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Who Is Connie

Connie is a remarkable woman who has triumphed over a series of significant adversities in her life and emerged with unwavering faith and a profound sense of purpose. Connie’s journey began with a loving but challenging upbringing. She was raised by her mother, a hardworking, compassionate divorcee in Orangeburg, SC.

Despite being faced with financial struggles and the daily hardships of poverty, Connie’s home was filled with laughter, music and literature. Her mother, Gladys was an avid reader and a demonstration of true compassion as she frequently helped others in need.

Connie’s hunger for knowledge was insatiable. In her formative years, she loved learning. However, by high school she lost her motivation to achieve academically.  Applying her mother’s motto “Finish what you start.” Connie not only completed high school but went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Child and Family Studies from Columbia College (Columbia, SC) and Master of Arts in Social Justice and Community Development from Loyola University Chicago. While pursuing an education, Connie worked tirelessly to excel academically, earned scholarships and worked numerous part-time jobs. Her determination and grit allowed her to complete internships that led her into several life changing employment opportunities.

After losing her mother to AIDS related illness at 18, Connie re-enrolled into college after dropping out three times prior. Just when life seemed to be on an upswing, Connie was also diagnosed with AIDS. Her health deteriorated rapidly, requiring that she leave school and focus on her health. Throughout this painful period, Connie’s unwavering faith became her source of strength. She found solace in prayer and meditation, which helped her endure the physical and emotional pain.

While grappling with the fact that she was now living with the same illness that claimed her mother’s life seven years earlier, Connie delved deeper into her faith. She attended church regularly, participated in ministry as a choir member and Sunday school teacher,  and found supportive communities within her faith group and HIV/AIDS women’s support groups. Her newfound connection with her faith brought her immense comfort and purpose.

Connie’s experiences inspired her to give back to her community. In 2003, she began volunteering at an after school program for under-resourced youth and loved it. She was eventually employed by the program. After several years of working with local youth and families, Connie was hired as the Program Director of the after school program where she completed her internship in 2009. This achievement marked the beginning of her transformative journey.

Connie’s deepening faith coupled with her lived and professional experiences led her to discover her life’s purpose – advocating for those who face adversity and providing them with a glimmer of hope. As an advocate for children and families struggling with health issues, poverty, and educational barriers, Connie explored these issues in her research as a graduate student at Loyola. While completing her Master’s degree, Connie traveled to Kenya twice. Her second voyage was an eight week internship at an AIDS service organization (Living Positive Kenya) that served women and families most affected by HIV/AIDS. Connie was so moved by her experience, she penned her first book, Beyond Measure, a collection of personal narratives of eight Kenyan mothers living with HIV/AIDS.

Connie’s story of resilience and faith made her a sought-after speaker at conferences, schools, and community events. Her ability to connect with people through her words and experiences have provided hope and inspiration to countless individuals facing their own challenges. Connie uses her passion for teaching to design and facilitate workshops that encapsulate her many life lessons and knowledge gained. As an artist, Connie uses her love for singing and writing poetry to inspire and encourage others to step into their greatness despite life’s challenges.

Connie’s journey from adversity to faith and purpose is a testament to the indomitable human spirit. Her story serves as a beacon of hope for others, illustrating that even in the darkest of times, faith and a sense of purpose can guide one toward a life filled with meaning and the capacity to inspire positive change in the lives of others.