This is a guest post from Keena Stephens
In July 2010, I made a career and life move by relocating to Atlanta, GA. My decision to move was greatly influenced by a trip to Atlanta in May 2010 during a visit to my cousin. My perception of the city prior to this visit was largely connected to the family trips to Ellenwood (suburban Atlanta), AUC Homecomings, and the glamorized view of Atlanta from TV shows such as The RealHousewives of Atlanta. During this trip, I gained a real perspective of the city of Atlanta. While visiting, I volunteered for a career day event at Sylvan Hills middle school. I witnessed the teachers work overtime to develop this event and their everyday curriculum with limited resources while working to reshape the minds of the students and expose them to positive role models and examples of the fruits of a college education. More importantly, the teachers were accomplishing this with within a community where the students were regularly exposed to images that were the extreme opposite. Here I was, in the middle of the beautiful “A-Town” and it looked no different from my neighborhood in Roseland or my dad’s old neighborhood in Englewood in Chicago. These students had the same fears, hopes, and dreams as the kids back home, and unfortunately the same barriers.
What I realized most was that although Chicago will always be my hometown, this city that others see as the Mecca for Black Wealth has ghettos, poverty, poor healthcare, violence and disparities in the delivery of resources to poor communities. These are the same issues that you will see in almost any American city. This changed my perspective of community to a more all-inclusive look at poverty across the country. I realize that no matter what a city may look like from a visitor’s perspective, it must be acknowledged that those that dwell in that city may share the same struggles of what you know of your very own city. The grass is not greener. There is work to be done across this country and more, globally. I personally focus my efforts on communities that are impoverished, considered low-income or have a poor school system. Other factors of service for me include- limited access to healthcare and other necessary functional resources. However, the community you choose to assist with should be near in both distance and to your passion. So, as my heart and efforts will still be tied to my hometown and my old Roseland southside Chicago neighborhood, I will not dare overlook and refuse to take part in the Sylvan Hill, Bankhead, West-End areas where those that look like me are suffering like my people back in the most impoverished areas in Chicago.
Tips on relocating or consideration before moving
1- Visit the community for an extended period of time. This will allow you to develop a connection to that community and build relationships. You can become apart of the community if you don’t associate with the people within it. If you have not chosen a neighborhood, this will help you determine which areas fit your personality and interests.
2- Join a volunteer group after moving. My first major activity upon moving to Atlanta was the CHAMPS Health Summit in 2010. I worked with Morehouse School of Medicine, Emory, and the Midtown Urology Staff on this health screening drive for men of color. Not only was this a rewarding experience to be able to coach these men in taking care of their health, but I also met new friends and people that were doing great things in my career field. I later gained a great position working with one of the companies at the Health Summit.
3- Try not to compare your new place to your old city. I find a lot of people who constantly compare their new city to their old city, sometimes end up moving or completely missing out on the experiences that they can gain from relocating. For me, Atlanta is not Chicago, but I have found wonderful things specific to Atlanta that have made my move worthwhile. Every city has its own character, so exhaust the possibilities that your new city has to offer.
4-Try new hobbies and find new friends ASAP. When in Rome do as Romans do. I am a die-hard Bears fan, but I tailgate with the Falcons fans as often as possible….with my Bears shirt on of course! The best thing about relocating is that you have the opportunity to try things that you did not or could not try at home. This may include new foods, outdoor adventures, or anything fun that you may not have done in your old city. A great website to meet new friends and find out what is going on in your new city is Meetup.com. You can find a group that may have hobbies you do or hobbies you have always wanted to do.
5-Before you move at all consider finances first. This is the number one tip I can give before you relocate. Please do your homework. Actually find out what the actual cost of living is for that city, not just relying on the internet posted prices. Look into all additional costs as well including sales taxes, costs to insure and register vehicles, gas and proximity from home to work, and average utility costs. Finally, research the costs to move from your location to your new destination. These figures will help you to determine if your budget will support you relocating.
Keena Stephens is a 28 year-old African-American woman, born and raised in a two parent home in the Roseland Community on Chicago’s Southside. Her upbringing instilled in her the passion for community outreach and has been a major influence in her work as a healthcare practitioner. At the age of 18, Keena received her license as a Practical Nurse and worked her way through college, graduating in May of 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Community Health from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Upon graduation she worked at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago, IL until her move to Atlanta, GA in July 2010.
While in Atlanta, GA, Ms. Stephens has worked as a Research Coordinator for Morehouse School of Medicine and more recently as a Research Project Coordinator for the Atlanta VA Medical Center. Her affiliation with both Morehouse School of Medicine and the Atlanta VA Medical Center has afforded her the opportunity to reach a diverse healthcare population; underserved areas through community clinics and health education fairs as well as Veteran support outreach. She is currently in pursuit of her Doctorate in Nursing Practice with a specialty in Family Practice. Her goal is to provide holistic, comprehensive healthcare to patients of all levels of income through evidence-based practice. Keena is a social butterfly and enjoys spreading her positive energy in and out of the workplace. In her free time she enjoys traveling, great food, and getting acquainted with her new city.