Hello to all! Some of you may recognize me, Sonja Sparks, from last year’s Leadership Development program and most of you have almost definitely corresponded with me in some way over the past year. When IEEW’s Director of Operations, Karel Ford, contacted in me January of 2019 about the possibility of an internship, I was completely thrilled. You see, a professor of mine at Rose State had introduced me to this organization and after listening to Founder and CEO, Terry Neese, speak about her experiences and how she was using them to raise up fellow women, I immediately knew this was a cause dear to my heart. I ended up volunteering at the 2017 fashion show which was held in Oklahoma City.

Upon becoming an intern I was thrown into a world that was unfamiliar to me. Prior to this internship, I had only worked in retail and foodservice. I knew I had the personality but what I lacked were office skills. Alongside my fellow 2019 intern, Ariel Wilkerson, I learned a slew of new skills and met influential people from the greater OKC area. When July rolled around I jumped at the opportunity to travel to Dallas with the IEEW team for Leadership Development. Those two weeks were some of the most memorable and heartfelt that I’ve ever had. The PTB class of 2019 was full of amazing, talented, and resilient women. Listening to student’s stories and having followed their journey through in-country classes brought me closer to an understanding of their challenges and definitely stirred empathy and inspiration for their accomplishments. Not only did I make lifelong friends but I learned to look at life with a new perspective. No matter what you go through there is a way to overcome.

Last month I was interviewed for the role of Student Coordinator and I happily accepted. I couldn’t be more excited to work with the PTB students on a closer level and I’m so grateful for Nikki Sharber and her patience while training me to fill her shoes. IEEW not only empowers women in Afghanistan and Rwanda, but they also empower women from across the globe via mentorships and, for women like me, via internships. I am forever grateful to Terry Neese for accepting me into her flock and to Karel Ford and Teresa White for always empowering me to become a better woman.