Dr. Deshunna Ricks interview
Creating An ‘I Have Value’ State of Mind
Dr. Deshunna Monay Ricks, Founder of I Have Value Academy
By Praise Okoli, Age 16
Many black and brown boys and girls struggle with self-worth. From society pushing their standards down their necks to family and friends expecting much from them, black and brown boys and girls constantly question their worth and their reason for being. Dr. Ricks was one of those girls. Born and raised in Fresno, California, Dr. Deshunna Monay Ricks is a proud business owner and founder of the I Have Value Academy. She struggled at the beginning of her life with her confidence and her self esteem but she was able to overcome by the grace of God. She currently has eighteen students who have graduated from the academy. Besides the eighteen, she has inspired many people, young and old, with her positivity and encouraging words of wisdom. I was intrigued by this and decided to learn her story, in her words.
Praise: What inspired you to start the I Have Value Academy?
Dr. Ricks: I Have Value, LLC was created due to my journey with issues of valuing myself. I was raised in foster care and I felt abandoned and unloved by my parents. Some things happened to me as a child that should never happen to children. As a result, I had low self-esteem and I didn’t love myself. When I aged out of foster care, I wanted to be and feel loved. Yes, my grandmother loved me; however, it wasn’t enough for me. So, I searched for love in all the wrong places. This searching caused me to devalue myself and I felt ashamed of myself. I struggled with loving and embracing myself during my teen years, my 20’s, and the first couple of years of my 30’s. As I was close to finishing my doctorate, I began to do some healing and soul searching. God opened my eyes and he assured me that I am Valuable and that He loves me through the good, bad, and ugly. I decided to fully embrace His comfort. As I embraced God’s confirmation, He led me to create I Have Value, LLC to help others recognize that they too are valuable.
Praise: How did you come up with the I have value principles? What do they mean to you?
Dr. Ricks: The principles of I Have Value, LLC are self-worth, confidence, power, and self-love. Self-worth is the ability to recognize that you are enough. To embrace all of who you are and daily affirm your existence on earth. Confidence is about believing in your abilities and walking in faith. Confidence permits me to be great. Power is exemplifying strength in all circumstances, declaring to the enemy and the haters that no weapon formed against me shall prosper. Power is the ability to pull out of yourself what you believed was impossible. Self-love is an overall appreciation for yourself. It consists of treating yourself well and ensuring that you are holistically well. These principles were developed because these things are needed to truly value yourself and to live out your purpose in this world. Of course, there are other things that you need, but I believe these four are the foundation for declaring your value to yourself and others.
Praise: Out of the many ideas that need to be emphasized, why did you choose self-love?
Dr. Ricks: Self-love is needed to be all that you can be. Self-love is giving yourself the best of what you have in you so that you can be the best you every day. Self-love is the positivity that the soul needs to live. Self-love is health for the bones. Self-love is to live for yourself daily. Self-love is required to never give up on yourself. To love yourself is to know yourself. Self-love is required to accept your entire being, the good, the bad, the indifferent, the flaws, the insecurities, and the possibilities. Self-love is a beautiful thing. It’s peaceful. It’s joy. It’s a wonderful feeling and no one, I mean no one can take that away from you once you fully embrace it.
Praise: If you were to pick the most important part of your story, which part would you pick and why?
Dr. Ricks: Oh wow. There are so many parts of my story that are hard as well as fascinating, so this is a difficult one. But if I must choose one, I will choose one that will uplift someone who’s reading this, I will select being a single mother. It hasn’t been easy. My son’s father and I separated when he was 1 month old. That very circumstance activated the hustler in me. Before my son was 2-years-old, I worked 72 hours a week. I was determined to not depend on anyone for help. I was miserable, so I enrolled back into college because I had dropped out due to my self-love issues. From 2008-2010, I averaged about 18-20 units a semester and worked 60+ hours a week. I was torturing myself, but I had a goal, and that was not to repeat the mistakes of my parents. I also did not want to live in poverty. I graduated in 2010 with a bachelor’s in social work and I continued going. From 2010-2012 I also averaged about 16-20 units a semester while working 60+ hours a week. I couldn’t take any more of the mental exhaustion, so I got on welfare the last semester in college. I wasn’t ashamed, I was relieved. I choose this particular situation because I know there are many people; especially single mothers out there that believe it is impossible, but anything is possible. Life is not easy, but it’s worth it. You just have to find the right people to do life with.
Praise: How/when did you give your life to Jesus Christ? How has that helped you in your life and your self-esteem?
Dr. Ricks: I originally gave my life to Christ at the age of 13. My grandmother took us to the church about four days out of the week and that was my saving grace. I loved everything about the church and I loved God. Some things happened in my adult life and I felt that I had to rededicate my life. So at the age of 25, I got baptized and rededicated my life to the Lord. Without God I am nothing. Without God, I can do no good thing. Knowing that I am made in the image of God helps me to lift myself. “God has saved me from myself.” He loves me unconditionally. He has shown me how to care and love for myself. There are no words that I can think of that describe His majesty and what He has done in my life. I am His masterpiece and I am a fan of His work. These things help me to continue believing in myself.
Praise: Why did you choose the age group that you did for the academy?
Dr. Ricks: The Value Academy is a self-development program for teenagers to discover who they are in this world. I selected teenagers because that’s when you experience life and bodily changes. The teenage years consist of figuring out who you are. But honestly, if I had the tools that I provide my teens with I would have made better decisions in my adult life. We are losing our teens to drugs, gangs, jail, suicide, prostitution, the streets, and trauma and I want to give them what they need to be healthy and whole.
Praise: How has the pandemic impacted your views about self-love and self-worth? Your faith in God?
Dr. Ricks: This pandemic has been very challenging. I’m outgoing and I love taking trips across the country (Texas is my fav!). If anything, this pandemic has taught me to be patient. During this pandemic, I was able to do some self-reflection work that was needed to heal some things in my life that I didn’t give much attention to. It has also provided me with the time to do some reading (which is my least favorite thing to do) to increase my knowledge and improve upon my skills. I have appreciated this time because I was able to get some much-needed rest. I know that God is working it out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Therefore, this pandemic has allowed me to trust in His word.
Praise: How has the Black Lives Matter Movement affected your mental health? How will it affect the future of the I Have Value academy program?
Dr. Ricks: I think some non-Black people have the wrong idea about BLM. When I say Black Lives Matter, it is not an endorsement of the organization but rather an affirmation and a stance that Black people matter period! The movement has not affected my mental health; however, the injustices against Blacks in this country have. One cannot deny that Blacks have been treated unfairly and inhumane since we were brought to this land. Throughout the history of America, you can see that our lives haven't mattered. I have been mentally exhausted from educating and informing people about this issue and correcting their ignorance. I am beyond tired. This pandemic has put a pause on the academy, and I have been working diligently to restructure the program to a hybrid model. This movement means that I have the responsibility to uplift every teen in my program and be their coach and cheerleader to inspire them to be their best self.
Praise: Anything else you want people to know?
Dr. Ricks: I would like people to know that the Value Academy is what all teenagers need to promote a healthy identity and to increase holistic wellness. The program is for all teens ages 12-17. The investment that we make within the current generation today will be a wealth of resources and health in the future. Every child deserves to be healthy and whole. Every child deserves to live in safety. Every child needs a positive adult in their life. Every child needs tools that will yield positive outcomes. Every child needs to witness healthy love. Every child needs a proper education. Every child deserves to know who they are holistic. Every child matters and is valuable.