During her sophomore year at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (NCAT), Keonia Rodgers experienced difficulty when it came to the feeling of belonging within a specific community within her school. While she had initial interest in pledging a sorority or joining on-campus organizations and though the process did not work out, this small fumble transformed into a larger favor. In 2016, Rodgers and her friend Destiny McElroy came together to create Boss Up!, an initiative born from their passion to help women unlock their inner power and to leave an impact on their HBCU campus.
Rodgers and McElroy were denied approval from the administrators of student organizations due to discrepancies, but this didn’t stop Rodgers from fighting. Her obvious obsession and passion for Boss Up! led to her appointment as a White House HBCU All-Star ambassador during her senior year in 2017. As an ambassador at A&T, the Dover, Delaware native was required to implement an outreach program highlighting the significance of education from minority institutions. A light bulb went off in her head to take the mission and vision of her student organization as the blueprint for what would become the Boss Up! Initiative.
“I definitely want to bring empowerment to Black millennials as a whole by evolving, motivating and impacting, renewing our minds and allowing them to have that exposure to fulfill their greatest potential,” Rodgers told ESSENCE.
Founded in 2018 as a three-part women’s empowerment series, the Boss Up! Initiative was designed to cultivate collegiate women who aim to fulfill their greatest potential. “Evolve, motivate, impact – it’s time to Boss Up!,” reads the initiative’s slogan. In celebration of Women’s History Month, Rodgers launched the series with powerful professionals including entertainment industry veteran Stacy Milner, Black Ink Crew personality Dutchess, psychotherapist Dr. Nannette Funderbunk and a special video presentation by Janice Bryant Howroyd.
“If you want to be a boss and call yourself a leader, you must be able to follow and you must be able to practice what you preach,” Rodgers says. “I want to be able to shift the culture of individualism to collectivism, meaning more of an Ubuntu approach – I am, because we are.”
Rodgers is unapologetically carrying the message of sisterhood and empowerment far beyond Women’s History Month. Her reach of impact is not limited to HBCU students or Black women, but Rodgers exudes true boss energy that anyone would want to emulate.