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#HerStory: Finding My Confidence at Women of Toledo by Stormy Hogle

My life has always followed a non-traditional route. It used to upset me; I just wanted to be like everyone else. Being raised by a single mother and being a racial minority in my family, my status was frequently different from those around me. I often felt ostracized for living outside the narrow definition of what society says is traditional and expected. When I entered high school, I struggled with my identity and self-worth. I joined several local leadership groups within my school to help me gain a greater sense of identity, but I still felt out of place in many of my circles. During this time, I became very interested in learning about changing systems of inequity. I refused to become complacent to these systems and began to use my voice to speak out.

Though I was on the fast track to graduate, college undoubtedly scared me. While this was an exciting time for everyone else, I was terrified. It shook my confidence, and though I was familiar with the University of Toledo, I knew there was a lot I still didn’t learn about college culture, and I had a shorter amount of time to find out. However, after taking my first Women’s and Gender Studies course in my senior year of high school, I was sold. I learned how to describe the complexities of identities and how my outward appearance as a woman and a black person can carry deep societal meaning. The lessons challenged my thinking. I was developing my own opinions and learning about feminism in a way I never had before. The intersections of my identities didn’t taunt me in this space; instead, I learned language and theories to help me explain how I view the world. I declared this as my major and didn’t look back. It didn’t come without its challenges. The work is heavy to take in and sometimes leaves me sad. Yet, it presented me with opportunities I’m very grateful for. Interning with the Women of Toledo became one of those wonderful experiences.

When I was presented with the opportunity to participate in the Community Impact Feminist Fellowship, I was hesitant. Exercising my knowledge in the classroom would be much different than in a workplace. My fears, however, were misplaced. I was immediately welcomed by Managing Director, Nina Corder, and Associate Director, Sierra Ortiz, and felt very comfortable. I have always been surrounded by strong women who are leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, and supporters, and the Women of Toledo staff and network have been no exception. These women showed me the importance of equitable workspaces that highlight and encourage one another.

My experience at Women of Toledo brought me a fresh perspective on what it means to be impactful in your community. It was always exciting to walk in and work on a project. The working environment was always comfortable and positive. I worked with Sierra and Nina on projects aligned with my interests and strengths. Working on Women’s Equality Day, sitting in on a HeforShe meeting, and being able to help and witness the Girl’s Hub graduation all gave me opportunities to grow professionally and personally. Attending Girl’s Hub graduation was the perfect way to close my time at Women of Toledo. I was unprepared for how emotional and inspiring the girls would be during their ceremony. Women of Toledo invest in you, the staff cares about you and appreciates your work, and you are always safe to be yourself when you walk through those doors.

Though walking into new spaces will always give me some anxiety, the Women of Toledo gave me the confidence to know I am worthy of being in those spaces. One of my favorite poets is Audre Lorde. She once said, “When I have to be powerful– to use my strength in the service of my vision– then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” At Women of Toledo, I feel like I pushed through a lot of worry and imposter syndrome I have experienced. I’m so thankful I was driven out of my comfort zone during my fellowship, and I’ll always be grateful for the support Nina, Sierra, and the Women of Toledo team gave me

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