My name is Morgan Gray. I am currently a senior at Mississippi State University majoring in History. Above all things, I am a first-generation student. This title means a lot to me, considering that my grandfather was only allowed to receive a third-grade education before he was forced to drop out of school and work in the fields of Mississippi. My mother was not allowed to go to college either, because her parents could not afford the cost of tuition. They were not informed about the resources they could use to prepare her for the next step of higher education.
Statistically speaking, I should not be here. It would be an understatement to say that I was not surrounded by people who saw my full potential. I was often bullied because of my weight, ethnicity, and lack of wealth at the elementary school I attended. I would go home and be verbally and physically abused by many loved ones. I was consistently ridiculed, oppressed, and overlooked in nearly every environment I was in.
At a young age, I was taught to speak correct English and to enunciate my words. Many of my black counterparts would tease me because my dialogue resembled that of a white woman. White students would shy away from me because my clothes were distasteful hand-me-downs, and I did not come from the same background as them. Needless to say, I was too white for the black kids, and I was too black for the white kids. These experiences taught me that no one wanted to hear my voice, and no one cared what I thought.
In an effort to better myself, I began to seek council with Janae Robinson at the Student Counseling Services on campus. I was severely depressed because of the magnitude of loss that I had experienced. I did not see the potential of my own life and did not have a greater understand of my purpose in the world. I was diagnosed with depression in Spring 2018. I suffer from situational depression, the result of childhood neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and bullying throughout my life.
At Mississippi State University, I was presented with an amazing opportunity: to be the person I knew I could be. I forgave myself for the horrible things that I could not change. I learned to love myself despite my flaws. One day, I came to the realization that someone else’s beauty is not the absence of my own. I did not want people to judge me based on my materialistic possessions, but solely off my character and work ethic. I learned to value my own self-worth and to take pride in myself regardless of what society says.
I take the time to indulge in myself, and to share the importance of mental health and self-love. My demeanor improved drastically once I changed my mindset. Now, I am more focused on my career, the wants and needs of my community, and the importance of educating myself about diversity and leadership. I can say that my confidence and courage can be witnessed in the way that I speak and dress. Without a shadow of a doubt, my presence is acknowledged and accepted in every environment that I enter. Because of my boldness, elegance, and resilience, my peers and mentors hold me to a higher standard. This motivates me to be the best version of myself at all times.
The general theme of my life during this period is to consider the subtler spiritual truths that give my life dimension and meaning. My main challenge is to question how far I have come in an effort to fulfill my ideals, and to identify what changes I should make.
Now, I currently serve as the Vice President of the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center’s I.D.E.A.L. Woman. Our organization is composed of women who value academic excellence, professional growth, leadership, womanhood, and community service. Our goal is not only to succeed in all endeavors, but to excel beyond typical expectations. We encourage and motivate women to establish and use leadership skills that will not only enhance themselves, but also the individuals they come in contact with.
I devote my life to giving back to my community and aiding those who are in need. Currently, I am a Youth Development Professional at the Boys and Girls Club of the Golden Triangle of Starkville. This experience is extremely eye-opening because I have the privilege to interact with a new generation. I get hands-on experience with their problems, and I have the opportunity to help my students grow and learn.
Now, I realize that in order for me to effectively aid my community, I had to understand it in its entirety. I started to understand that my people were starting to lose their place in society. They did not have a good understanding of mental health, or of the importance of supporting themselves or others; they were not aware of their history and the vital role our ancestors played in building this nation.
Once I realized this, I took the initiative to learn about the past so I could understand the present, which would aid me in predicting my future. The goal is to dedicate myself to something bigger than my surroundings. It is now time for me to open up, grow bigger, and take pride in my scars. This will let all of my past selves shine through.