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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Speaker shares personal story to help others

By Miranda Workman/reporter

Overcoming roadblocks can not only get people where they want to go, a South Campus audience was told March 19, but it can also make those people stronger.
The speaker, Judith Dillard, should know. Diagnosed HIV-positive in 1990, she went from being a working mother and member of her church choir to being homeless and addicted to crack cocaine.

Now, recovered and sober, she speaks to young women about how to become leaders, how to overcome difficult situations and how to focus on positives rather than negatives.

“These challenges know no economic status, situation, careers,” she said. “You will have challenges.”

Dillard’s presentation, An Empowered Life is a Healthy Life, was part of a Young Women’s Leadership Track sponsored by the Women in New Roles program.

Dillard, a former WINR student, emphasized the importance of earning a college degree — something she did not do.

“One of the regrets I have is not getting an education,” she said. “I have to limit mine [dreams] now because I didn’t go on to get my degree.”

Dillard said on some job interviews, everything would seem to be going great until the interviewer looked over her educational background. A person can go much farther with a degree than without one, she said.

One major setback to Dillard’s education was her HIV diagnosis.

“This disease doesn’t tell you what day you’re gonna be sick, she said. You don’t know how you’re going to feel on certain days.”

Health issues, however, haven’t stopped Dillard from volunteering as a member of the Fort Worth Mayor’s Advisory Commission for Homelessness and the boards of directors of Samaritan House and the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP). She also helped represent Fort Worth on a visit to sister city Mbabane, Swaziland, in Africa.

Dillard did not minimize the challenges and hard times many young women face.
“As sure as life goes on, there will be trials and tribulations,” she said, “but you must say to yourself, ‘I’m going to take this and make something good out of it.’”

She told her audience to remember that whatever happens is part of a plan.

“We are exactly who God wanted us to be right now,” she said. “No matter how hard of a time we are having, we are exactly who we are supposed to be.”

One cannot allow hard times to define them and hold them back from their full potential, Dillard said.

“No matter what life throws your way, you can still step over that stumbling block and do what you want to do,” she said. “Don’t allow anybody to tell you what you’re worth. If a person can label you, they can limit your possibilities and your potential; determine your own worth as a person.”

Dillard gave statistics indicative of the lack of women in leadership roles. Women hold 92 seats out of 535 in Congress — 17 seats out of 100 in the Senate and 75 out of 435 in the House of Representatives.

She added that women also are underrepresented in corporate boardrooms. As large as Facebook is, she said, there are no women on the board of the multi-billion dollar social media network.

“I just want the young women of today to become leaders, leaders in their community, in their church, youth groups and in their family,” Dillard said, adding that such women act not only as leaders but also as role models.

Women have the potential to close the gender gap, Dillard said, but must set their minds to do great things, set goals higher than ever before and believe in themselves that they can truly reach the top in a man’s world.

“If your dream isn’t bigger than you, it isn’t a dream,” she said.

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