"Before meeting Ms. Fleming, I was still very much like a little girl trying to carve her own way and find her place in a foreign place. Although I had come all the way to Washington D.C. for a college education, I didn't realize my potential - my fierceness, as she called it - and the step I had dared to take until she so kindly brought it to light and knew who I was inside and out on our first meeting.
My lessons with Ms. Fleming had evolved into more than what I had anticipated, more than I had just imagined them to be, just etiquette and manners to use for my spring break trip to Costa Rica. A mentor, a guide, a mother figure and a true companion all in one, Ms. Fleming taught me the importance of knowing and accepting myself in order to be successful, and gave me the tools to get me there.
I learned to be an one-in-a-million young woman that lives in American culture without the culture living within me, and now I have more self-esteem and a greater sense of self-worth than I ever had. I see myself now as a self-illustrated canvas and an artist capable of her own destiny, despite the indifferent world we live in.
I looked forward to Ms. Fleming lessons religiously, and realized my growth alongside her step by step as I learned how to shake hands appropriately, dress and perform in a job interview, make proper introductions, make pleasant conversations with complete strangers, know how to set an informal and formal table and eat American or Continental style (instead of just with a fork and use a knife as needed).
Most of all, I learned the importance of using my voice assertively yet politely and proudly, a skill that was on the verge of disappearing due to speaking being discouraged by my college, a special needs school for the deaf and hard-of-hearing where sign language is the norm and most preferred.
With Ms. Fleming's tools and lessons, I have come to understand that loving yourself is everything, and going that extra mile beyond what the status quo expects makes all the difference in the world. I came to D.C. as a child, and left at the end of the first year as a woman.
"I am Susie Michaela Harvey, and I am a "Leo" with fierceness in my blood." Age 18