“Since I grew up in the foster system, I didn’t have the opportunity to choose what I wanted. By obtaining my Ph.D., I will have the opportunity to achieve all my goals.”

Growing up in Compton, California, Myriah Smiley had to grow a tough skin to get through her circumstances, in and out of foster homes starting at age 7. While attending Los Angeles Technical College, where she majored in entrepreneurship, Myriah came to the career skills cohort training that LeadersUp sponsored with Noah’s Bagels. She wants to open her own bakery one day in San Francisco, just one of many aspirations the 19-year-old beauty queen has for herself.

LeadersUp: What challenges did you face growing up?

Myriah: Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope, and hope is something the future needs. That’s a quote I live by. When I was 7 years old, I was taken from my mom’s custody, along with my younger sister and brother. Entering the foster care system at a young age confused me. All I knew was that I wanted to be with my mom. I used to cry late nights, hoping not to wake my sister. My mom hardly ever called or visited. There was a time when I thought that she forgot who we were, so I gave up and lost all hope.

Years went by, holidays passed, birthdays weren’t celebrated. After a while, I didn’t care anymore. During the summer of 8th grade, I was placed into my 11th foster home. I walked in there with the same discouraging attitude I had when I walked into past foster homes. I felt so hopeless, I nearly failed to recognize what would become a turning point in my life. My new foster parent taught me how to love others. She showed me what family meant. She taught me the value of education, but most importantly, she taught me how to value and love myself. On the late nights I used to cry my eyes out, she would tell me that crying would only make me sadder. She’d tell me, “Get up, be strong and show them you’re much more than where you come from.” She inspired me to be that phenomenal queen I saw in her. She is Queen Vernetta Ryan!

LeadersUp: How did you find out about the LeadersUp training, what motivated you to attend, and how does it help?

Myriah: I first heard about LeadersUp through a social media post, so I decided to sign up. What motivated me to attend the training was finding a job. I received an email and went through the five-day training.

LeadersUp: How are you using the P.O.W.E.R. skills?

Myriah: I learned so much! The P.O.W.E.R. skills are amazing! Although I already knew I possessed P.O.W.E.R. skills, the training helped me enhance them. Not only that, connecting with other people who were my age and sharing their experiences helped me move forward. I loved the environment, because I was learning from others and growing at the same time. Today, I am using my P.O.W.E.R. skills on a daily basis.

“No matter what circumstances you are in, you can always enhance your knowledge.”

LeadersUp: What are you currently working to achieve?

Myriah: I’m trying to become an entrepreneur and am using my platform as Miss Compton to help me achieve my goal. What’s keeping me focused is knowing the outcome of what’s going to happen after I achieve my goal. I want to leave a legacy behind. I have younger brothers and sisters who are looking up to me, and I don’t have the space to slack off. To become an entrepreneur and open my business, I need to use each of my P.O.W.E.R. skills: perseverance, stay goal-oriented, a good work ethic, build relationships, and be an effective communicator.

LeadersUp: What advice do you have for your peers who are looking for career opportunities?

Myriah: It is that no matter what circumstances you are in, you can always enhance your knowledge. One key takeaway from my training with LeadersUp was learning effective communication. Since completing the training, I’ve gained the confidence to become a better communicator, and it’s something that I’m going to use wherever I go.

LeadersUp: Tell us about your experience running for Miss Compton.

Myriah: Through my candidacy as Miss Compton, I’ve had to talk to my council members and neighbors, and this experience has taught me that it’s not what you say but how you say it that is important. The pageant experience has really allowed me to demonstrate my P.O.W.E.R. skills, and it’s something that I will take with me.

LeadersUp: What is a major career goal you look forward to achieving one day?

Myriah: At the moment, I’m in the process of opening my own bakery called “SMILEY POPS” and planning to go back to school in the fall. My inspiration is to motivate others. Seeing others happy and knowing the feeling of gratitude is sometimes the only thing that matters. It touches my soul. My ultimate goal is to earn a Ph.D. Since I grew up in the foster care system, I didn’t have the opportunity to choose what I wanted. But by obtaining my Ph.D., I will have the opportunity to achieve all my goals!

LeadersUp: You said, “Hope is something the future needs.” How’d you regain yours?

Myriah: In the past, I remember telling people about my dreams and life aspirations, but those people didn’t support my ideas. Their doubt only made me want to strive twice as hard. I’m not what you think of me, I’m not what you say of me, I’m much more. I, too, am a phenomenal queen in the making.

Interested in sharing your story? We want to hear from you. Please contact Erica at Erica@LeadersUp.org.