RAD GIRL: (n) A spirited female who is constantly achieving, innovating, and inspiring.
RAD-GIRLS.COM: A celebration of spirited females who are constantly achieving, innovating, and inspiring. It is an ongoing conversation between empowered women. Most importantly, Rad Girls is about collaboration. It is about making sure that we actively light one other’s torches because we burn brighter together.
Of course I HAD to come on as contributor when creator, Leah Kauffman (who also serves as the Executive Entertainment & Lifestyle Producer for Philly.com) told me about it. Not long after our chat, I attend the Rad Girls launch party and it was one hell of an empowering experience. The Philadelphia Art Alliance was packed with “rad revelers”, comprised mainly of women, celebrating the launch of the blog and movement. We networked as we nibbled on h’ordeuvres and indulged in feminist themed drinks; listened to an awesome panel of women in technology; and rocked out to music courtesy of Factory Girls DJs Suga Shay, K|Rex, GUN$ Garcia and Yolo Ono.
Check out #SSontheScene Instagram snapshots from the launch party below:
It was a great night to be woman. But then again, any time is a great time to be a woman if you ask me.
I have had the pleasure of contributing a couple of write-ups thus far and I look forward to what’s to come. The first was a Mother’s Day interview with the most important woman in my life: my mother and CEO of In God We Trust Our Little One’s Daycare. It was by far one of the most cherished interviews that I’ve ever done. The second was for the column that I’m contributing to titled, Ready And Determined. You loves know I’m very passionate about staying the course and persevering; Ready And Determined highlights women who are on the brink–the tipping point of success, preparing for a risk, taking a new direction in life or have overcome great odds to get to where they are in life.
Check out the two write-up’s below and be sure to bookmark RAD-GIRLS.com and check back regularly. There are great things in store for the Rad Girls of our time and RAD-Girls.com will be right there to honor, support and inspire all of those on the journey!
I came out of the union in Duquesne Light and went into management. The area that I went into management was a predominantly black area in the company, which was warehousing and materials management, and I was the first black woman in management over there. It wasn’t very well received to have a black woman telling anybody what to do. I was dealing with a lot of craziness that made me feel inadequate as a person, and made me feel that I was a horrible person…until I took organizational behavior 101 as one of my courses at Carlow College. When I opened the book and read chapter one…it was my work life! [laughs]
Carlow was primarily a woman’s college so I got to network and talk to other women who were managers and… we all had the same stories! That boosted my confidence level back to where it should have been; it just made me look at the fact that they’re just people as well and you have to treat them a certain way to [get] that level of respect—[but] you still want to maintain your integrity about what you’re doing.
At Duquesne Light, while I was still in the union, I noticed that we didn’t have any black women in management. There was a woman who came before me, she had fought for black women to become management secretaries—that was before I was even there—and then when I got there I fought for women just to be in management.
I got two people together who had degrees, because at that time I didn’t have my degree [yet], and I said, “Look, I need you all to help me with this,” and they did. I organized a company-wide campaign to get black women [in management]; we did a letter, got signatures, put that whole thing together, sent it up [to executives]—and he was getting flooded with the mail—and it was addressed immediately. It changed the company. We all got positions; I was one of the last ones of course because I was the up-riser but that’s how I end up being the first black woman supervising [in warehouse and materials management].
So, there were all kinds of crazy things that I went through as a woman, and a black woman in management, in corporate America.
In light of the current state of the Philadelphia School District, we decided to kick off our new column, Ready And Determined, with a teacher who has demonstrated that she is precisely what the title describes: a Rad Girl who is ready and determined to succeed in life despite any challenges life may present.
It’s with great pleasure that we introduce a North Philadelphia native and resident, Ayanna Thompas, 35. Thompas is a science teacher at the Haramabee Institute of Science & Technology. When asked what makes her a Rad Girl, Thompas offered:
I am constantly educating myself first. The world is constantly changing and information evolving, [so] I have to stay current. I must be equipped to prepare my students to compete globally by exposing them to the latest developments. In a country where entertainment is glorified, they must believe that education is valuable and that it is their greatest weapon.
Loves, here’s a peek into the story behind one of our cities most valuable assets: a teacher who is ready and determined.
She had no intention of being a teacher. In fact, it was something that she thought she would never do.
If you were to ask the widowed mother of three (ages 17, 12 and 4) what she thinks about teaching today and she’ll tell you that she believes it to be her destiny.
Ayanna Thompas started her journey to teaching back in grade school, coincidentally with a subject that she didn’t really care for: science.
“Science was not always interesting to me. I now know it was because I did not have the greatest science teachers,” said Thompas, “I had very few interactive experiences in science. Instead, it was heavily based on memorization of concepts.”
It wasn’t until she realized how many opportunities were in the sciences that she considered it as a viable option for her future livelihood.
“It seemed like the way to go,” she said, “My passion was further developed when I realized how practical science is and how we apply it in our everyday lives without knowing it.”
By the time Thompas was ready to start her undergrad studies, she was offered a full scholarship if she agreed to major in physics. Thompas agreed and unknowingly embarked on one of the toughest experiences of her life.
“It was extremely difficult. Not only is physics a challenging major, I became a mother in college and had to juggle school, work and motherhood so that I would not lose my scholarship and still be able to take care of my child,” she said.
As hard as the process may have been, she managed to complete her undergrad with a 3.4 GPA in 3 1/2 years by taking summer classes and 18 credits nearly every summer.
“Under those circumstances was my greatest accomplishment to date. I knew that if I could do that, I could do anything,” she said.
After graduating, Thompas “stumbled” upon a teaching job at Prep Charter HS. They were in desperate need of an 11th grade physics teacher and a friend recommended her. She got the job and has been teaching ever since. However, it wasn’t until her third year teaching that she accepted her fate. It was at that moment that she decided to go back to get her Masters in Education because she was serious about making it a career. Yet again, she was offered a free education for grad school because she committed to teaching math and science. Thompas graduated with both her bachelors and master’s degree debt-free thanks to the very subject that she originally had no interest in.
Once she finished her time at Prep Charter, Thompas went to the School District of Philadelphia via the Transition to Teaching program, a federal initiative to recruit and retain midcareer professionals. While there, she committed to teaching math and science at an at risk middle school and was assigned to Pickett Middle school. She spent the next four years of her life getting students to grasp how science was a part of their everyday lives.
“When people realize that everything is science, they become less frightened by the word,” she explained.
Her desire to spread her perspective and understanding amongst students about the field eventually lead her to teach a math class at a summer camp. In July 2010, the CEO of Harambee saw her teaching there and was impressed. He asked her to come on board; she was initially hesitant because she wanted to spend time with her infant child.
It was what would take place a few weeks later that changed the entire course of her life and her career.
“My husband was murdered and after that, I decided I had to be productive during my grieving process,” she said, “I thought, ‘what better way to do that than to give back to the children?’. I accepted his offer and have been at Harambee ever since.”
– Sincerely Syreeta