Women in Entertainment Mentorship Grad: How Nancy Josephson Changed My Life
Maira Solis writes about her experience in THR and Big Brothers Big Sisters' program — which began pairing inner-city girls in their junior year of high school with top-level executives in 2008 — and what she's doing now
This story first appeared in the 2014 Women in Entertainment issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
When I was 16, I was going through a pivotal time in my life.
My brothers were constantly getting into trouble, resulting in frequent visits from the police. We were always the talk of the neighborhood. The police knew our family; I always felt embarrassed and ashamed. My family was violent toward one another, we didn't talk to one another and we hurt one another. My mother became tired and left with my younger sister. I stayed with my dad until we had a paper on our front door telling us to leave the place I once regarded as home.
I lived in a neighborhood where failure seemed to thrive, and it was expected that I would fail as well. I was the only child of six to remain in school (my siblings did not make it past high school), and although college was an option, I didn't have anyone to guide me in that direction.
That was when I met Nancy Josephson, and my life changed. I remember first meeting Nancy at her office with my mother. We were both in awe of her job and were both nervous. I was very intimidated by her, because she is such a strong woman. She asked me a lot of questions about my education and my reasons for wanting to be a part of the Mentoring Program. I asserted that I wanted to learn about the industry and what it would take to get there. She immediately took an interest in providing me with SAT tutoring. If I wanted to make it in the industry, I had to go to college, and for that to happen, I needed to have a good SAT score. Because of her help, I was able to apply to 20 schools. I ended up getting a full-ride scholarship to Occidental College.
Attending Oxy was tough. I was intimidated by the classes and felt that my prior education had not helped me enough. My best moments there were the conversations that I had with my professors. A lot of them saw potential in me. But I'd never before had such rigorous coursework, and at times it felt overwhelming. I was always tired and behind on something. I wanted to quit. I felt that I wasn't going to succeed, because I didn't know half of what these kids knew; I only knew what was in my neighborhood. I felt scared. But it was that same fear that pushed me to continue. And although it's been difficult, I am now a senior at Occidental and preparing for law school.
I hope to be an inspiration to my younger sister and motivate her to go to college. Prior to meeting Nancy, I really didn't believe I had the potential to achieve this great endeavor. I am eternally grateful for her guidance. Without her, I don't know how I would have been able to achieve what I have achieved. She not only has made a difference in my life, but in those lives around me.