A lot of my story starts with my mom.
My father left our family when I was young, leaving my mom to raise my older sister, my younger brother and me. Mom hadn’t been encouraged to get an education beyond high school, even though her brothers did. She was never trained for anything beyond blue-collar jobs. She worked in quality control in a factory, and also waitressed and worked in a grocery store, sometimes holding down two jobs at once — whatever she had to do to provide for us.
We didn’t have a lot of money. We went on and off free- and reduced-lunch programs and government assistance. As her daughters, my sister and I knew at a very young age that we were going to college.
My mom was strict. She taught us the value of hard work, to believe in ourselves and to dream BIG.
As a young girl, my dream was to participate in the Olympics. And ultimately, I did realize that dream as a member of the U.S. women’s basketball team that won the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. But back when I was growing up, people thought I was crazy because I was terrible at sports. I was 6 feet tall by the time I was 12. (I’m 6 foot 41⁄2 inches now.) Unfortunately, I was very uncoordinated. But I worked hard at sports and eventually became skilled enough to get a scholarship to play basketball at Notre Dame.
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