“For a long time, I felt hopeless and was not happy with how things were going,” she says. “I felt like I had nobody to talk to. I kept my faith. I prayed a ton. With reflection, I’ve come to learn that your situations do not define you. They don’t make you. They shape you into who you are and give you life lessons.”
Akande’s ability to view her life with deep wisdom comes after a four-year journey that started around 2017.
After the young teen’s parents divorced, Akande hopped in a car with her mother and the duo traveled the long stretch of highway between Riverside, California, and North Texas. The pair settled in and found a new home in Fort Worth. Money was tight, but the duo was rich in faith and hope. Akande’s mother worked long, hard hours caring for terminally ill patients as a hospice nurse.
Meanwhile, Addie, a soulful, vibrant and spiritual teen by nature – suddenly found herself isolated and alone in the bustling halls of different high schools. She finally found a permanent spot at North Crowley High School, but without any friends and nowhere to go, Akande often sought refuge during lunch in the bathroom stalls. The four gray walls incubated her as she slowly ate her sandwich to the tune of silent tears.
“When I got to North Crowley, I had been to a couple different schools for high school,” Akande shared. “I didn’t really meet any friends. I was trying, but it wasn’t really working out that well.”
As with many new students, lunchtime was hardest for her.
“When I would get my hot lunch, I would just walk around or go to the library bathroom because I was just so lonely,” Akande explained. “I didn’t know anybody there. I was really hurt and needed somewhere to go.”
Addie said it was during these darkest days that she leaned on her faith the most. She prayed. Sometimes her only form of worship was the hope for a better future that caressed her heart. Her deep connection and bond with her mother made her feel safe, loved and valued. But Akande also knew that she had to push forward and find the light in the midst of the darkness. Something from deep within told her to hold on. Someday it would all get better. Someday it would all make sense.
Then, out of nowhere, destiny came calling.
Akande was walking the halls of her high school during one of those lonely lunches and spotted a room with bright, welcoming colors. She noticed a flyer on the wall inviting students to join an organization called Girls Inc. As she read the words, she felt a deep stirring from within her soul; it was knowing that yes, this is where she belonged. Akande snapped a photo of the flyer and made the decision to attend the meeting.
Addie’s miracle moment had arrived.
Only it would take years for her to fully realize it.
When we met Addie on a Zoom call last week, I was joined by Emily Luth with the Dallas Mavericks community relations team. We were there to congratulate Addie on winning a scholarship with the Dallas Mavericks that is worth up to $25,000 annually and over $100,000 throughout the next four years. In total, the Mavs selected five Black high school seniors from local North Texas schools to receive the four-year scholarship and mentoring experience.
Organizers say that every student awarded this scholarship has shown their commitment to education and continuous passion for pursuing success to the highest level. The scholarship can be applied to community college or a university that is either in or out of state.
The competition was fierce, and the selection committee chose the five individuals because they exemplified and embodied the spirit of the Dallas Mavericks. We felt like it was also important to share each winner’s stories on a large platform like Mavs.com to introduce them to our fans – and even more, to give hope and encouragement to other young men and women that are also enduring hardships and insurmountable odds in their own lives. These five students now become a larger part of the Dallas Mavericks family and the scholarships are more than just a dollar amount and check signed by the Mavs. Rather, it’s our desire to journey with these students the next few years as we watch their dreams and futures unfold. Along with their scholarship, each student will be given a mentoring experience with the Mavs, as well.
Addie happened to be the first scholarship winner that I interviewed, and from the moment we spoke, her energy and enthusiasm radiated through the computer screen. Something was unique and different about this young woman and as we talked, I came to realize just how much she’s endured throughout her young life. But Addie didn’t just survive. She’s thrived. And now it was my chance to explain how it all unfolded.
Girls Inc. is an organization that works in partnership with schools and Girls Inc. centers to focus on the development of the whole girl. Through the program, the young woman learns to value herself, take risks, and discover and develop her inherent strengths.
The combination of long-lasting mentoring relationships, a pro-girl environment, and evidence-based programming equips girls to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers, and grow up healthy, educated, and independent. Informed by girls and their families, they also advocate for legislation and policies to increase opportunities and rights for all girls.
Addie didn’t know the depths of the program when she made a decision to first join Girls Inc. at North Crowley four years ago. Instead, just like so many young women all across the region, she simply felt alone and afraid and wanted friends.
For her, it was actually a rainbow-speckled room that first caught her eye.
“One day I was just walking around and around, and I saw this room that was really bright with all these colors,” Akande explained. “I saw a flyer announcing a Girls Inc. meeting and that same week, I went back to the room. There were four girls in there. I walked in and low and behold, those same four girls ended up being my closest friends in high school and still to this day.”
Addie said she stayed with the program through the duration of high school and graduated with the Class of 2020.
“That program gave me a lot of opportunities I probably never would have gotten if not for walking in that room and seeing that flyer. I know for a fact that all the good things happened for me because of Girls Inc.”
The Dallas Mavericks and Mavs Foundation also think highly of Girls Inc. For numerous years, the Mavs partnered with Girls Inc. for various initiatives, grants and causes. This is the same reason that the Mavericks felt like Akande was certainly worthy of winning a scholarship that will give her a chance to pursue a future of her choice without any financial hardships in the way.
“Addie was nominated through our partner, Girls Inc., and was then elected by an internal Mavs selection committee containing members from across the organization,” said Emily Luth, the manager of community relations for the Mavs. “Addie is a bright and talented person who is destined to fulfill her college and career dreams. We are thrilled to watch her progress over the next four years.”
Luth said that Akande is an incredible leader and impactful member of the community and the sky’s the limits for her.
“We are very excited to have her receive our Mavs Scholarship,” Luth said. “She will receive up to $25,000 (based on tuition needs) for the next four years along with a Mavs staff mentor and opportunity for an internship at the Mavs if they so choose later in their college career.”
Akande said that winning the scholarship is more than she could ever imagine. In fact, she’d actually applied for an $8,000 scholarship last year and did not receive it. She realizes now that God had something bigger and better planned.
“When I found out that I won, I said ‘thank the Lord, thank you Jesus,’” Addie said. “I told my mom and she said: ‘finally my daughter can go to school.’ I said thank you Lord, that is a miracle. And $25,000 – that is rare. Not a lot of people win that much. I still can’t believe it.”
She said it took perseverance and patience, but she is more thankful than ever.
“Sometimes when you want something really bad, you’re not getting it right away,” she says. “And that is not because you’re not going to get it. But God is redirecting you in a way where you will have what you want. There is just a little redirecting that is going to happen like a U-turn…and it will be the best option and best fit for you.”
This kind of wisdom is the exact reason the Dallas Mavericks believe Akande is destined for greatness during her lifetime. Career-wise, she aspires to be an advocate in the medical field with hopes of using her voice for change like on television or other public media platforms.
“I would like to do public speaking for the Black community,” she said. “Or maybe even public speaking for the Dallas Mavericks. I have other goals like writing books and doing media for world health. One of goals is to to encourage health among the poor and less privileged. I want to encourage people to take their health more seriously and give them the resources they need.”
Before we got off the call, I circled back to Addie and her mother. The pair had endured so much hardship, that now it was time to rejoice and reflect on a triumph ride that the pair shared together.
“My mother is a very strong woman,” Addie explained. “She’s been through a lot and she’s made it and carried me along the way. When you have a kid there’s a lot of responsibility you have to go through while working hard and going to school and being a single parent and carrying all my financial burden. I love her. She’s amazing.”
Akande shared another piece of advice from her mother that can apply to everyone: “My mom always says, whatever you want to do, go do it. Go and do it. Just imagine how beautiful your life will be if you go and try. Open yourself up to new opportunities. Try new things. Be someone that you’re proud of, someone that your kids will be proud of. Be someone that people will be proud of. She always says that to me. Her advice is amazing. My mom is just great. She’s so powerful and strong and I love her, and I’m inspired by her.”
And on this February 19, 2021, I am certain that mom is also proud of her daughter. After all, Addie turned 18 years old today. Now she is fully walking into adulthood with a life full of dreams on the horizon.
“While you see a bunch of disappointments, God sees winning,” Addie shared. “God sees the positive and the good things that will happen to you. It’s just a cycle. There is a beginning and an end no matter how bad or awful it might seem…something better is coming. Look for the brightness. Look for the light.”
Thank you for showing us the light. Happy Birthday, Addie!
Story: Tamara Jolee, Dallas Mavericks