SWSG Alumna, Kiana Rouchon, shares how she became an ambassador of change through her experience as a college mentor.
In Summer 2012, I was not enrolled in college. I was left with a high school diploma and shattered hopes. I made plans to go away to Jacksonville, FL for school but was deterred by lack of financial aid. I thought I hit a dead end; little did I know that I was in a perfect position to journey on the path to amazing opportunities that would change my life forever. I started taking classes as a full-time student on scholarship at Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus. Then, Club Rush started – rows of tables lined up on campus, advertising many clubs and organizations. As I walked down the breezeway, I caught a glimpse of bright pink at the corner of my eye. You guessed right – SWSG Wolfson was busy tabling and they grabbed my attention. By the end of September, I was an official SWSG Mentor. This was the beginning of a chapter that would chronicle many shifts in my life.
Mentoring, leading and inspiring elementary school girls opened my eyes to a real need in our community: accountability and positive role models. These girls were surrounded by a false image of beauty and independence. This image was not allowing them to embrace themselves, unique and powerful as they are. Globally, girls are being forced to succumb to a superficial standard of beauty and disregard their potential, which could be stimulated through education and leadership. How could I have been so fortunate to be chosen as the one telling these smart, capable girls that they could dare to be different? After a year of learning how to acquire determination and perseverance, embrace their unique talents/abilities and set strong goals, my girls were strong, proud and ready to change the world!  I was the leader of a small but awesome revolution and it served a greater purpose that was beyond me.
Volunteering not only made me more aware of social and gender issues, but motivated me to value my education and pursue my dreams even if they didn’t make sense to anyone else. Ironically, the mentor in me that encouraged my mentees, changed my perspective as well. Because of SWSG, I changed my major from Health Administration to Psychology, with hopes of counseling youth in the future. While mentoring, I discovered that I was born to encourage others and give people hope. Even though I would read on Yahoo News that Psychology wasn’t the best major, I couldn’t get rid of the gift inside of me even if I wanted to! Later on, a co-mentor told me about the Miss Black US Ambassador Scholarship Pageant. I’ll be honest, I never did see myself as “pageant girl material” – but it was something about the word “ambassador” that drew me in. The word “ambassador” was familiar because I was transitioning into one.
After my year of service as a mentor and AmeriCorps volunteer was over, I seized the opportunity given by the Miss Black US Ambassador Scholarship Pageant by applying as an at-large delegate for the state of Florida and was blessed with the privilege of being crowned Miss Black Florida US Ambassador 2014. Now, I am a spokeswoman for Florida’s female community and a representative of girls everywhere. I didn’t have a program like Strong Women, Strong Girls growing up. Growing up, I performed well in school and was a gifted student, but lacked the confidence to go with those credentials. That is why I am so passionate about helping young girls and women develop a strong identity and healthy self-esteem: to know who they are before anyone or anything tries to define them. For a long time up until I became involved in student activities, I didn’t believe that I could make a difference. Now, I realize that all it takes is compassion, diligence and a willful heart. The mission to encourage, enlighten and empower isn’t about me; everything I have been through and the woman it made me today was necessary for me to build up my girls and fulfill my role as a mentor, ambassador and servant.

Strong Women, Strong Girls alumna
Kiana was a mentor with SWSG in 2012-2013 at Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus. She continues to advocate for girls, is a blogger for Her Path to Success, Inc. and will be competing at the 2014 National Miss Black US Ambassador Pageant in July.