By Beth Reese Cravey The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Sherry Blue is the founder of "Foundation for Fortitude" which provides scholarships and mentors for young women at Jacksonville area schools. She says the goal of the foundation is to help build the ultimate successful woman.
The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville
When Sherry Blue first attended Edward Waters College in 1986, she had no mentor to help her find her way. She dropped out after two semesters. "I didn't have ... someone to encourage me to stay focused and complete my education," she said.
She then worked for Florida Blue in multiple entry- and mid-level positions but was unable to advance further.
Twelve years after leaving Edward Waters, she returned and obtained a bachelor's degree in business administration with a focus in organizational management.
"I realized that it was never too late," she said.
Blue went on to rise at Florida Blue and launch her own businesses, Jacksonville-based Make It Happen Bail Bonds and Luxuree Limo. She volunteers and donates to various local nonprofits. She realized she also wanted young women to benefit from her college journey.
She formed Foundation for Fortitude, which provides scholarships and mentors for young women at area colleges and engages them in community outreach. To raise money for the initiative, an all-white-attire benefit, a "Pure White Affair," is planned for March 31, with Marlo Hampton of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" reality television show as guest speaker.
"I had other dreams to chase and one of them included spreading my knowledge on the benefits of education and sharing my story to help shape young women's futures," Blue said. "Success is meant to be shared. I believe that all successful women should make it their obligation to lift up another woman and pay it forward."
The goal of the foundation is to help build the ultimate successful woman, she said.
Such women "understand that they are worthy, capable and able to withstand every adversity that comes their way and still be great," she said.
The foundation spreads the word about itself through a "Chat 'N Chew" session in the fall. Interested students submit an application and essay on "Why do I want to be the Ultimate Successful Woman?" Each applicant is interviewed and the foundation's board makes selections based on level of interest and need.
One component of the program is community service, with each student participating in at least two service projects and planning one on their own. One recent project was volunteering at the Foster Closet in Jacksonville, which provides free children's clothing, accessories, toys and furniture for families of foster children.
"Service," Blue said, "is a critical step on the path to success."
One student selected for support was TiGara Smith, 19, a sophomore at Edward Waters whose career goal is to become a pharmacist and own a chain of pharmacies.
"During my time at the foundation, I have learned that I should have confidence in myself and that I have to believe in myself if I want the successful life that I desire to have," Smith said. "The foundation to me isn't just about mentors helping me with problems, the foundation is filled with angels giving me the tools that I need."
The foundation is still in its infancy, but Blue said she can already see results.
"Growth happens everyday," she said. "One young woman came to us with a very low self-esteem and self-image. After some self work and positive reinforcement, she smiles more, walks with her head up and was able to use her voice to stop someone feeding her negativity. It was an absolutely proud moment when she shared with us how she felt after hearing someone compliment her from out of the blue."
The foundation's weekend retreat for the young women helped one of them "control her temper and make a better decision in a particular situation," Blue said.
"The experience and knowledge gained ... helped her put things in perspective," Blue said. "We are definitely making a huge impact in these young women's lives. It is something they will have forever."
Ju'Coby Pittman is CEO and president of the Clara White Mission, one of the nonprofits Blue supports.
"She has always been a person to give back and help people who are struggling," Pittman said. "She understands, she walks the walk, she talks the walk. She gives 200 percent."
Hampton, guest speaker at the "Pure White Affair," said she is honored to support Blue's efforts.
"Her ongoing goal of enriching the lives and minds of young women is a cause also near and dear to my heart," Hampton said.
"And what better way than for us to unite to uplift and push young women to become their better self."