Leading with Passion and Purpose: A Journey Towards a Sustainable World

During my time as a LeadNext Fellow through the Asia Foundation in 2023, I was granted the opportunity to formulate my Leadership Manifesto, a summary of my drive to be a leader in the sustainability space:

Like waves lapping on the shore, my leadership is calm yet persistent. I create the most impact in my community when my art, business, and sustainability blend together. I am a sustainable creator currently honing her data analysis skills as a Research & Insights Analyst, but my mission is to spread the importance of environmental justice through creativity and innovation. In the past, my innovative and multicultural mindset has served me well as a serial ecopreneur in the 3D printing and hair care spaces. In the future, I look forward to using my passion for cross-cultural collaboration to tackle global climate issues and support my hometown’s economic and societal growth in Buffalo, NY. Whether it’s on the dance floor, in the office, or on social media, as citizens of planet Earth, we have a duty to care for the world and all our neighbors. Despite my wide-reaching influence, my leadership matters most to others who look like me. To them, I say: live outside of your comfort zone, and get comfortable being uncomfortable because it’s in this zone where you experience the most growth and create the most impact.  And no matter your goals, remember you can only be as successful as your curiosity.

2023 LeadNext Cohort
2023 LeadNext Cohort during Leadership Summit in San Francisco, CA

From Shanghai Struggles to Textured Hair Empowerment: The Journey of 4ever Curly

Embracing my natural curls

Before boarding my flight to live in Shanghai for a semester, I had packed a suitcase FULL of natural hair care products. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to find any conditioners or creams for my type 4 hair in Shanghai, my new home for 4 months. I understood that, in China, my hair was an oddity and often got stares, so I wished to give the people something nice to look at and take good care of my fro. But despite my planning, I ran out of product and spent my last month in Shanghai with dry, unmanageable hair. I wore a hat every day and felt self-conscious of my curls and coils that I usually wore with pride.

This experience inspired me to curate 4ever Curly, a zero waste hair care brand for textured hair. Whether you were eco-conscious or a wanderlusting traveler, I hoped to support others on their natural hair journey wherever they were in the world. With compact shampoo and conditioner bars for curly, kinky hair, you would never be without the best hair care to keep your coils.

Although my time in Shanghai was challenging, it fueled my determination to make a difference in the world of natural hair care. I hope to return to this passion project one day, expanding 4ever Curly’s reach and providing accessible, sustainable hair care options for everyone. With the lessons learned from my own struggles, I aspire to create a brand with others passionate about natural hair care that celebrates and embraces diverse hair textures, empowering individuals to feel confident and beautiful in their natural state, no matter where their journey takes them.

Reflections on a Green Summer

If I have learned one thing this summer, it is this:

“A flower falls, even though we love it; and a weed grows, even though we do not love it.”

– Dōgen Zenji

I have experienced the kind nature of a garden, its buds, flowers, and amazing caretakers, and while I have journeyed through its weeds, what is a garden without its thorns? I have come to appreciate the sweat that goes into a garden’s care and long hours that go into its flourshing. As a rising sophomore Davidson College, I was able to spend my summer as a Sustainability Scholar getting my hands dirty on the farm. Prior to this experience, my only farming experience was at home in a backyard garden, but, thanks to the guidance of my wonderful supervisors, I took on quickly to the daily grind at Friendship Gardens.


Echinacea flowers in our pollinator bed at Friendship Gardens. Summer 2018

Waking up at 5:00 most mornings to catch the bus from Davidson, I would arrive at the farm at 8am to begin my caring duties: watering, planting, and of course, weeding. I learned how to grow watermelon, peanuts, parsley, oregano, sweet potatoes, garlic, and sesame seeds.  I learned about cover crop and worm castings, composting and herb dehydration. Do you know what a “lasagna plot” is? Unfortunately, it does not involve growing freshly made lasagna, but it is a method of layering mulch and cardboard on a plot of land prior to sowing seeds. Doing so prevents the growth of weeds; even better! I quickly realized that my time at Friendship Gardens would not only allow me to grow closer to and care more for my natural environment, but also learn about the tips and tricks of gardening, skills I will definitely take back to my backyard garden at home.

While I enjoyed learning and working on the farm, I also enjoyed the days when I could follow our harvested produce off of the grounds and into the hands of Friendship Gardens’ two partner organizations: Friendship Trays and The Bulb. Friendship Trays, a Meals on Wheels organization in Charlotte, is able to take great advantage of our fresh produce by incorporating it into their recipes. The Bulb, a mobile farmers market, works to provide fresh produce to those in food insecure areas in Mecklenburg County. My weekly trips to “The Trays” and to markets with The Bulb, further brightened my summer dedicated to learning about and helping remediate food insecurity. While this “weed” of food insecurity grows in Mecklenburg County, we are able to reap the benefits of the “flowers” at Friendship Gardens, Friendship Trays, and The Bulb as to fight food insecurity with friendship and fresh produce.

When I return to Charlotte in the upcoming semester, I look forward to returning to Friendship Gardens as to continue this meaningful work. I suggest you do so as well! If you are interested in volunteering with Friendship Gardens, visit their volunteer page here: http://friendship-gardens.org/volunteer/. And check out the amazing work being done at Friendship Trays http://friendshiptrays.org/ The Bulb https://www.thebulbgallery.org/. Let us work together to make Mecklenburg County a food secure community!

My Patent Experience

As I continue along my journey with Z Spools, I approach a significant milestone: filing a utility patent. My patent experience began last summer when I filed a provisional patent (allows you to safe guard any intellectual property for a year). Because I pitched Z Spools at a competition that was filmed in the spring of 2017, as to maintain the ownership of my IP, I filed a provisional patent knowing that I would have one year to complete necessary research as to compile data for a utility patent. Well, the time has come! It is July 2018 and I have one month until this deadline arrives. Currently, I am on track to reaching this goal which is perfect because in late August, I leave for Shanghai for a study abroad program! Things are looking up!

So happy to be on this intersecting path of sustainability and technology; Just a day in the lab working with my filament!

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