Mia Dunlap a leadership and development director and coach at a remote nonprofit organization. She also works as a workshop facilitator and keynote speaker with her own company, Adversity Yields Audacity (AYA), an organization she founded in 2012 to empower young adults to use their adversity as a bridge to design the life of their dreams.
“My life is a reflection of the individual choices that I made, although the circumstances were systematically adverse and nearly impossible.” Mia says.
Mia grew up in the Chicago Housing Projects and experienced poverty and violence throughout her childhood. The crack epidemic, mass incarceration, and systematic poverty all found its way into Mia’s childhood home.
“I remember feeling powerless and trapped. I would daydream about a life that was very different from that one,” she shares.
In the face of adversity, Mia focused on building a better life for herself. She surrounded herself with mentors who supported her on her journey to graduate high school and become the first in her family to graduate college.
Mia told herself “you’re going away to school, you’ve got to get out.”
She moved to Atlanta and spent the next four years at Spelman College working hard to break generational cycles of poverty.
“Graduation day was a turning point in my life,” she explains.
Designing a Life She Loves
With a college degree to her name, Mia moved to New York and pursued a career in education.
“I went back to the last place I felt empowered– school. I was really good with young people and building relationships and being able to manage classroom culture with love,” she shares.
While working as a teacher, Mia’s strengths were noticed and as a result she was soon promoted to being an associate dean of students alongside teaching. She continued that work as a dean of culture for the next several years of her career.
Mia worked with the teachers and staff at her new school to reduce suspensions by 50% while increasing student investment in learning.
“It was one of the highlights of my career,” she explains.
Following a 3-month solo sabbatical in Europe, Mia started a new role as an interim principal but quickly discovered this role wasn’t a good fit. She spent the next month focusing on her own self-care before becoming a culture consultant. In this position, she supported high school principals needing adult culture support and leadership development. .
“That became my area of expertise,” she says.
At the end of 2019, she was ready for a bigger change. She accepted a role in Human Resources with her current remote nonprofit and moved back to Atlanta.
“I love the comfort that I get with being able to design a life that I want to live in,” she adds.
Trust Your Intuition
Mia now leads and facilitates workshops to support others who are working to overcome adversity through her organization Adversity Yields Audacity. She also hosts The Audacity Talk Show to give young people a platform to discuss their experiences of living with audacity and how they beat the odds.
When Mia speaks with young adults going through their own challenges, she reminds them of the power they have in them.
“Find people around you who love you and support you,” she shares. “Daydream, create a world that is your own, in your heart. You have permission to design your life.”
Quiet moments of meditation, journaling and praying kept Mia going as a young adult. She created affirmations to remind herself of possibilities.
“For me, I knew life would get sweeter because I knew I was worthy of it’” she offers.
In those moments when she couldn’t control what was happening around her, she returned to the touch points that she could control. Trusting herself has allowed her to move away from the challenges of her childhood and into a comfortable, curated life of her own design.
“Keep choosing the next best thing for you,” she says. “Keep trusting your intuition.”