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  • Writer's pictureDanyell Summers-Carson

Transforming Pain into Purpose

progression of oragami paper birds starting with crumpled up ball and ending with bird in flight

I’m a 34-year-old single mother of two boys ages 15 and 11. I work as a CNC operator for a caterpillar company and while it can be exhausting, I find it very fulfilling because it gives me the opportunity to work on my dream job which is becoming a substance abuse counselor for young women and teenagers who struggle to see that they have a choice. I plan to start an education program called “Choose L.O.V.E!: Laws Over Vices Everyday” which will teach girls how to become their own best friend by introducing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual ways to love themselves more. There are natural and divine laws that we need to follow to become our best selves and I believe it’s my purpose to teach and demonstrate these basic principles so other young women know it’s possible to transform their lives in the ways that I have. I’m also a full-time student pursuing a bachelor’s in psychology, and my job gives me the freedom to study while at work. Although it’s a completely different field, I don’t take it for granted because I still have the freedom and finances to pursue my goals. In July, I got licensed to work as a chemical dependency counselor’s assistant which is another step bringing me closer to my purpose. Ultimately, I will couple it with my degree and begin doing work in the community to offer treatment services. 

Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting [Career + Lifestyle Publisher] Alex Boone while volunteering at the Juneteenth event for the Urban League of Greater Cleveland. Alex invited me to become part of the Women of Color Foundation’s The Equity Project. I could not express my gratitude enough because at that time in my life, I really needed an opportunity to express myself and gather new skills to continue my journey for personal growth. Prior to meeting Alex, I had been expressing an interest in surrounding myself with like-minded people who would help me raise my vibration and attract the life I truly desired for myself and my children. I was already participating in the workforce development program at ULGC and those coaches really opened my eyes to the power of walking in gratitude and knowing my worth as an individual. So going into TEP I was primed to have an open mind and be my most present self so that I could make genuine connections with everyone involved. The ten months I spent in the program proved to be one the most influential periods of my life. We are all still connected today, and it brings me joy to know that there are other women in Cleveland who I have so much in common with when it comes to the desire to live a more whole and healthy life.

The Equity Project gave me so much insight and it help me to articulate where I was in life which helped me remain open to the learning experience. In fact, they honored me in the end naming me valedictorian and inviting me to deliver a speech. This is what I wrote: 

Over the past year, I’ve learned that the most important relationship in my life…outside of the relationship I have with my Higher Power…is the relationship that I have with myself. And every one of our meetings showed me ways to re-introduced me to myself. I left every single meeting feeling lighter and with something to think about. And for that, I am very grateful. I’m grateful for all of you who volunteered you precious time and your personal stories because it let me know that I’m not alone. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost and wrapped in the demands of life but belonging to this group of beautiful women and to be sharing time with all of you really helped bring me back to life at times. I’m grateful for every tip and every tool I was given in our monthly sessions because I need it. And I know that we all lead very busy lives in our careers, raising our children and some of us are even in school. But my only hope is that we actually find the time to implement some, if not all of the things we’ve learned about. While many of us are familiar with the importance of taking care of our own needs first, I believe it’s important to remember that it looks different for each of us as individuals. For me, it was my decision to quit drinking in May 2022. For years, I allowed alcohol to lead me down a path of many things I’m not proud of. Looking back, now I see that I was only distracting myself because I was afraid to live life and be fully present. Afraid that I would actually have to mature and do the work it takes to make my goals a reality. But man, once I did,my life began to glow from the inside out. 

Today, I am stepping forward with the best version of myself and it feels so good! It was on my heart in every meeting to express my gratitude for this program because you guys came along in my journey at a time when I was reaching out for something positive to grab and hold on to. I was longing for a life boat, a deeper connection with like-minded women who share similar dreams and ambitions such as myself. So to be here delivering this speech is evidence to me that when I set my mind on something the universe actually does conspire to make it so! I’ve learned so much about myself since deciding to live a more conscious and intentional life. I thank God I’m not where I used to be and I don’t take any moment for granted. For me to be here with you all versus where I was before is nothing short of a blessing. I appreciate you Alex, Gorren and Kristina for designing a program with women like me in mind. I commend the younger participants because when I was in my 20’s my focus was everywhere else beside personal development! This program is very beneficial and I hope I’m around to see it grow. It took me to get to age 33 before I realized that “I Matter!” My needs, my desires, my feelings and opinions matter! I’m sure each of us have things that we set on the back burner and sacrifice so that the people we love feel seen or heard and that’s all good. But today, I’m choosing to make sure I feel seen and heard also. I pray you all do the same. Thank you.

Life has revealed to me many truths and they all have one common thread: Know Thyself. Of all the topics in news and media today whether it be business, love and relationships or even health and wellness, there is one fundamental block that we need to be successful and that is to know ourselves. How can anyone succeed in any area of life without first knowing who they are and knowing what they want? It’s impossible. To set goals and accomplish them we must first know what we want and set our intentions on it. It brings me great joy to see the fruit of having an attitude of gratitude. And now that I’ve got a true, healthy relationship with God and myself, I’ll never do anything to jeopardize it ever again. My ultimate goal is to teach young girls how to have this truth for themselves so that they don’t suffer as I did.

Danyell Summers-Carson is a psychology college student and a mother of two. She can be reached at


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