Shontell in the City

Hi guys! My name is Shontell White and I am one of the women who is blessed enough to call Alysse Dowdy my best friend. She is such an empowering woman and she inspires me to reach new heights daily. I’m grateful that she has given me the opportunity to post as a guest contributor today! Last week I visited a close friend of Alysse and I in New York and on the train ride home I ceased the opportunity to log my entire journey. I hope you enjoy this quick glimpse into my life. Hopefully, this won’t be the last that you hear from me! I plan to drop some love on this blog regularly!

2:41 PM                                                                                                                                          5/23/15

Penn Station, New York City

On Wednesday morning, May 20, 2015, I awakened around 3:30 am to catch the 4:30 am train to Penn Station, New York City. Being that this was my first trip traveling more than a couple of hours alone – my emotions were a blend of pure excitement and utter fear and nervousness. A few months back, one of my closest friends, Aubree Surrency invited me to visit her home during the summer. Although I eagerly agreed and ensured her that our plans would one day come to fruition, I must admit that I was a bit skeptical myself. I didn’t believe I could pull this one off. Not only is traveling extremely expensive (I’m a broke college student that seeks financial support from her parents), but I didn’t think that I could sell my parents on the idea that I was finally mature enough to make such a big journey alone. Somehow, someway and by the grace of God, I was on that 4:30 train from Danville, Virginia to New York City on Wednesday morning. The trip from the south to the north was definitely a long journey, but I rode in complete awe and amazement that I was able to journey through six states in the matter of about 9 hours. Not to mention, the sight was absolutely beautiful! About three hours into the journey, I was able to slide over to occupy the window seat on the train. The East coast is absolutely breathtaking! I sat beside a black middle-aged woman who de-boarded in Culpepper, Virginia and in Manassas, Virginia a middle-aged white woman headed for New York took over her seat. I snacked on banana chips, granola, barely read the books that I intended to read, strolled through my Facebook and Instagram feeds, prayed a little, chatted with the women beside me and partook in an occasional nap until I arrived at Penn Station at about 1:30 pm on Wednesday afternoon.

Upon arriving to the station, I thought to myself, “Wow, I really made it. I did what I thought was impossible and by the grace of God I successfully completed my first “big girl” journey. I made it to the big city!”. I squeezed through crowds of people from diverse ethnicities and unique backgrounds and I followed the masses up a cramped escalator to the Amtrak station. Through all of the hustling and bustling excitement, I managed to get a hold of myself to call up the reason why I had been blessed enough to make this journey in the second place. Before I could say 1,2,3… I spotted Aubree at the top of the escalator patiently awaiting my arrival – talk about southern hospitality in the north! Little did I know, this would not be the last time the Surrency family would express such authentic and passionate acts of love, selflessness, and grace to their southern guest. Luckily, the night before journeying to NYC, Aubree texted me suggesting that it might be a good idea to pack my belongings in a suitcase with wheels because we would be spending the entire afternoon and evening in the city. That evening we tallied over 20,000 steps and we managed to walk about 10 miles around the city! We visited Times Square, Central Park, Columbus Circle and other popular tourists attractions. For lunch, we ate at a Greek food truck near Central Park called Tony Dragon’s Grille. I proceeded to reach inside my purse to grab my wallet, but Aubree quickly stopped me and informed me that I was not allowed to spend a penny of my money on activities and food (second piece of evidence that these people are angels!). I stood there in complete disbelief because my parents had generously calculated the cost of food into the money they had given me for the trip. As our stomachs growled in hunger, we journeyed the extra mile and a half to Central Park to devour our lunches amongst the trees, birds and all of the beautiful people. After lunch, Aubree and I climbed to the top of a rock in the park and I decided to practice a few yoga poses! Never in my life have a felt so free! After an evening of sightseeing and walking that resulted in sore and tired feet, we took the Long Island transit back to West Babylon where Aubree resides. Although I was excited about the entire experience, I was most eager to learn more about Long Island and about the area that Aubree was raised in. We ate at a local diner called The Post Office and at about 11:30 pm, Aubree’s mother, Stacey and brother, Jaylin, greeted us. Though sleepy eyed, we somehow managed to shower before calling it a night.

On Thursday morning, we had breakfast with two of Aubree’s friend, Meagan and Jamarie at a locally owned diner called Brownstone Coffee and Tea. There most be something contagious in the Long Island water because Aubree’s friend decided to buy both her and my food. More importantly, they were genuine and welcomed me to the island with their arms wide open. Later we rode past Aubree’s high school, dance school, current job, and even her favorite place to have her eyebrow’s waxed. I definitely feel like I know a lot more about Aubree’s upbringing and what better way to do that then to be totally immersed into her environment. Such a blessing! We also visited one of my favorite shopping malls, Tanger Outlets. I had the opportunity to meet one of Aubree’s oldest friends of 16 years, Ashley, who worked at the outlet. Afterwards, we headed home to rest before our evening festivities began. That evening Aubree arranged for me to attend a zumba class held in the gym of a local church. The workout was intense and the instructor was a vibrant, middle-aged black woman with the body of a 25-year-old and the spunky attitude of a teenager. I learned that she is also a professor at Stony Brook University. I also met one of Aubree’s mom’s long-term friends, Ms. Carol. She was extremely excited to finally be able to meet me. Needless to say, I was showered with love during this entire trip. After zumba class, Aubree’s mother continued to stand by her motto that “what is mines is yours” and she treated us all to dinner at a local diner. After dinner, we commenced a night full of fun, laughter and bowling! I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many happy and smiling faces. Ms. Stacey, Jaylin, Aubree and Caiya – the entire family wore authentic smiles as we witnessed the underdog, Aubree, as she rose to the occasion and dominated the first game. In the beginning, Aubree claimed that she was a bad bowler. I don’t know if I believe her! Jaylin was not impressed by Aubree’s skills and he managed to steal the show during the second game. There’s no need to discuss my scores! What a full and fun evening!

I don’t think anything could’ve prepared me for what was to come on Friday morning. I woke up to the smell of giant New York bagels and authentic cream cheese. Jaylin is such a young gentleman and he prepared our bagels while his mother drove Caiya to a friend’s home. Jaylin met me at the top of the stairs with a big, bright smile and said, “The food is ready downstairs whenever you are”. There is no doubt in my mind that he will make his wife a very happy woman someday! While eating my bagel and fresh fruit, Ms. Stacey arrived with freshly brewed coffee in hand. Let’s keep in mind that I only mentioned to her once that I liked coffee in the morning. I didn’t expect for her to go out of her way each morning to ensure that I had a fresh cup. After breakfast, we piled into the van to travel to what would be one of the most beautiful places that I have ever traveled to, the Montauk Point Lighthouse. Man, have you ever been so blown away in a moment by God’s beautiful creations that you simply could not fathom what was occurring right before your eyes? The lighthouse, the beach, and the endless rock formations were all simply breathtaking. I have plans on traveling back there in the near future. After the lighthouse adventure, we dropped Aubree off at work and I spent sometime with Ms. Stacey and Jaylin. We ate at a Mexican restaurant in Babylon Village called Del Fuego. I ordered one of the best burritos that I have ever eaten in my life! I spent the rest of the evening playing board games and watching a scary movie with the family and Caiya’s best friend Kaitlyn. At around 10: 30, I rode with Ms. Stacey to pick Aubree up from work. Before heading to bed, Aubree and I celebrated my last night in Babylon by watching the movie “Enough” staring Jennifer Lopez until three in the morning!

This morning, I rose to the smell of fresh blueberry muffins. Ms. Stacey had done it again, she prepared a full breakfast for the family, Kaitlyn and I complete with fresh fruit, muffins, turkey bacon, sausage, eggs, and of course a special cup of coffee for me. Before my departure, we all sat at the table laughing at baby photos of Aubree, Jaylin and Caiya. I truly felt like I was a part of their family. Never in my life have I ever experienced the sincere warmth of love, protection and affection by a family that were complete strangers to me only a year and a half ago. I am still completely overwhelmed by their selfless acts and there is absolutely no way to articulate my appreciation to them or to even begin to thank them enough for what they have done for me. God’s love is literally ricocheting off the walls of their home and I count it as a blessing that I was able to spend merely three days with that family of angels. One thing is for sure — home is definitely where the heart is.

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The Market

After a long night at work last night I woke up at an early 9:45 (lols) to go to the Farmers Market!  I had planned the night before to go with one of my friends, but when I mentioned it to the people I’m living with right now they told me they were going too, and invited me along. I’m glad they did because my friend ended up not being able to go with me. Around 10:30 we leave the house together and we start walking down the street, passing every one of our cars. I’m slightly confused but then it dawns on me… oh my goodness they are going to walk! If you know me, I don’t walk anywhere. I’m the kind of person to catch the bus only to get off at the next stop. So when I realized we were going to walk all the way there, and then have to walk all the way back I was…well tired just thinking about it. Can I also inform you that it was pushing 90 degrees this morning!?

So, we make it to the Farmers Market about 20 minutes later with beads of sweat running down my shirt that were impossible to hide thanks to my grey t-shirt.  Getting there I thought I would want to buy lots of veggies like I was doing last summer but I thought about it, and I haven’t really been cooking a lot lately so I probably shouldn’t buy anything until I know what I want to cook. Instead we all just got these amazing bagel things. I wish I knew the correct name so I could give them a little shoutout, but let me tell y’all, I don’t even like melted cheese, but on these bagels they are amazing. They have plenty of fun “flavors” but i’m pretty sure we all ended up getting the same one: egg with canadian bacon and american cheese. Side note: why is candadian bacon called that? Its deceiving, just call it ham! Typical Alysse was craving coffee, but I’m not a big fan of black iced coffee because the sugar doesn’t melt. So instead, I got a strawberry lemonade like the rest of the girls.

It has been two weeks that I have been living with these girls. At first I was really hesitant because they already had a solid friend group established, but they have been really welcoming and I feel really blessed to have found some new friends! The Farmers Market is one of my favorite things, and I hope to make it a habit that continues into the fall semester. How about y’all, do you go to the market, do you have a favorite item you regularly buy?

..and we are His Bride

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 7.40.21 PMOn my drive back to school a couple of weeks ago,  I was listened  to Jeff & Alyssa’s podcast (on iTunes!!!). One of the topics was about what having a relationship with the Lord looks like. Normally when I hear the phrase “relationship with the Lord” it sounds like an euphemism for “I’m ACTUALLY one of those good Christians who goes to church and has quiet time etc” and it is often said instead of the phrase “I am religious” Well at least I can admit that is how I use it. During the podcast Jeff said a few things that really set a light bulb off in my head.


1. When I first think about the word relationship I think about couples who are dating.

If you are a Christian, then you are in a relationship with God. A relationship. In any normal relationship you wouldn’t go weeks on end without talking to your significant other, but we do that with God sometimes don’t we? Remember, we serve a jealous God and should not have other idols in out lives. Often in a relationship, what you do is a reflection of your partner, or the family you have created together. As faithful Christians we should want to present ourselves in a way that reflects God, and the love He has for us. It doesn’t matter if you have been saved for 2 weeks, or 20 years, it is important to continue to pursue the Lord and grow deeper in His love, just as you would with your spouse.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

2. There are ebbs and flows

If you have ever been in a long-term relationship you know that you are not always on this continuous “high on life” feeling. There are times when you feel more connected to your partner and times when you feel more distant. That is normal. We can’t always have the same “on fire for God” feeling, but it is important to continue communication with Him and really pray through.

That they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.. (Acts 17:27)

3. He will always love us more

Sometimes in relationships it seems that one person loves the other more. Well in your relationship with Jesus, he will always be the one to love you more than you love Him. He shows us unconditional love that is impossible to top. In Jeff & Alyssa’s podcast they used the ocean as a metaphor for this. God’s love is like the waves of an ocean, continuous and never ending despite where we are. If you are feeling distant from the Lord His waves of love are still crashing all around you, and there is no place you can go to stop that.

This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us.. (1 John 4:10) 


…For When I Get Paid

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For the most part, I am pretty satisfied with my wardrobe right now. I have started to re-stock my shorts collection now that I dropped a few sizes, but besides that there are only a few staple pieces I’m looking to purchase right now. Well besides the Whataburger t-shirt, I’ve just been wanting to get one for a while now!

Top Left: J.Crew Reese Pants  Top Right: Whataburger T-Shirt

Bottom Left: Zara Blazer Bottom Right: J.Crew Field Jacket


What DC Taught Me

With graduation season here, there is a lot of talk concerning the future, and what we all “want to do when we get older.” As a college junior I’m getting to the point where I should start carving out some definite paths I might be interested in following post-undergrad. Personally, I’ve always found it helpful to figure out what you don’t want to do, and then go from there, so while I was in DC I did just that.

While I was in DC meeting with different companies/agencies, I got a little taste of the different “levels” of the pyramid that my field of work includes. Everyone imagine the food pyramid for a second and use this image to follow along with my analogy.

The bottom layer, so say the grains, was the Dance Place, a community based dance studio. They not only house professional dance companies, but also serve the kids in the under-resourced community they are located in. After many years of just being a dance studio, a program for the youth was organically created when some kids from the neighborhood started throwing rocks at the building. The director confronted these boys, brought them inside, and had them do their homework by her desk. The boys continued to come back to the studio, and eventually their youth after school program was created. Now, the after-school program follows a curriculum of not only dance, but life skills, and youth development topics. From all the stories I heard, the Dance Place has become a second home to many of the youth they serve and their impact is evident within the community.

The layer on top, the fruits, would be The Forum for Youth Investment. They work on aligning interventions to create a “collective impact,” so that organizations in the same area can work together instead of all trying to do the same thing on their own. They also have a department that works within the White House to help push through legislation that directly influences youth.

The next company Bellwether, is the vegetables and operates on the same level as The Forum. Bellether does policy and consulting work that resembles a corporate firm, despite their non-profit status. The work they do directly pertains to schools, and education. Andrew Rotherham, is a co-founder and I really recommend that you all read some of the articles he has written for various news outlets. (Google it!)

The top of the pyramid is the Department of Human Services. Within their department is: Head Start, Child Support, Chid Care, Homeless/Runaway Youth, etc.  As you can guess everything they do works on a federal to state pipeline. They are working toward major legislative change that would eventually funnel down to supporting people around the country.


I don’t think any level is more important than the other, it all has to do with personal preference and what job tasks you want to be doing on a daily basis. All of these companies are working to better serve the youth, but they are all doing it at different levels. At the end of the day I had time to reflect on which area I could see myself working in one day, and it was honestly no question. I want to be on the ground directly working with kids. I could possibly see myself working somewhere like The Forum since they are a really small organization and do a lot of consulting on community organizations already present, but any policy work or consulting higher than that would be too much for me.

While I understand how crucial the work The Department of Health & Human Services is, as well as other policy companies, I know I would become so frustrated with how slow change actually happens and I would miss having direct contact with the kids I am serving. i can just imagine myself sitting in board meetings with nothing getting done and thinking “..but the kids need help NOW.”

I dream of serving youth in community where I get to see their shining faces everyday, help them envision their future beyond their current situation, and just be a safe space in a world that often ignores their needs. From the beginning I knew this is the impact that I saw myself creating, but this trip simply confirmed what I should be focusing all of my energy toward.

Derrick is Gone, Meredith is the Sun, & It’s all Going to be Okay

Well, it’s our first night without a Grey’s Anatomy episode. Gee. You could say the last couple of episodes have created some controversy within the Grey’s “community” but let me tell you right now, I stand with Shonda and all the other writers.

Derrick died. In comparison to other deaths on the show, Derricks was no where near as dramatic. It didn’t pull on the same heart strings as George’s, Denny’s, Mark’s, Lexie’s, and one that personally crushed me to the core, Henry, Teddy’s “husband.” Those deaths were dramatic, those deaths you felt for the days to follow. Derrick’s, well we were just mad.

Forgive me if this all seems insensitive, I too am upset that Derrick’s departure was not “adequately” done. I have been watching Grey’s Anatomy for a long time now. I remember sneaking around to different rooms in my house to watch it when I was far too young and everyone was still constantly having sex in supply closets every other scene. Now as a college junior (or sophomore still?) I am so emotionally attached to these characters. After this year especially, this show was my light, it saved me. Well maybe saved me is a strong term, but it gave me something to cling to when nothing else was going right.

During this season especially we saw Meredith as her own person. We learned who Meredith was without her husband. After watching the episode when she realized that her streak was directly related to Derrick being away I was so fascinated, and at the same time concerned. What do you do when you are better without the love of your life? That is a question for another blog post. But this season we got to see Meredith live out Cristina’s declaration of being the Sun. Just as Meredith was navigating what that declaration looked like, I felt as if I was too. This season Meredith was my person.

When the news came out that Derrick was leaving the show, I felt this blind allegiance with Shonda. She knew what she was doing, and she was going to protect Meredith. I recognize that this show has many important characters, but for me, this is the Meredith show. Meredith is the Sun, and she is going to make it without Cristina and without Derrick. Meredith is strong, Meredith is resilient, Meredith is going to succeed.

I am strong, I am resilient, I am going to succeed. 

Summa Summa Summa Goals

If you follow me on tumblr you know that this past year of school was tough, and I have no desire to rehash all that, but I’m looking to make some real improvements this summer. I love to be as productive as possible during the summers and really try to better myself as much as I can. So far my goals are: 

  1. Do quality work at my job
  2. Learn as much as I can by assisting in the research lab
  3. See real academic improvements in the kids I am tutoring
  4. Write a 500-700 word piece of writing twice a month
  5. Relearn the basics of writing/grammar 
  6. Finish 2 books a month
  7. Figure out what I want to dedicate my extra time to next year 
  8. Play my violin 3 times a week 
  9. Exfoliate regularly, keep my cuticles healthy, deep condition my hair regularly  
  10. Stay on track with my devotions, and start studying Galations 
  11. Write out a 3-year plan (more about this later) 
  12. Become more informed on current events, and occasionally read stories from the major news papers
  13. Work on my sewing skills and finish making the skirts I promised for my friends
  14. Protect my happiness at all cost 

My favorite number is 14 so I think that is a good place to cap things off at. Do you have any similar goals? What are you planning to do this summer? 

Alysse 

    Here We Are Again

    I’ve lost count of how many times I have started blogs, then stopped writing, only to pick it back up again either at a rough point or a really high point in my life. This time I would say I am on the up-swing.  (yay)

    While most of y’all know that I am an avid tumblr (Person who tumbles? Have we collectively decided how to say that yet?) recently I have been been wanting to write out some longer post and figured this would be the better platform. So in the near future you should see post about

    • Summer Goals
    • 3-Year Plan
    • Submission, Jesus, and Feminism
    • She Reads Truth-Bible in a Year
    • My opinion on the recent Grey’s Anatomy “tragedy”

    During my trip to DC an executive at a policy consulting firm told us that having the ability to write was one of the most important qualities a college graduate could have. I am very aware of my lack of writing ability and I really want to improve over the next few years. Obviously blogging is not the same as the type of writing my future career might require, but at the end of the day writing is writing and I need to re-learn some fundamentals.

    Well guys thanks for reading, this should be fun!

    Alysse