Know Your Worth

Know Your Worth

“When you know your worth, no one can make you feel worthless.”-Anonymous

As a kid, I heard that quote and others like it quite a bit, but it didn’t resonate with me until recently. The importance of self-worth is what drives much of what I do today. I hope I can help people, especially kids, understand there is greatness in all of us, regardless of what people on the outside may say about you or where you come from. One of my earliest memories is my introduction to my kindergarten teacher. I was five years old. My family and I just moved to New Jersey from Germany. Days before the school year began, my mom and I visited my new school, B. Bernice Young Elementary School. My new teacher, Mrs. K, took us on an extended tour. Towards the end of the tour, Mrs. K suggested that I be placed in the special needs kindergarten class. She felt as though I would have a hard time keeping up in her class because I spent the first five years of my life in a foreign country and never went to pre-k. She felt comfortable saying this after knowing me for about an hour. My mom and I were both offended, and my mom’s poise and self-control levels must’ve been at all-time highs that day because she didn’t react outside of politely declining Mrs. K’s suggestion. The moment has obviously stuck with me through the years, but fortunately, I didn’t allow her low expectations to affect my self-worth. If I didn’t have parents that constantly uplifted me and assured me of my intelligence, her comments would’ve had a negative effect on me. It took me a while to learn that I was privileged to grow up in a household like mine.

My family and I moved around a lot, but having someone attempt to impose their low expectations on me, became a constant variable of my childhood, despite being an A+ student at every school and never having any major behavioral issues. It was an issue that continued all the way through college. I graduated high school as the president of the school’s chapter of the National Beta Club, captain of the basketball team, and the class Valedictorian with a 4.5 GPA and a long list of honors, yet somehow, I came across professors with low expectations of me in my first year at college.

At Clemson University, I earned my Bachelor’s Degree of Art in Architecture with a minor in Spanish-American Area Studies. Before I graduated, I co-founded Clemson’s chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students, became a founding brother of the Aristobulus Chapter of Alpha Rho Chi, and won a few leadership awards and grants. I felt as though I had accomplished a lot, yet after being accepted into Clemson’s School of Architecture’s graduate program, the first comment I received from one of my peers was “I’m surprised you got in too.”

This is why I founded Pledge of Excellence. Kids, especially those of minority families and low-income communities, are going to come across a lot of unwarranted doubt from others in their lives. That outside doubt can cause any kid to truly doubt themselves, especially if they don’t have a support system. Pledge of Excellence strives to be that support system. I want to counter that inevitable doubt by instilling high self-expectations.

Kids need to hear from the mouths of others, as well as their own, that they are excellent individuals who are worthy of success.

When a kid joins the program or takes the pledge, they’ll be connected to resources that facilitate their growth, such as student development opportunities, job shadowing opportunities, after school programs, and etc. I have big plans for Pledge of Excellence; however, the organization is starting off small. I’m only looking to mentor 5-10 students throughout the next school year, but eventually I want Pledge of Excellence to grow into an honor society that fosters the development of students from elementary school all the way through highschool and offers scholarship opportunities to its students My goal is to support others the way I was supported when I was growing up, because I know I wouldn’t have made it this far without that support. As long as I end up helping students see their worth, Pledge of Excellence is achieving its main goal.

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Julian T. Owens

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