Meet Carol Goss, our second 2017 Role Model. Ms. Goss is the former President and CEO of The Skillman Foundation and will be receiving the Community Award, in honor of her lifetime commitment to helping those in her community, at this year’s Role Model Dinner.
Here are some clips from her recent conversation with AFG.
Alternatives For Girls: Clearly, you have felt inspired to give back to the community. Is there any part of your personal story that has led to this?
Carol Goss: I’m from Detroit, I grew up on the west side, and I had two parents who worked very hard at their jobs. They had not gone to college, but they wanted that for their children. And they always made their children realize how important education was and how important it was to get a college degree so that they could have a better life. I think that because my parents and my neighbors, they all encouraged me, I feel that it’s part of my responsibility to give back. I’ve been successful in my own life and in my own career and I think you have to bring others along with you, you have to reach back and make sure others are doing well. I just think it’s important to do it.
AFG: For many of the women we serve, AFG provides the support system for them to help them make positive choices. Was there anyone in your life/career who helped guide you in making important decisions?
Goss: Well yes! I grew up in the 50s and the 60s and the communities that we grew up in were pretty insular because our parents were worried about racism. And our parents were pretty protective of us. They wanted us to be successful in our careers. So we had to find adults that could be supportive of us and help us make the right decision. There was one family, a family that I’d been babysitting for, and this family really saw something in me. They were African American and the mother in the family just really encouraged me. I remember in high school she took me to Wayne State so I could see programs and what opportunities and options could be open to me. I didn’t end up going to Wayne State, but I did see myself in the future because she introduced me to different experiences which were really wonderful. She was a really wonderful woman.
Another person who was so encouraging, was my mother. She was determined that we were going to be successful and that there was nothing that we couldn’t do. She was supportive and helpful. I was hesitant going away to college [to the University of Michigan- Ann Arbor]. Which doesn’t seem like it was very far, but growing up in Detroit, going away and living on campus, I remember being hesitant about that. And my mother kept saying this is something that you can do. And whenever I was unhappy, being in Ann Arbor in 1955 where there were very few black students on campus, it was an amazingly challenging experience, my mother was very supportive. We had teachers, professors, counselors, who didn’t believe in us, who didn’t believe we should be there or could do the work. You have to have a support system to be able to get through it. Those people were the two people who really supported me and helped me become who I am today.
AFG: Why do you believe that it is important to empower girls and young women?
Goss: It’s a real passion of mine. I think that in our society and culture, women and girls haven’t always had the resources and opportunities that men have had, particularly women and girls of color. I think that we have to support their confidence, their development, and their realization that they can do whatever they want. They can be whatever they want to be. The young woman that I mentor now, who has been homeless, she’s 23 with 3 young children, she got her high school diploma, she now has a job and is working on permanent housing. It’s really easy to become discouraged. I just keep saying to her you can do this. You can accomplish your goals and objectives. I think it’s important that we have the right things in place that help women and girls reach their potential. They have so much potential, so much to contribute to our society and to our world. It’s one of the most important things we can do is to make sure women and girls are included and that they feel empowered and that they feel like they have the capacity to accomplish all of their goals.