In Due Time : An Interview with Mea Boykins
Mea Boykins’ journey is a global success story that is nowhere near its final chapter.A Spelman College graduate, Mea has accomplished what many only dream of and has remained selfless in her journey to also help others along the way. Let’s meet her…
Where did your interest in Psychology/Mental Health begin?
I was always interested in learning about psychological disorders and how individuals processed excitement, happy and trauma differently across ethnicities, gender, religions, sexuality, etc. Nonetheless, I’ve always foreseen a career where I serve the masses. Initially, I wanted to be a doctor, but when I started college at Spelman, the lowest level of math and science was super difficult for me. Psychology was the only major that I could take where I didn’t need any other math or science courses, so I happily stuck with that.
Where do you see communities lacking when it comes to mental health resources and what would you like to see happen in terms of programs and services?
There is a lack of safe spaces where individuals can express themselves. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an official Psychologist or office. In my opinion, mental health problems are very stigmatized in the black community. From my experience, people seem to prefer brushing things under a metaphorical rug than speaking about it. I think this is because early on people are told to stop crying or to be weary in expressing your feelings with “outsiders.” Further, mental health, and healthy expression isn’t taught in the organizations that are of interest to youth or adults. More conversations need to be had about the importance and strength in those seeking help. It takes a lot to be able to communicate and process their feelings, let alone drop pride enough to seek out assistance from a peer, professional or family member.
As a college student, what hurdles did you have to overcome and tell us what experiences lead to your establishment of the S.E.A. Scholarship? When you were applying to and accepted to colleges, was the financial aspect of it a major concern as you were going through the application process?
I never would have guessed something so beautiful would come from such a disheartening place. I was a sophomore at Spelman College, a historically black college (HBCU), and I was paying my tuition through grants, scholarships, and student loans. One scholarship was taking too long to come in, so there was a hold on my account. I had to officially drop all my classes, but luckily, good relationships with my professors allowed me continue to sit in their classes. My college career stayed intact after that, but by then I had built relationships with a few students who had to leave school because of financial obstacles of their own. With an account hold, you cannot transfer course credits to any other school. Since I grew up in an environment that did not value education much, it was saddening to see those friends leave. Coming from rural Louisiana, I would see people finish high school, go straight into the workforce, and get comfortable in whatever they could find. Meanwhile, these friends—these young Black women—were looking to learn more and strive to better themselves. I do not believe the desire for education should be curbed because of money, so I took action and did what was in my power. What motivated me to start the Student’s Emergency Assistance Scholarship at 19 years old was knowing that it would help young women achieve their dreams of graduating from college. When I was applying to college, I was not very stressed about the financial aspect because I had applied for loans, received scholarships, had some family help, and I knew that God has me covered.
While there are a lot of options given to students to gain financial assistance, what advice would you give to parents in order to help their child be prepared financially for college without taking on a lot of debt or having to juggle a lot of things during their college time to try to make ends meet otherwise?
My best advice is to start applying for aid their junior year in high school. Apply for state and merit based scholarships, sorority/fraternity scholarships, sports, etc. If you aren’t in a position to hire someone to help apply for scholarships, spending 2 hours a day searching and applying for scholarships will result to more funding!
Why do you think so many parents are still not saving for their children’s college education-with and without limited incomes? Perhaps it’s not something that was taught to them or highly regarded within the family. Either way, I hope this trend changes so that youth are stepping out of college with less debt.
What would you like to see in terms of government involvement in lowering or eliminating college costs for students?
In a dream world, public education would be free. I’ve lived abroad and completed 2 international Masters degrees and it is much less of a financial burden. For example, in France and many other European countries, public universities are free. If they aren’t free, it’s a few thousand dollars, whereas in America public universities may range from $15k-100k+. I wish the government would stop eliminating funding for students and award more state based competitive grants.
Do you now or have you ever had a mentor? If so, what did you gain from the experience?
I have over 10 amazing mentors. They advise me in terms of spiritual growth, business, career opportunities, making positive decisions and more. In general, they each motivate and encourage me to keep working to be and do better. I am constantly gaining wisdom and knowledge from them, and I am so blessed and lucky to have insight from people that are successful as well as amazing inside and out!
Tell us about your Business Development services?
I help individuals seeking to launch a business or nonprofit in a variety of ways, including incorporation and obtaining a 501 (c) 3. I offer consulting services to advise on ways to develop companies and orgs through strategic partnerships, events and sponsorships.
And your Event And Fundraising endeavors?
Thus far, I’ve planned over 20 events which support social and economic benefits, such as humanitarian aid; workforce development programs; small business development initiatives, executive business conferences, educational programs, and college scholarship programs in the U.S., Europe and Asia. My fundraising skill commenced when I launched the Student Emergency Assistance Scholarship fund as a junior at Spelman.
I currently fundraise for an amazing organization called STEM NOLA, which aims to expose, inspire, and engage youth in New Orleans about the possibilities and opportunities in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. I also manage projects for clients nationally and assist with planning events for their brands or companies.
Your passport has not been gathering dust for sure. Where was your favorite place to live/visit and where are you based now?
My favorite places to live are Paris, London, Barcelona and NYC. My favorite holiday occurred in Marrakesh, Morocco. I am currently based in New Orleans, but I travel on business worldwide and visit Atlanta frequently.
You have accomplished a lot but what is the ultimate goal for Mea on her life’s “vision board”?
My ultimate goal is private and will be shared with the world in due time. I’ve only shared it with a handful of advisors. However, I plan to obtain a doctorate and launch an international consulting firm, a young professionals organization & other companies that will assist young entrepreneurs.
How can readers reach out to you for more information?
Follow me @meaboykins on IG, Twitter, and Facebook and visit www.meaboykins.com for more info about my work and upcoming engagements.
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