Why I Encourage Women of Color to Pursue PhDs

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Higher education provides credibility and empowerment for disadvantaged students.

At the age of 27, I proudly walked across the University of Florida graduation platform to receive my PhD. As a young, Nicaraguan-American woman desiring to seek justice within vulnerable communities, I knew this degree would prepare and empower me to live out my calling in inexplicable ways. Now, four years later, I clearly see the vast benefits my degree offered me as a woman of color. Whenever other women of color ask me if they should pursue their PhDs, without hesitation, I strongly encourage them to do so.

My decision to pursue a PhD was an easy one to make. I had been in the trenches of international nonprofit development since my junior year of undergrad. My best friend and I co-founded P4H Global, a nonprofit organization focused on training and equipping teachers in Haiti. With 60% of Haitian students dropping out before finishing elementary school, we knew we had found our God-given calling. We were fueled by our passion to make a positive impact in Haiti’s educational system.

As years passed, P4H Global grew exponentially in reach and impact, but we kept running into a problem. Conversations with individuals/organizations that could help us make a greater impact never went past a general “congratulations.” People would be moved by our story but would not want to move into partnership with our organization. We were always left wondering why we could not build bridges that could ultimately help bring our teacher training into more parts of Haiti. We took time to seriously reflect on what was keeping doors closed. This time of reflection led us down an introspective path.

My best friend and I are young, single, women of color (I’m Latina and she is Haitian). The gatekeepers we were continually …

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