Though she did attend La Salle University immediately after graduating high school, a slew of jobs, obstacles and hurdles crossed her path before she came to Temple in Fall 2010.
At the May 10 commencement ceremony, she’ll be recounting that journey for graduates, their friends and family members as this year’s student commencement speaker – a role that Stroman said she couldn’t be more excited about.
“I’m very humble and grateful for the opportunity to encourage and motivate graduates and everyone who will hear [my story],” Stroman said. “I hope people can look at my life and get inspired and motivated.”
Now, she’s graduating and receiving her bachelor’s degree in broadcasting, telecommunications and mass media, and moving to Los Angeles for a job she secured through an internship while studying abroad in London in 2011. During her year-and-a-half at Temple, she was an anchor and did commercials for TuTV, worked at OwlSports and last year was chosen as a Lew Klein scholar.
And perhaps the crown jewel in Stroman’s multitude of achievements is a project she started in 2008 called Girl Talk Philly. As the nonprofit’s founder, she organizes activities and resources for the group of more than 300 young girls, which she said began as a group of 14. She uses trips, crafts, activities and workshops to promote “love, education and abstinence” – three facets she said inner-city youth often need to know more about.
Girl Talk’s inner-city setting is intentional. Stroman, her sisters and her mother – who became a mom at the age of 15 – were raised by a single mother in the Northeast. And as such, Stroman said she was inherently linked to a set of negative statistics about inner city youth. But her life and Girl Talk’s story is an alternative to what these statistics have to say.
“You don’t have to be a product of a bad environment,” Stroman said. “That’s why my program is in the inner city – good people and good products come out of the inner city, and they’re doing good, positive things in the community.”
But the story she’ll tell at graduation starts before her successes at Temple, back when she attended Abraham Lincoln High School in Mayfair in Northeast Philly, where she said she had “always been serious about academics.”
Following high school she went to La Salle, but only completed her freshman year.
A fire devoured her family’s house, which sent her off into the working world and away from academia for several years to earn money and help to support her family. She worked in four “corporate” settings, including her last at Cushman and Wakefield, where she worked in real estate investment sales. She said that she was prepared to start and finish her career in real estate there and work her way up to the top.
But then she got laid off, and while she said the lack of bi-weekly paychecks and transition back into academia was a “major sacrifice” and transition, the reality check that came with losing her job motivated her to finish her education and follow her passion.
“I was depressed when I wasn’t in school, when I was working jobs, I hated it – and I always wanted to go back to school,” Stroman said. “Something came to me when I got laid off. I didn’t know what was going to happen, I prayed about it and got inspired by “finish what you start.”
“It’s not about how you start but how you finish, and that has been motivating me besides my faith and my family,” she added.
So she returned to school at the Community College of Philadelphia. Then, when she graduated with her associate’s degree in liberal arts in 2010, she set out to attend the School of Communications and Theater to pursue a career in television.
Her other endeavors, and position as a role model for hundreds of young girls, pushed her to go back to school, too.
“When you’re involved in something as a leader they say ‘What have you done?’” Stroman said. “Telling people that education works – that’s one of the founding principles of Girl Talk – and [I was] able to say ‘I’ll put myself up to the challenge as well.’”
Now, she has that credibility. Now, as she graduates and moves on to her career with Shorts – an international short film company in Los Angeles – she looks back on her successes and considers how her achievements can serve as ammunition.
“Education really does pay off and all these stories make me more credible when I’m talking to the people who I’m trying to motivate to do the right thing,” Stroman said. “Every day it just gives me more and more to say to them, that hard work does pay off and doing the right thing does make a difference.”
Kara Savidge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.