When she was just 11 years old, Victoria Meeks’ life changed forever. She was caught in crossfire at a traffic light in her neighborhood near Soulsville and was shot. After that incident, she says, “I made the conscious decision that I would not mirror my surroundings. After having to beg for work at my former school, where I was never challenged, I found The Soulsville Charter School [TSCS] and I found a home.”
Victoria methodically set out to shatter those mirrors once at her new home at TSCS. Through Summer Growth Experiences (SGEs), she earned the privilege of attending prestigious boarding schools during her summer breaks. During her senior year, her SGE was working on the successful political campaign of now-Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. During that year, she said, “It is very exciting to get more exposure to politics and all that is takes to run a substantial and effective campaign. Plus, it is a lot fun working with a group of people who are all working for evident change in Memphis; I am so happy to be a part of that process.”
Victoria’s diligence paid off in more ways than one. In fact, as a senior at TSCS she applied to 16 colleges and universities and was accepted to 13 of those including Georgetown University, Duke, Tufts, Hampton University, Howard University, and Rhodes College. She also became the Valedictorian of the 2014 TSCS graduating class. With more than $600,000 in scholarship offers, she announced that she would be attending the University of Pennsylvania through a full-tuition scholarship with graduation planned for 2018.
We recently caught up with Victoria, who has graduated from Penn and now calls Philadelphia home. Here she talks about her days at TSCS, the many projects in which she is involved, the challenges she has faced, life during COVID, how she shares with others her philosophy for outgrowing mediocrity, and how she just might be able to retire from 9-5 work by age 30.
TSCS: Tell us where you are now and what you are doing. What are you working on these days?
VM: In spring of 2018, I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with my BA in Political Science and Minor in Linguistics. After graduation, I decided to stay and make Philly my second home. I took some time for myself before I started applying and interviewing for jobs. Since February of 2019, I have been working in the education technology industry as a Customer Success Manager.
Outside of my 9-5, I run my own YouTube Channel “Victoria Gabrielle.” My channel is a space where real talk meets lifestyle. I upload sit-down videos and lifestyle vlogs all centered around mindset. I provide practical tips on how to paralyze your fear, starve your distractions/feed your discipline, how to outgrow mediocrity, how to embrace your purpose, etc. I also upload lifestyle vlogs centered around mindset and everyday things that I do throughout the week. In addition, I created a Girl Dad Series, which is four episodes that document my Dad’s visit to Philadelphia last August – which was hilarious!
Overall, my Victoria Gabrielle channel is a space where we laugh and discuss all things to get the mind right while enjoying lifestyle content. I am growing and scaling my YouTube channel as a solid foundation for me to branch out into other related business ventures as well.
TSCS: How did you apply things that you learned at TSCS to college life?
VM: While at Soulsville, I was immersed in a number of leadership roles inside and outside of the classroom. Those experiences were exercises for me to embrace other leadership positions throughout college. I was Marketing Chair of the only Pre-Law Fraternity at Penn, Phi Alpha Delta Inc. I was a founding member of the Student Advisory Board for the Office of Learning Resources. I served as a board member for PennFaces – a digital community for students to share their stories about mental health, stress, culture shock, or any other struggles that came along at Penn.
Also, while at Soulsville, I served as a mentor, and again my experiences served as exercise for my mentorship to others throughout college. Even with my YouTube Channel there is a sense of mentorship embedded within my content.
TSCS: How did TSCS prepare you for adulthood?
I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Erin Johnson’s Personal Finance class! I remember learning about mutual funds, learning from her real estate experiences as a landlord, and other ways to establish streams of income. As we have all experienced with the pandemic, having multiple streams of income is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT! I recommend anyone to listen to the “Earn Your Leisure” podcast. The founders are two young, Black men who highlight different avenues to building wealth. Some of the avenues include: real estate, stocks, trucking, serial entrepreneurship and business ownership, merchandise, technology, etc. They interview people from all different backgrounds and industries. From Multi-Billionaire, Mark Cuban to Trey Brown, a 14-year-old black CEO in Philly who retired his mom by building a multi-million dollar clothing brand. They most definitely bring free game to the culture for anyone to apply.
TSCS: What are some of the most interesting things / circumstances you encountered in college life?
VM: There were a lot of opportunities for me to explore Victoria, the individual and not just Victoria, the student. My first year in college, I just observed and took a lot of things in before jumping into extracurricular activities and other hobbies. I found that I learned more outside of the classroom than I did inside. So I am glad that I took those opportunities to learn who I am apart from my academic identity.
TSCS: What was challenging and why?
VM: The most challenging experience throughout college was culture shock. I went from a predominately Black environment to a predominantly white institution (PWI) where less than 6% of the student population looked like me. Also, regarding culture shock, the huge socio-economic gap between myself and my white counterparts was on full display at all times. I couldn’t afford the luxurious activities and lifestyle that their wealth afforded them. And it was challenging when I couldn’t participate in certain activities because I simply just did not have the money to do so. That experience shifted my mindset to how I am building generational wealth for myself and my future children. I am working smart now, so my children will never know what it feels like to be without or excluded because they do not have the financial resources.
TSCS: How have you been coping with the COVID pandemic professionally and personally?
VM: Unfortunately, I lost two family members to COVID, and that has been difficult to cope with while also witnessing others lose their loved ones. To cope, I set my boundaries accordingly. I take time to be kind to myself when I am feeling overwhelmed.
TSCS: Can you tell us more about your 9-5 job and what it entails?
VM: I serve as a Customer Success Manager for a corporate Learning Management System company based in Dublin, Ireland, but I work remotely out of their Philadelphia office. I have been working in the education technology industry since February of 2019. Through internships and jobs that I held throughout college, I became curious with how learning development is measured and how those assessments then inform policy/structure. So the company that I work for now provides software for businesses of all kinds to create course content and software to teach/train their employees. The platform also provides reporting on the users’ learning development through custom reports, gamification (awarded badges), etc.
So I consult with my portfolio of customers on implementing best practices when setting up their platform and launching to their users. I also pinpoint areas of growth and risk, so that my customers act accordingly. I reverse engineer success plans, so that my customers reach their short-term and long-term goals while using our platform, ensuring that they renew and even upgrade their contracts on an annual basis.
Even though I am working my 9-5, I am working towards early corporate retirement. I am going to retire from my corporate job by the age of 30. My five-year plan includes maximizing all of my time and resources outside of my 9-5 to build assets and establish seven-plus streams of income: business/profit income, interest income, dividend stocks, NFTs, real estate income, digital products (passive income), YouTube monetization, etc.
Using your 9-5 income to build wealth outside of that entity is key if financial wholeness is the goal. That’s my goal, and that is what I am striving for everyday.
TSCS: Do you get to come back to Memphis often?
VM: I have not been home since the summer of 2019, so I am looking forward to going back home to Memphis when it is safe to travel and be around my grandparents. Before then, I would come back home two to three times a year.
TSCS: We know it’s difficult to sum up briefly, but what are your quick thoughts on the Black Lives Matter Movement?
VM: The Black Lives Matter Movement is an awakening for the world to see what Black people have been experiencing/saying for the last 400-plus years. The growth of the Black Lives Matter Movement from 2013 until now has been massive. Wins have been gradually won in their own right. However, there is still a lot to be done with dismantling the systemic racism that has been woven into the fabric that makes America. It is important for people across the spectrum to understand that all lives can’t matter until Black lives matter. That includes undoing the systems and structures – backed by racist ideology – within our everyday lives, our classrooms, our housing, our banking, our governments, etc. However, it is good to see people from all walks of life join in this continuous fight that we, not just Black people, are all facing.
TSCS: What advice do you have for TSCS students regarding college and adulthood?
Firstly, we all have one shot at life, so I encourage you to live your life INTENTIONALLY. Don’t be afraid to explore what you are good at and what you are destined to do. The sooner you figure out what you are destined to do, align everything you do, every action, every word, every tendency to that mission. Anything outside the boundaries of your purpose, leave it alone.
Secondly, practice patience. Anything that is worth having and maintaining has to be built. So embrace every step of the process and learn from every step of the process. Learning does not stop after you graduate high school and/or college. You will quickly understand that you are a student of life. Life will teach you things that high school and college just simply cannot teach you, and that’s okay. Embrace every environment as a learning opportunity to continuously equip your tool belt that builds your discipline and your life of intention.
Thirdly, self-preservation is so important. With everything going on in the world, coupled with the million and one things on your plate, it all can be overwhelming. Therefore, protecting your energy is key to your self-preservation. Identify your trigger points and put mechanisms in place that allow you to regroup and re-center. For me, when I am feeling overwhelmed, I first walk away from whatever it is I am doing. I find a spot to first pray, which allows me to let out everything that I am feeling at the moment. From there, I eat my favorite foods because who doesn’t love a snack. Lastly, I will rest for a few minutes if I need to. Finding ways to re-center yourself is so important, so you are not fully consumed with external and even internal factors.
Lastly, in everything that you do and every connection you make, provide value, don’t take everything personally, remain true to your word, and do not settle. Go after what’s already yours.