing), she still has played a large role in my life. She has taught me that I have value and worth in spite of my background.

The most important lesson I have learned is that I am independent. Living as a woman in society, we are taught that it is okay to be dependent on the men in our lives. However, in order to advance in society, it is crucial that we become independent. Women such as my mother and my older sister, who I saw working tirelessly throughout my lives, proved that women could contribute to the family in ways more than just cooking and taking care of their children. My mother not only takes care of her children but also works and attends school to achieve her dreams. Watching her do both as I grew up gave me the confidence to be my own person and pursue my dreams.

So I thank my mother and my sister for enabling me with the confidence to achieve any dream that I may have had. There was no limit to what I could achieve with role models constantly pushing me to be the best. There is no true way to repay them besides taking what I have learned and use it to change the world. To my strong female role models, I say thank you and continue to inspire.