Faith Avery channels the grit of an Austin woman to build strong communities.
By Faith Avery, Photo by Hephzibah Olajimi
I am an Austin-born, Lubbock-raised young woman. Though I’ve spent most of my life some 300 miles from Austin, the city has always felt like my home. As I went through the college selection process a few years ago, I undoubtedly knew I wanted to make UT Austin my new home.
Coming to UT, one of my primary goals (for college and beyond) was to give back to my community. When setting this goal in 2018, my community consisted of childhood friends, high school classmates and my home church. Finally leaving the nest, I was faced with the challenge of finding community in a school of 50,000 students and a city of 900,000 people! Ever the social butterfly, I assumed I’d have no problem making friends and “fitting in” at UT. Little did I know, this would be my greatest challenge during my first semester.
I made sure to keep my Instagram page up-to-date so it looked like I was having the time of my life. But in actuality, the first few months of college were lonely. As someone who loves people and values community, I was deeply hurt by my struggle to build a new one with minimal success. This, coupled with homesickness and a pre-midlife crisis (the classic “I want to change my major” debacle), challenged me to figure out what community meant both personally and professionally.
I began to join student organizations that would elevate me.
During my freshman year, I became a Texas tour guide and began my training as a summer orientation advisor. From my sophomore year, I have served on the leadership team of five different student organizations. In addition to being a part of the Women’s Initiative for Entrepreneurship and Leadership Development program. These opportunities not only led me to develop skills such as public speaking and group facilitation. They allow me to be surrounded by a self-motivated and ambitious community of young men and women. Through these circles, I encounter the power of unity and the magnitude at which young people can truly change the world.
Throughout my college career, I wanted to ensure that I had a strong professional network that would push me to reach my fullest potential. After changing my major from journalism to communication and leadership, I sought mentors and opportunities that could help me on my journey to start a nonprofit. This intentionality led me to meet and be mentored by amazing Austin women such as Emlyn Lee, Brianna McBride and Valarie Wimes. These women push me to widen my worldview, problem-solve with deep empathy and move in complete authenticity.
Faith Avery’s Vow
These communities, both personal and professional, encouraged me to take the first steps in creating my nonprofit Art 2 Impact, alongside my friend and business partner, Vanesa Trejo. The organization will allow Austin middle-schoolers the opportunity to pursue their artistic passions through affordable art lessons. While COVID-bound in Lubbock, these same communities inspire me to find ways to become more involved in my hometown by mentoring young women at my church and interning with the Lubbock Mayor and City Council office to understand how to create community change at the municipal level.
Through my journey of community building, I’ve come to understand that to be an Austin woman, you must be determined and resilient. Full of grit and the desire to make Austin a better place. This doesn’t mean that you have to serve on every school and community board. Rather you find your niche and serve in it wholeheartedly. Whether it be working with children, dismantling the prison industrial complex or educating others on their racial biases. Austin women are intent on making change where it counts.
From the young women I’ve encountered, I’ve learned that an Austin woman is not measured by her age or how long she’s been in Austin, but by the content of her character and the level of her conviction. Therefore, to be a young Austin woman means that I do not let barriers of my race, age or gender deter me from being someone that impacts the city, state or national community. I, along with all of the other Austin women, wear this title as a banner of pride. I will do all that I can to uphold the mantle for all the women before me so that I can impact all of the women after me.