Understand Your Power and Worth
By Kim Foreman
My name is Kim Foreman. I am 49 yrs. young, a mother (of adult children), sister, and friend. I love to dance, laugh (even at myself sometimes) and have fun. I am now an Executive Director of Environmental Health Watch, a non-profit in Cleveland, Ohio. I love my work. It’s a lot of hard work but very rewarding. I like to love, grow and evolve. I value honesty, community and spirituality. I am passionate about connecting with others who have an open mind. In my work and personal life, I want to bring awareness, positivity, and healing to people anyway I can. If it’s through a program I put together, words I speak to inspire or through mentorship.
By the time I was 21, I had two children, was a single parent and working to pay bills. My father died when I was in high-school, my mother was very supportive and helped when she could. I was living on my own with my children, but at the time, I don’t recall having a lot of goals. I did go to Virginia Marti College at 18 to study Fashion Merchandising, not because I was extremely interested, but because my best friend was going. I did coordinate some shows here and there, but it wasn’t steady work. While working at a shoe store downtown, I use to see ladies purchasing shoes on their lunch hour and thought to myself- I want to have the means to do that too. I decided to go to medical school and become a pediatrician because I wanted to be a role model, inspire and show other single mothers they could accomplish anything they set their minds to. Also, I wanted to have a supportive community home for women and their children who were perusing their education.
Fast forward, I went to Cuyahoga Community College full-time and worked in daycare full-time( took my kids to work with me), graduated with an Associate of Science degree and was accepted to Case Western Reserve University in 1997. I studied pre-med and sociology, I graduated in 2001 with honors. I decided to raise my children instead of continuing to med school. I was able to start part-time at EHW in 1998, as an environmental health educator going into people’s homes. I started full-time in 2001 and met a lot of single moms dealing with children who had lead poisoning. Most of the time the mothers didn’t understand how lead was affecting their children, wanted to know more about going/finishing school, how I got my job and what I did. At that point, I realized I could be a bridge for folks, connect them to resources for whatever their needs were, I could support them, inspire, and let them know I was available to help- even if it was for employment. Women shared a lot of stories with me and I would share my experience with them. Now I have the best of both worlds, I am working in the environmental justice/health equity space, speak to a lot of audiences, in a leadership position, advocate, mentor, develop projects, programs and initiatives that I hope make an impact on a larger scale.
I was very concerned about having the ability to survive at a private university. I hadn’t been in school for a while, was a non-traditional student and wasn’t confident that I would be able to complete the pre-med program or succeed in school, manage being a single-parent, a house hold and bills on my own.
What I love most about my journey is I learned I can do it!! The fact that I only applied to college and got in, made me so happy. I couldn’t believe it. At the same time, after two years, my name was drawn to receive a rent voucher and moved from Cleveland to the suburbs, I felt that GOD was blessing me with the opportunity to change my circumstances. I survived and really thrived at school, there were some hard days, but I made it through and finished strong!! I gained a lot of confidence and transformed the way I think. I am grateful that I gained strength and confidence in my abilities and who I was as a woman. I took a break from school and by making that decision about raising my children, I was available to them for games, after school events, activities, etc. Staying at EHW, helped me grow professionally. Because of my mentor, Stu Greenberg, I was able to create the position I wanted and learn so much about research, program development, social justice, environmental justice, power to influence and advocacy. My children are beautiful adults now, we reminisce about our experiences growing up together (I was a young mom), we cry, party and laugh together.
My advice to other women; understand your power and worth. Be honest with yourself first and with others. Continue to learn and grow and be willing to take chances, even if it seems scary. Always go within to evaluate and reevaluate where you are in life. Decide if your situation is working for or against you. Be willing to make adjustments and let the spirit guide you to find your purpose.
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