“Boys Hope Girls Hope gave me confidence in my ability to interact with people. It allowed me to step into myself and gave me time to understand who I am and what I want out of life.”
Shavona Mayers Dixon is an alumna of Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore, who recently graduated with honors from Goucher College, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish.
Shavona learned about Boys Hope Girls Hope when she was 14 years old. Her family had hit a rough patch, she wasn’t able to sleep, and her grades had declined. Shavona became very interested after hearing about the program from two girls at her middle school. Learning that the cut-off age to enter the program was 15, she rushed to apply. Shavona said, “My counselor recommended me for the program, but I was my own push. I advocated for myself to get in. I told my dad about the program on our way to dinner at the girls’ home in Baltimore. My mom found out once I had already moved into the house.”
Shavona said, “Boys Hope Girls Hope gave me confidence in my ability to interact with people. It allowed me to step into myself and gave me time to understand who I am and what I want out of life.” She said she often felt like an outsider and Boys Hope Girls Hope gave her a place where she fit in among other driven and academically-motivated African-American girls: “I was living with these high achieving black girls, who were all getting straight A’s. I thought, ‘Wow, these are really smart black women.’ We are all so intelligent, but so different and so ourselves. I could be proudly black and smart.”
Looking back, Shavona highlighted two very influential experiences during her time with Boys Hope Girls Hope. First, she was a Summer Academic Research Experience (SARE) intern at Johns Hopkins University. According to Johns Hopkins, “Shavona created digital models of hepatic vasculature and used 3D-printing technology to create accurate and anatomically realistic hepatic artery models that can be filled with CT contrast agents.” During her college years, Shavona also became a Boys Hope Girls Hope Steward Scholar, where she had the opportunity to participate in conferences for professionals of color working in STEM, business, and arts fields. Shavona noted both of these programs were incredibly important to her. “It’s so nice to see black youth being amazing and having these opportunities you don’t see in the news where we’re too often villainized.” In the future, Shavona hopes to combine her ongoing interests in languages and STEM, ultimately working in medical translation.
Shavona stays in close touch with her parents, especially her father, who is suffering from cancer and diabetes, as well as her twin sister and six other siblings. Many recent college graduates have found it challenging to find work during the COVID-19 pandemic and a very tight job market. Shavona is happy to be working for Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore, caring for the scholars in the home and helping with outreach to Spanish-speaking families. Shavona will soon begin a job in the social services department of the Baltimore County government as well.
When asked her thoughts on what’s happening in the world right now, Shavona said, “COVID is not something that’s normal. It’s scary. And police brutality and racism… well, I’m tired. It’s frustrating for this to keep happening. For me, my sister, brothers, parents, friends, this is our reality. We do this every day whether or not the world is paying attention, whether or not there are protests in the streets. From the day I was born into this world, I’ve had to go through this.”
Shavona shared what gives her hope for the future: “I just hope to put good into the world. I want to be able to help people. That’s why I learn languages, so that I’m able to connect with people from different backgrounds and communities.” She had one request of everyone reading her story: “Tell the black women in your life that you love them. Today, tomorrow and every day.'”