For the month of August, Fort Valley State University is honoring Geneva West, a Wildcat alum who is helping young girls accomplish their dreams of pursuing careers in S.T.E.M (science, technology, engineering, and math) while building their self-esteem.
West is the founder and executive director of the Real I.M.P.A.C.T. Center, Inc. The acronym stands for Intelligent and Motivated People Actively Changing the Times. The organization seeks to identify the causes of poor academics and low interest in STEM areas, and seeks to offer solutions by providing STEM workshops to positively impact the lives of our young girls and community today.
West is a native of Pineview, Ga. She is the youngest child of four sisters and three brothers. Her father worked making air conditioners for the Marvair Corporation, and her mother is a homemaker.
“I had a very fun childhood, and I was very involved in the community. I enjoyed working with my father and brothers in the yard and in the garden. I am somewhat of a girly-girly with a splash of tomboy,” West said.
During high school, West excelled as a student leader and scholar at Wilcox County High School. She served as student government president, participated in the Spanish Club, FHA (Future Homemakers of America,) Lady Patriots basketball team and helped build homes for Habitat for Humanity. Her spiritual foundation is strong; she attended church every Sunday at Mount Beulah Baptist Church in Pineview, Ga. West’s good grades, extracurricular activities, and community involvement earned her a Scholarship to FVSU.
“I originally didn’t want to come to Fort Valley,” West said. “Ms. Quantina Johnson who attended our church educated our family about FVSU. She told me that if I didn’t want to come to FVSU, then I could transfer if I didn’t like, but she believed that I would so I decided to go. I thought that I would leave after my first semester; but, once I arrived, I knew I could never walk away from FVSU. It was amazing, and the family culture was a very big surprise. I met some life-long friends upon my first visit to Davison Hall.” West stayed in Watson Hall during her first year on campus.
“I immediately met such wonderful, well-brought-up girls who were raised similar to myself,” West said. “Many of the girls had good backgrounds. I could tell that they were of good quality. I have remained friends with many of them to date.”
West became highly involved on campus, getting involved in many student organizations. West served as the managing editor for the school newspaper, The Peachite, co-hosted her own radio show, and was a member of the NAACP. The alum also pledged and was inducted into her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She also sang with the Baptist Student Union and FVSU Concert choirs on campus.
“I had a mentor, Shonda Lewis (FVSU’s Marketing Coordinator) that I was so fascinated with,” West said. “She taught me so much about marketing. I interned with her office while at FVSU and I didn’t know that it was on that scale, until I watched her produce such quality work. Just to watch her do her job, with such diligence, made me realize even today, to ensure everything that I do in marketing and beyond is streamlined and of good quality.”
During her sophomore year, West traveled abroad. She lived in the West African Country of Ghana, where she participated in student exchange program. She attended the University of Cape Coast, and stayed with an African family for almost two months.
“It definitely changed my worldview and to be more appreciative of where I came from and what I had,” West said. “The family I lived with was so caring and community oriented, it gave me an opportunity to be more appreciative of where I came from in America and encouraged me to take advantage opportunities that I had on campus.”
West graduated from FVSU in 2003 with a B.A. in Mass Communications. She later received her M.B.A. in Human Resources at Keller Graduate School, while working in the technology industry for nine years.
She began Real I.M.P.A.C.T Center, Inc. in 2013, to impact all youth in the area of STEM. However, the organization’s primary program is to provide an opportunity for youth girls to excel in life through exposure to STEM by inspiring girls to consider an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math careers, increase the number of women pursuing STEM careers, and create a network that helps women in STEM thrive with confidence. The organization is currently seeking interns and volunteers to help carry out its mission.
“Mrs. West has become a very independent woman who is not afraid to go after her dreams,” said Quantina Johnson, an administrative assistant for FVSU’s Office of Student Success, who initially encouraged West to go to FVSU. “Her experiences at FVSU caused her to grow into a mature young woman. I’m proud that the university has provided her the skills that she needed to succeed in the real world.”
West is a mother with two daughters, and currently hosts international exchange students. She has served as a host mother to two young women from the Czech Republic and one from Thailand.
“The exchange students are like my daughters,” she said.
She wanted to leave these words to FVSU students, “It doesn’t matter how or why you made it to FVSU! What matters most is that you make it out! Take advantage of the support that you have around you. Don’t let an opportunity slip through your hands,” said West.
She ended by saying, “You have to be thirsty enough to make FVSU the foundation that sets off a bombshell of pride inside of you that will carry you on to other successful victories in life! Don’t walk away from FVSU without taking advantage of the experience and gaining the degree!”
You may find out more about West’s organization at www.realimpactcenter.org or call (478) 714-6039.