Success Stories: Fairy Tales & the Crack Epidemic

Today’s guest blog post is by Teneasha Pierson. Teneasha is a proud alum of Howard University and has recently accepted an invitation to serve as a Health Education volunteer with the Peace Corps in Kenya. Find out more at

At six years old, I was the princess of a magic kingdom eponymously named “Teneashaland”. I started my day greeting animals while skipping through the glittery, hot pink paths of the forest. I feasted on cotton candy plucked from the sky, and after a full day of presiding over my kingdom, I slept on a super-sized pillow made of the super-soft fluff that fills teddy bears.

Teneasha Pierson

I loved fairy tales. Fairy tales taught me that I could overcome. They taught me that strength of character was a critical factor in my success. Most importantly, they gave me hope that my potential was not limited by my environment or my lack of possessions.

This lesson was priceless and changed the trajectory of my life.

I grew up in Oakland, CA in the eighties when Oakland transitioned from the progressive home of the Black Panthers to a major hub of the crack epidemic. My neighborhood unraveled quickly.

Despite my circumstances, education was always presented as a way to avoid the pitfalls of my community. In my home and in my neighborhood my love of reading was nurtured. I wore wire-framed glasses very similar to Simon the Chipmunk and was equipped with a backpack filled with the greats: Dr. Seuss and a selection of the Disney classics, among others. I was a princess in my mind and in my community, I was considered a scholar.

As I grew older, I hung up my tiara but I held tightly to the contents of my backpack.

Education and reading has made good on every promise it made. I was the first college graduate from my family and my community. I have had the opportunity to work in the fields of public policy, public health, intellectual property law and I will soon have the opportunity to serve in Kenya with the Peace Corps.

Books can change lives and inspire hope. I am proof of that.