Hosted by the Fuse Community Development Committee, the Fireside Chat Series is all about introducing local inspirational people who have meaningfully impacted our community, and this week’s guest speaker, Kimberly Harper, recipient of the 2019 Columbia Basin College’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Award, is nothing short of inspiring. Fuse members and community members had the honor of gathering together for an evening of listening to Harper speak.
A young woman raised in Arkansas, the oldest of six kids and born only three years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Harper grew up in the aftermath of the civil rights movement. She remembers being told of her family’s involvement in the protests and their push for change that would eventually let her be the first of her generation to go to integrated schools. “Even though you don’t see anyone like you, it’s ok to be comfortable in your own skin”. That inspiration pushed Harper to earn a Chemistry degree, gain employment at the Department of Energy, and later, to mentor dozens of teens during more than two decades in the Tri-Cities. “You should feel comfortable being who you are, because you are designed with a purpose”, explained Harper. “There are moments in your life when you feel like this is a teachable moment”, she expressed to listeners during the fireside chat, as she described an experience she had with her daughter’s daycare teacher.
“Just that snapshot of one vignette in my life, informed me about how important it is to really pour into kids that it is ok to be comfortable in your own skin. You don’t have the manual or the instructions on how to be anyone else. You came here with instructions and a manual on how to be exactly who you are.”
With over 20 years working at the Department of Energy, her involvement with Leadership Tri-Cities, and a project with our local Union Gospel Mission, Harper also created Emerge —an after-school programs for young girls in grades 7-12 interested in STEM careers. To listen to the full conversation, head over to Fuse’s Facebook Page and check out the recording of the livestream interview with Kimberly Harper.