I'm Dr. Christian Bell Onyemali, founder of She Needs to Know.
I’m an Oklahoma native who has made Texas my home for nearly fifteen years. I'm a first-generation college graduate who earned my Ph.D. in Educational Policy & Planning from the University of Texas-Austin and graduated from Spelman College (summa cum laude) with a B.A. in psychology.
Throughout my childhood, I had the fortune of having a supportive family and community who served as adult mentors to me and I’m eternally grateful for their support and guidance as I prepared to start college. But, once I began, I often felt like a fish out of water compared to my peers, many of whom were multi-generational college graduates. As a result, I spent an inordinate amount of time teaching myself what I needed to know to be successful. However, looking back, I would have benefited greatly from a first-generation college student closer to my age to serve as a role model and guide.
Over the past few years, I’ve observed that various interventions had been designed to address the academic, social, and emotional needs of boys of color, particularly Black boys. However equal attention has not been paid to Black girls, who are overpoliced and under-protected, have increased rates of suicide, and are seen by adults as less in need of nurturing, protection, support, and comfort than white girls of the same age.
This means that all too often, Black girls are lacking needed guidance to support them during their high school years and as they prepare for their future. Given this, it is of little surprise that Black girls in Central Texas, particularly those from low-income communities, are not as successful after high school. Data from the E3 Alliance shows that less than 50% of low-income Black students enroll in postsecondary education and only 12% actually graduate from college within six years. Quite simply, these statistics are deplorable and can be changed.
One day, while meditating, the idea for She Needs To Know came to me. I envisioned a space designed especially for Black girls to have the opportunity to be in a community with young women who look like them, who currently attend college in Austin, who has experienced similar challenges, and who have overcome the challenges to achieve college and career success. Our girls are powerfully and wonderfully made and deserve the opportunity to have role models who can them realize their innate brilliance and potential and ability to attend and graduate from college.