I first met Peri in the humble halls of Southwest DeKalb High School. She was a year younger than me, automatically making her the little sister I didn’t know I wanted. Peri’s high intellect and insane sarcasm were two things that solidified our friendship, but her undeniable internal glow made me make sure I kept her close.
Peri always made me proud. The way she carried herself through adversity with such grace, and again sarcasm, was always admirable. I knew she was going to be great and she continued to prove me right as she went on to become a Gates Scholar, graduate early from the University of Miami, be a kick-ass black woman in tech, travel abroad in South Africa, and get accepted into Harvard’s Graduate school. Simply amazing.
What makes Peri, Peri?
I used to measure my worth, who I am, and what I stand for based on my successes and failures. Then one day, I came across an article written by Toni Morrison where she says, “You are not the work you do. You are the person you are.” I remember thinking, “if one day I woke up and all that I had accomplished was gone, who would I be?” And at that moment, I couldn’t think of an answer and that scared me. To think that I had placed so much of my own value on what I accomplished that I forgot to learn to value the person I was, was scary.
Nowadays, I focus on what’s important to me. My family, the relationships I’ve made, and my faith are what’s most important to me. What makes me, me is bigger than me. What makes me, me is my support system and the insurmountable favor God has placed in my life. Without those two things, I would not be who I am today.
In what ways do #YouGlowGirl?
I think my life is just a reflection of me loving life and practicing gratitude. So, I would like to think that I inspire people to unapologetically live their best lives and accept all that comes with it. I always joke that I started saying “more life” before Drake (not really a joke because I did). But I love life. I love celebrating life. I just love everything about life. I don’t dwell on the what could’ve been or what should’ve been, I just move forward and accept what comes.
My mom always says, “Peri, to whom much is given, much is expected.” Growing up, I didn’t think much of it. Then I started receiving blessings bigger than I could have ever fathomed and suddenly my mom’s favorite saying had become my mantra. I just want to search for ways to give others the opportunities that I was given growing up. I want that mantra to show through anything that I do. I think people expect me to live up to certain expectations and I don’t mind that. I appreciate it because it helps me remember that what I do and who I am is a reflection of those people who look up to me.
How did your upbringing affect who you are today?
I was born and raised in Decatur, GA by a single mother. I think being raised by a single mom has had the biggest effect on my upbringing. If you let my mom tell it, she’d say that I don’t listen to her. But anyone who knows me knows that 90% of what I say starts with “My mom told me…” I value her opinion and her experiences the most. I see a lot of her in who I am today and I’m proud of that because I’m proud of her. She’s the reason I have a relationship with God. Going to college showed me how differently people were raised and made me appreciate how I was raised even more. I grew up in a community full of people who looked like me, who valued me, and had a mom who saw me and really took her time learning and loving me. The woman who taught me how to love, to value my education, and to be kind to myself and others is the reason I am the person I love today. She’s the woman who sent me to Southwest Dekalb’s Magnet program instead of Chamblee because she felt her child should be able to get the same education in her neighborhood and not be bused an hour away. And had it not been for my time at Southwest Dekalb High School, I doubt I would be doing the work I am today.
How did you end up in South Africa?
I always wanted to study abroad in Africa. So, when I realized that I had enough credits to graduate a semester early, I decided I would spend my last semester abroad through my university. And my scholarship would be funding the semester abroad, so finances wouldn’t be an obstacle. At first, I was nervous about my ending my undergraduate career a semester early and spending my final semester abroad. Yet, in the end, it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.
What has been the most pivotal moment of your trip thus far?
Twice a week, I tutor high school students in a township at an after-school program called, the Sozo Foundation. During my 2nd week there, I met two students who had created a clothing line to bring money back into their communities and show the youth in their community that they could make money by making clothes instead of joining local gangs and doing drugs. These two boys were so entrepreneurial and enthused about their idea that I offered to help them create a website to gain exposure for their brand. Since February, we’ve been working on developing the website and hope to have it launched by the end of May. Seeing the work that these two high school students have done and the time and energy they devote to ensuring their company succeeds has been the best part of working with them. These students don’t have computers at home, so they walk to the Sozo Foundation center on the weekends so that they can send emails and do work to promote their company. In the U.S. we take so many things for granted, such as access to an in-home computer, and here these kids are trying to make their dreams a reality by any means necessary. Working alongside them and helping bring their idea to life has easily been the most pivotal moment of my trip.
What was the feeling when you found out you were accepted to Harvard?
It was March and I hadn’t heard back from any schools yet. The night before I received the acceptance, I was out in Cape Town with my friends and I texted my mom stressing about not hearing back from any schools yet. My mom just said, “Leave it up to God. It’s out of your hands now.” And I remember thinking, “You’re supposed to tell me that I’m going to get in. What if God says no…” And the next night I got the email and I immediately Facetimed my mom. She was with my grandma when I called and we all just cried on the phone together after I told them I’d been accepted. It felt so surreal. Seeing everything I had worked for come to fruition and sharing that moment with the women who sacrificed the most for me, is a moment that I will always cherish.
However, the next day I felt a bit overwhelmed and undeserving. It was a weird mixture of knowing that I worked for this and still feeling unworthy. I listen to a podcast called, “The Friend Zone.” There’s one episode titled, “The Imposter Syndrome.” I listened to this episode right after getting my acceptance and although it was my first time hearing about the imposter syndrome, I immediately knew that’s what I had been feeling. Imposter Syndrome is when people downplay their accomplishments for fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” I just didn’t want to let myself or the people around me down. I wanted to be proud of myself, but at the beginning, I struggled understanding why I had been accepted. But now my focus has shifted from why to what and how. What am I going to do with this opportunity and how am I going to make a difference?
What is your number one goal as a black woman attending Harvard?
To give back. I am currently developing Eduntu, an app that will better streamline the college application process for low-income, minority, and first-generation (LIMFG) students. Eduntu uses artificial intelligence to track students’ academic and personal progress throughout their entire secondary career in an effort to help them make better-informed decisions when applying for colleges. While school counselors are necessary and add value to students’ overall educational trajectory, the lack of qualified counselors leave many students to be left without a counselor or with limited access to one. Eduntu allows students to take control of their own academic trajectory and make assist them in making well-informed decisions based on their personal and professional goals.
The EdTech community in Cambridge is thriving and I want to network and learn from other EdTech startups. Attending Harvard will allow me the opportunity to be invited into spaces that I otherwise wouldn’t be. I want to leverage Harvard’s resources and network to expand Eduntu and ultimately increase the number of LIMFG students who apply to college.
What’s your number one tip for someone trying to find their glow?
I once heard someone say, “When you are trying to be great in this lifetime, not just good… so many things are thrown at you to see how resilient you are.” I loved that quote so much that I immediately wrote it down in my notes app. Glow and greatness are synonymous to me. When you “glow”, you’re coming into your own greatness. My number one tip for someone trying to find their glow is to be resilient. Life brings about so many triumphs and tragedies. It’s always easiest to find your glow in the highs, but what about the lows? That’s where resiliency must come in, and that’s where you’ll find your glow and shine the most.
The Shameless Plug
Boss babes you need to follow:
- Kieanna creates funny YouTube Vlogs and Videos! Subscribe to her channel: Kieanna Michelle
- Kyla’s blog on Natural Hair and Fashion perfectlykyla.com
- Al’Laiya’s Lust Lingerie & Intimates clothing brand. Follow them on IG @lingeriebylust
- Breana writes a blog about her experiences abroad in South Africa beingbreanaross.wordpress.com
Top 3 must-read books:
The Wisdoms of Sundays x Oprah
What Crazy Looks Like on an Ordinary Day x Pearl Cleage
The Autobiography of Gucci Mane x Gucci Mane
Follow my Instagram Page @perireads to follow the books I am currently reading.
Must have beauty products:
Hair: Aunt Jackie’s Co-Wash and Leave-In Conditioner are my go-to products right now
Skin: Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Oil Face Wash
Keep up with Peri on IG! @peezyg