October Rule Your Nation Awards

Welcome to October’s Rule Your Nation Awards! In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we have an all lady cast this time around, and their stories are incredible. Today you will meet a martial artist and teacher, two community activists, and two fitness competitors.

Trust me. That was the broad strokes. Let’s get to it!

Kate Beckett


Where did you grow up?

I’m from Grand Ledge, Michigan, went to Grande Ledge High School, and then Michigan State University where I majored in Elementary Education.


Were you an athletic kid growing up?

Yeah, I played basketball, volleyball, and soccer. I played club soccer in college too, but my real passion was singing and music. I sang barbershop harmony and won an international competition in seventh grade.


I also understand that you practice some martial arts. What form and for how long?

I’ve practiced Krav Maga for two and a half years and taught level and one and kids classes for a year now.


What made you want to practice Krav Maga?

I learned about Krav from a friend of mine who was in the Marines and learned it. He helped me sign up for it because I had been chased down on Lakeshore Drive while out running one winter evening. I outran the attacker and luckily nothing bad happened to me. When I told my friend the story he told be about Krav Maga and that being a single female in the city, I should really learn how to defend myself so that if something were to ever happen like that again, I would have a better chance defending myself. So I started training at Alpha Krav Maga in Old Town(Chicago Neighborhood -Ed),  and absolutely feel in love with it. I was able to pick things up rather quickly and was asked to train to become a trainer. I went through 3 brutal 7 hour days of testing and received my level one instructor certification in 2013.


You’re also quite the instructor from what I hear. Where have you taught and where are you teaching now?

I taught for six years, the first four in Houston, and the last two in Chicago. I even wrote literacy curriculum for Chicago Public Schools. When my provisional license expired in Illinois, I took it as a sign that I was destined for something else.  So now I’m an adjunct professor at Wilbur Wright College and writing a book on curriculum.


Can you explain what kind of work you do at Wilbur Wright?

I teach for a foundational program that helps prepare kids for college level work. I get to work with students who were pushed through the system that I was trying to reach before [at Chicago Public Schools].


And what is your book about?

It’s a fiction book titled Ms. Newbie. It’s based on my life. The teachers is even named “Katie Bee” and she teaches an unruly class through music. [The book] takes you through what teachers go through with kids and the district, and [et cetera]. At the end Katie Bee says goodbye to her students, and the book contains a supplemental guide on how to teach.


What inspires you to do what you’re doing now?

Working with kids in education and the hope that I might influence a change in the education system. My students still email me about how I impacted them. They’re living proof that students can be engaged, and I hold onto that when I have doubts.


What advice do you have for those students?

Find who you are and be it, live it, breathe it, love it.


What advice do you have for your past self?

Same thing, really. Don’t confine yourself into a box that you don’t fit in, and always fight for what you believe in.


When it’s all said and done, what legacy do you want to leave behind?

Being an individual. Staying true to myself. I want my actions to make [people] feel like “Because of you, I didn’t quit.” I’m crying, dang you! I guess it’s because I’m so passionate about it. I just hope people feel like they can count on me.


Is there a moment in particular that you can think of when you were there for someone?

One of my college students could barely eat. I was always baking stuff for the class, and always gave it to him. About three weeks in, he came in really frazzled and asked to talk after class.  He wrote me a note that he lost his pass and someone stole it. He said “Thank you, but I can’t come back.”

I wrote him back, “Don’t worry about it.” I gave him money to get home and come back to class the next day and emailed everyone. A lady came through with a pass and a 7-day pass to hold him until it arrived. He cried and wrote thank you notes to everyone and hand-delivered them.

You got pretty emotional when I asked you about your legacy. Are there any other moments you would like to share?

Well one time, a counselor asked the class, “What’s the difference between high school and college?” A student said “A teacher like Kate. I’ve never had a teacher who cared about me.”

Another time I asked the class “Who is your support system?” A student said, “You are, Ms. Kate.”

Why do you have this desire to be depended on?

Well, my brother was troubled. We were treated differently, and he was always fighting. He was told he was stupid, and he started to be whatever he was told. He started selling weed when we were kids, and I after I graduated he kept selling drugs and was murdered over it.  My goal is to help kids have hope that they’re not what people tell them, and that they’re not what society says. You’re still of value . Doing something bad doesn’t make you a bad person.


So when you think of the phrase Rule Your Nation what comes to mind?

Empowerment. Ruling your own world and taking the understanding of yourself around the world.

Jasmine Fernandez


Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York and went to high school at the Brooklyn School for Music and Theater.  I was the first in my family to go to college.


I understand that you were quite the dancer growing up as well. Did you have any aspirations in that field?

I dreamed of being a prima ballerina, but Fairfield [University] offered a good package, so I went there.


Have you continued to dance?

Yes, last September I choreographed a show called “Chapter of Understanding.” I portrayed a HIV patient myself.


You’ve always seemed to have an activist heart. How did you pursue our passion for community building?

While I started a group called “Performing for Change” at Fairfield and took service trips to Nicaragua and Tanzania. After college, I was a caseworker in Houston and then worked for BuildOn, an international non-profit in New York that helps underserved high schools by educating them on their rights, global education, and relationships. We even took some students from Bridgeport, Connecticut to Haiti to build a school.

JasmineFernandezRuleYourNation3What are you doing now?

I’m the Outreach Manager of Partnerships for the Pre-K for All Initiative under the New York City Department of Education.  I streamline intra-agency communications to help families in the city. So far we’ve enrolled over 65,000 citizens [in the program].

I’m also currently pursuing a graduate degree in Urban Policy Analysis and Management with a concentration on Education Policy and Housing.


You’re clearly a role model for a lot of youth out there. What words of advice do you have for anyone who wants to live the life you’re living now?

You have to constantly put yourself out there. [Be willing to] change your career path. Study abroad somewhere different. Get out of your comfort zone.

My goal is for the kids I mentor to be better than me.

JasmineFernandezRuleYourNation10When it’s all said and done, what legacy would you like to leave behind?

Being a woman of strength, persistence, and compassion at work and in my relationships. [Growing up] my only option was to not repeat my past life. I’m still not satisfied.  [I want to] leave a seed in people to push for more.


When you hear the phrase Rule Your Nation, what comes to mind?

What are you contributing to society? Take [life] into your hands and leave your mark.

Tiffany Wilkerson

TiffanyWilkersonRuleYourNation4Where did you grow up?

I grew up the youngest of three on a cattle ranch in Wyoming. I had to get up at 4 a.m. moving cows with my dad. I think I was the boy he never had.


Were you athletic as a kid?

Yes, I played center in volleyball. I played basketball too, but I was a point guard because I’m a shorty. I also ran hurdles in track. I thought if I hustled hard, I would make it into college, but I had no pro aspirations.


Did you go to college?

I earned my bachelors in Exercise Science and Community Health while raising four kids. I then got my masters in Healthcare Administration with a Healthcare Management concentration.


So what are you up to now?

I was a wellness coach in Las Vegas from 2011 to 2013. Now I’m a personal trainer who does online personal training. I enjoy showing that health can be sustained in small choices  and without a gym membership. it’s exciting to me.

TiffanyWilkersonRuleYourNation9What inspires you to do what you do?

I love motivating people with my actions and words and empowering people. Giving someone hope in themselves is really empowering.

TiffanyWilkersonRuleYourNation8What advice would give to anyone who sees you as a role model?

Fight for what you want. We lose faith in ourselves and forget that we’re worth fighting for hell or high water.


When it’s all said and done, what legacy do you want to leave behind?

 If I’ve empowered someone and made them feel like they can do anything, I’m doing my job. I want to have empowered someone to chase their dream.


Now you spoke about fighting. Was there ever a moment in your life when you had to fight?

Well I had my first son very young. I married early, two days after my 17th birthday, and it was an abusive relationship. I [had to learn] to see myself as a warrior and not a victim.


When you hear the phrase Rule Your Nation, what comes to mind?

The vision I get is of a big strong warrior. If you can rule yourself you can make a positive impact on your nation whatever that means to you.

Simone Gamble

SimoneGambleRuleYourNation1Where are you from and how did you grow up?

I’m from the South Bronx as a foster child with six brothers and two sisters, and I went to St. Thomas Aquinas in the Bronx.


Were you an athletic kid growing up?

Yes, I played basketball, first two years junior varsity and my last year varsity. I ran track my senior year of high school, the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 400-meter. I wanted to try out for Hunter College’s basketball team and even go to the WNBA, but I had financial obligations and couldn’t play.

SimoneGambleRuleYourNation4I heard through the grapevine that you were quite the dancer as well. Is that true?

Dancing is more like a hobby for me. I used to do talent shows, and my passion is learning and teaching Hip-Hop. I’ve taught it for 10 years now.


And what do you do now?

I work for the The Brotherhood Sister Sol as Chapter Leader of the Liberation Program, and I teach my students what it means to be a woman, acknowledge gender, race, and class. We want them to what kind of women they want to be. I also work as a community organizer with a focus on fair policing.

What inspired you to be a community organizer?

I just always wanted to. [I noticed that] things weren’t always fair or equal, and I didn’t want to complain without doing something.  I got my teacher’s license, but [when I started teaching] I cared more abut the students than teaching.


What legacy do you want to leave behind when it’s all said and done?

Black Lives Matter. I want people to see black lives as worth fighting for and cherished, and their skin is not a crime. I want all people to see that.


Would you have any advice for someone who wishes to follow in your footsteps?

Just do it. What you’re seeing is real, and you’re not crazy. There are many ways to make a change. You can use the media to change narratives. You can use writing like spoken word or articles like this one. You can use the classroom by educating youth.  Find your passion and your skill set and just do it.


When you hear the phrase Rule Your Nation, what do you think of?

Something powerful and empowering. Shifting power into the hands of the most oppressed.

Chelsea Kamody


 So where are you from?

I grew up in Amherst, Ohio and moved to Virginia to teach eighth grade Science.

Were you an athletic kid growing up?

I was definitely a tomboy. I played volleyball and softball until my junior year of high school and ran cross country in college.

I understand that you’ve competed in some fitness competitions and did pretty well. Could you give us a run down?

Well, I just won fourth place in the Cleveland National Muscle Association competition’s bikini tall open division. That was my fourth competition. I really started trying to get healthy in November of 2014.

Were you not healthy before?

I had every eating disorder under the sun for 10 years. I suffered from anorexia and I would eat lettuce and bananas before working out for hours. I also had bulimia and would binge eat. I had exercise bulimia, so I was exercising to get rid of the food I ate.

 So what sparked this change?

 In October 2014 I went to the hospital because my heart and liver was failing. The doctors said I was going to die. I even tried to kill myself and failed. Later that night it hit me that I need to fix this. So I researched for a few weeks and set a goal to compete in May. I ended up competing in March and there was no turning back. I felt like a human being again.


What inspired you to do fitness competitions?

I always loved the gym. I admired fitness models and bikini competitors, and I knew the only way to get healthy was to set goals. So when I started to get healthy I knew I was going to do them. Some may say it’s not good to heal an eating disorder with competing but the sport saved my life. It’s given me somewhere else to put my control, and a reason to be healthy. Fitness is a wonderful outlet.

 Any advice for someone who sees you as a role model?

I hate asking for help. I hate people thinking I’m weak, but everyone has their issues. So my advice is never be embarrassed. Nobody’s perfect. Never be ashamed. Ask for help. I would not have made it without my support system. I still struggle, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll stay healthy because of them.

How about some advice for your past self?

Listen to people. Eating disorders are a disease of the mind. I was hospitalized [but] nobody was right but me. You’ve got to give up that control and realize that life is precious.

When you hear the phrase Rule Your Nation, what comes to mind?

You only have one life to live. You can either take control, get healthy and that doesn’t have to mean competing, be happy, or let life pass you by.

There you have it, folks. These ladies have been through a lot, but they keep pushing everyday until they become the women they aspire to be. It is my hope that they have inspired you to do the same.

Rule well, my friends.

No Apologies,

G. Miller

One Comment Add yours

  1. Elene Crosby (grandmother) says:

    Great work, Baby! Keep it up! Your family is very proud of you! Grandpa would be so proud; you know how he felt about you and your brother, Trey!

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