Today’s Youth Focused on Giving Back

I recently had the opportunity to meet a very special young woman.  She reminded me there is truly hope for the world.

That’s Hillary – third from the right, receiving an academic scholarship from the Fairfax Rotary Club.

First a little background.  My Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Fairfax, is extremely dedicated to the financially disadvantaged youth in our community and we fulfill this commitment in many ways. We recently recognized five outstanding seniors by awarding acedemic scholarships and community service awards.  A fellow Rotarian in my club, Verne Tuininga is Chairman of the Scholarships & Fellowships Program.  He said that by assisting financially challenged but academically successful and highly motivated students, we can benefit the student, their family and our community as a whole with an educational opportunity that previously may not have been available to them.  Our scholarship program is one of our great examples of our mission of “Service Above Self.”

That’s how I met Hillary Essis.

Hillary is from the Ivory Coast.  She told us that while living there, she was drawn to its rich fabrics, extensive collection of traditional gold jewelry, and all around celebration of fashion.  She also told us that she and many of her fellow countrymen lived in unsafe conditions but strived to make a better life for themselves.  Hillary and her family eventually moved to the United States where her dad took a job as a professor at NYU.  There, Hillary developed a love of fashion amongst the fashion houses in Manhattan.  Says Hillary, “New York City, being a fashion capital, was a breeding ground for my growing passion for all things fashion.”  Knowing her vision was to eventually give back to the women in her native country, Hillary has recently gratuated from Fairfax High School will now be embarking on her journey to college.  She’ll be a freshman at VCU this fall and plans to pursue a double major in fashion merchandising and business.

This amazing young women plans to pay her dues.  Her dream is to be a fashion buyer for a major fashion company and then open fashion houses where women can work with designers to create their own garments and ready-to-wear items.  Once she has gathered all this experience, her vision is to help artisans of her native Ivory Coast open fashion houses where they can have a safe place to work while making goods that will be sold in the United States.

Good luck, Hillary, and best wishes as you make a difference in peoples’ lives.  We salute you!

Summitted by:  Susan Ireland, Fairfax Rotary PR Chair