Incredibly honored and humbled to share that I have been selected as the January 2015 Skinless Project Inspirational Woman!
You are the executive director of Donda’s House. Tell us about the initiative?
Donda’s House Inc. was created by Kanye West, Che “Rhymefest” Smith and myself to provide access to premium arts instruction to youth. We were named after Dr. Donda West, the mother of Kanye, who was an educator for 30+ years. She understood the value of literacy, and prior to her death, she wanted to put a state of the art recording studio in High Schools across the country. To date we have serviced over 115 youth, and we add new youth every semester to our initiatives!
Why was such a program a necessity in the areas where you operate?
Arts education & programming is routinely the first thing to go when schools and governments face budget crisis. There is also a push toward STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) often at the sacrifice of the arts. Donda’s House is a necessity, because we know that youth who study the arts have more positive life outcomes. They are critical and creative thinkers, problem solvers and have higher self-confidence and esteem.
You are a inspiration in yourself, tell us about your personal story – why focus on at risk youth?
At-risk youth, often to no fault of their own miss out on certain things – the love of two parents in a healthy relationship, quality food which fuels health and a quality education which is the passport to a better future. If those of us who have overcome challenges, can be a source of support, inspiration and guidance, we can make up for those deficits. I used to run track in High School, and sometimes if one of my teammates ran a poor leg, the rest of us had to make up for it to try to win the race. My personal mission in life is to find those children and help them make up for whatever losses or hurdles they have trouble clearing.
Do you feel you have beaten the odds?
Interestingly enough, I feel there are always odds to beat. I overcame certain challenges by earning a college education, marrying the love of my life and raising our children in a two parent household but there are new challenges. As long as there are children who aren’t eating, who are being abused by the ones they love and neglected by systemic and generational neglect, there are still more odds I have to beat.
As a society – what can we do to improve the chances of success for these children?
Everyone has the power to do something. In some cases, it may be a donation (to a tax deductible organization), in other cases it may be volunteering one’s expertise or time. Everyone has the ability to do something. America as a society is one big village and we are only as strong as our weakest link. We have to unite and support each other so that we can collectively face our challenges as a country.
Finally – you have changed your pain into power – how did you do it Donnie?
Faith is my lifeline. I don’t believe that my birth was an accident, nor do I believe that my pain was an accident. I try to take every single thing – good or bad in stride and use it as fuel to leave this world better than I came into it.
Check out the entire interview & feature here: http://skinlessproject.com/inspirational-woman-january-2015-donnie-smith-2/