Little Brown Girl, Big Dreams

By: Dayana Pichardo
Dayana at the Beating the Odds Summit at the White House, Summer 2015.

When I tell my mother’s friends that, “I’m 20, not married, a student at The College of Saint-Rose,” I am often met with a lot of confusion. I suppose it’s because nobody expected an Afro-Latina from Washington Heights to make strides towards greatness. Even with all my excitement in proving everyone wrong, my college journey started off pretty rocky. I had high expectations for college — everyone I knew had told me that it would be the best experience of my life, but no one had mentioned how lonely I would be. For the first few months I didn’t have many friends. I’m not sure if this was a result of me starting over in a new place or my aversion to introducing myself to my peers.

For those first few months, I desperately longed for something that resembled home. Eventually, I found a supportive group of friends at Sadie Nash, one that I now consider family, that allowed me to feel safe, comfortable, and empowered. Sadie Nash is a nonprofit that helps young people succeed through mentoring from different clubs. Through this organization, I discovered Making Waves, a Saturday class that helps women tackle issues that are important to them by teaching ways to make systemic change and raising awareness. This advocacy work led me to participate in the Summer Institute, a six week program that focused on education topics such as power, identity, and privilege.

I was really inspired by the work that my sisters at Sadie Nash were doing, and they motivated me to create a space modeled after my home called Purely Positive Women of Purpose (PPWOP). This is a club that I helped start with a couple of girls that are interested in uplifting women by creating a supportive community. This was truly a fantastic part of my college journey, but I still wanted something more. Sadie Nash then nominated me to attend the Beating the Odds Summit and I loved every second of it. While at the Summit, I taught spoke with young women like myself about gentrification and its harmful consequences during conversations at the breakout sessions. I found out it was also happening in D.C., while I thought it only happened in NYC.

I want to be a trailblazer, I want to beat the odds, and I believe that starts by giving back to my community and getting an education. I see myself becoming a politician, changing legislation and bringing back the vibrancy and the love into my neighborhood. I see the changes happening to my home. I want to challenge and push back these changes happening in my community to sustain the Afro-Latino culture that defines it.

Dayana at the GirlUp Summit, Summer 2016.