Nearly eighteen years ago, Rachel Stone moved to North Dakota and since then she has had one clear mission: support our youth.
After years of working in the Fargo-Moorhead public school systems, Stone founded P’s and Q’s, an organization with that same mission.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
What gets me out of bed each morning is the opportunity that I have each day to inspire and give someone else hope and inspiration. You see, I believe that I was born for someone else. I am a big bundle of love, and this is my purpose. It’s my faith, passion, and love for our children. Having and raising my 3 sons (Immanuel, Samuel, and Gabriel) have brought so much purpose to my life and gave me the wonderful pleasure of nurturing and pouring my love into what I call the gifts that God gave me. They mean so very much to me.
What inspired you to start P’s and Q’s?
As a woman of faith, I believe that God created me to inspire and mentor our youth. Honestly, the idea of working with young girls came when I was a teenager. At a young age, I struggled so badly with feeling accepted. I suffered abuse from someone who I looked up to, loved, and trusted dearly. It was this reason that led to several attempts to end my life. If only I had had someone, a big sister, that I could confide in that could have helped me through my challenges. So in my late teens, I vowed to become the big sister that I never had. When I moved to North Dakota 18 years ago, I began volunteering with various nonprofits in our community. I also worked for Fargo & Moorhead Public schools, and I saw so many unmet needs. I felt that I had to do something to be part of the solution and to help our young children break negative and unhealthy cycles. I fell in love with inspiring our young girls, and really wanted to do whatever that I had to do to reach them. So, after my experience as the lunch lady at Madison elementary, I decided to take a risk and finally get this program going. I started meeting with 2 girls in the basement of my church, and that eventually grew to 26.
What lessons do girls learn in a P’s and Q’s workshop?
P’s & Q’s Etiquette’s mission is to equip our youth with leadership skills by providing a variety of hands on, skills based, youth informed programs that empower students of color and disadvantaged youth to create and succeed on their path in life. Our vision is that all youth, with an emphasis on students of color in the Fargo/Moorhead/ West Fargo area, have access to opportunities, skills, and the ability to capitalize on opportunities that will help them reach their greatest potential. Our curriculum is designed on our D.R.E.A.M (D-Decide, R-Realize, E-Equip, A- Aim, M- Move) Rule.
P’s & Q’s believes in the ability to shape the youth in our community’s minds for greatness by teaching proactive measures such as emotional stability, looking at circumstances positively, embracing life’s experiences and self-love. These lessons also focus on entrepreneurship, community service and community engagement. The lessons are designed to get students reflecting on their own lives and who they want to become, and focuses on lessons that enhance their self-image, goal setting, communications, etiquette skills, networking skills and leadership skills.
What does empowerment mean to you?
Empowerment means strengthening the confidence of others and giving them the power to reach their greatest potential. It’s all about the journey that helps us identify and recognize our own talents, gifts, and abilities. so that we can use the power that each of us possess
What does it mean to be a Ladyboss?
To me, being a Ladyboss means being committed to serve. My mom has set such a wonderful example for me. It boils down to how well we can give. Not that it’s a race or competition, but it requires being a leader with grace, heart and wisdom. A good ladyboss is not only strong, but she is authentic, and not afraid to be her true self. She knows who she is therefore she is able to value people, and is not afraid of teamwork. Celebrating herself and the accomplishments of others she sets a long lasting example for others to follow. She is LEADERLICOUS!
How has your experience as the first African American Mrs. North Dakota International influenced your work today?
Representation is HUGE to me. Even though it was over 13 years ago, I will always be Mrs. North Dakota 2006. My service in the community has never stopped. In fact it began 18 years ago when I moved from Chicago to North Dakota. I’ve always just wanted to set a powerful example for our young girls that showed they could achieve anything they set their minds to, no matter what they had been through or where they had come from. I had the wonderful opportunity to sign with a modeling agency M4J and even made it to Hollywood on the Janice Dickinson Show. I was a guest on the show to share my stance and moral views when it comes to professional modeling. I believe that a model shouldn’t have to stoop to stripping naked and being picked apart just to model or be accepted into a modeling agency. So, that experience really just confirmed to me that I can. Today, I use that experience to encourage our children to step out of their comfort zones and become trendsetters. They may not have lots of people supporting or even believing in them, but it doesn’t mean that they cannot reach their goals and achieve success.
You now offer leadership classes for boys as well. What motivated you to start the (LeaderBoard)Leaderlicious program?
Well, I have raised 3 sons, and boy have I learned a lot! I had struggled with this because I’m such a girly girl, but they changed this pageant queen’s world (in an amazing way). Working at the schools really helped me identify specific areas of need. I had already started the Leaderlicous program, but it was a male student who came to me asking for a program designed for them. They said “Ms. Rachel, what about us? You promised you would start something for us.” A little bit after that, a student broke down as he shared his thoughts with me about some of the challenges that he was facing. He just wanted to feel accepted, supported and heard. It was then that I knew that I had to launch “The LeaderBoard”. Our boys have grown up in a society which doesn’t really tolerate them opening up and expressing their feelings. They’ve been taught that in order to be a man, they have to be tough, and just deal with their challenges.
Between your job, your philanthropy work, and your three sons at home you must spend a ton of time with young people. How do they inspire you to keep doing this work in our community?
What better way to touch the world than by investing in our future….our children. I am reminded of when I first began working in the Fargo Public School district. I took a job as the lunch lady. Everyday, I was a new day to connect and inspire our littles. I would give out smiles, hugs, and encouraging words. Soon the principal called me into his office (I just knew I was in trouble). He said the 3-4th graders came and asked if I could make you one of their teachers. He said they are a tough bunch and I’ve never seen this, but if anyone can get through to them, they deserve a job. I was hired as a paraprofessional and that was my beginning. That experience taught me that it doesn’t matter who you are (titles, position, status, level) that you can still make a big impact. This brown girl wearing a hair bonnet, serving chicken nuggets and tator tots had such a strong effect on our kids. I tend to look at myself as somewhat small and insignificant, but their actions touched me so much and proved that I am pretty powerful. My experience and work here helped me to identify many unmet needs in our community
Oh my goodness, our young people have inspired me so much. I tell you my girls and boys mean so much to me. I could be having a rough day or going through a challenging situation and I would meet with my students. By the end of our meeting, I would feel brand new. We get to talking about our goals/dreams or the different challenges that they were having and I would forget about my personal life. Honestly they inspire me more than I inspire them. To see them learn and grow, to see them discover their true selves and walk in their fullest potential, to see them break negative cycles and habits, to see them become the leaders that they were created to be is so rewarding. It makes my life worth it. While I have been here almost 18 years, most of my service has been in Fargo. So, I was still new to Moorhead when I was campaigning. I would knock on doors and I would hear students in the background yelling “Ms. Rachel” as they told parents if they could vote they would vote for me. Even during parades, it was the students who were running to hug me, and cheering for me. Some even joined me to hold a sign. You should have seen the look of surprise on their parents’ faces. All of this came about through several school positions like monitoring the lunchroom, walking the halls of the middle school as security, or working as student support services. It was more than a job, it was a life changing opportunity to build relationships, bring support, and be part of the solution.
The world is changing very rapidly for young people. What do you tell your students who are feeling anxious or scared about the world around them?
For lots of our youth, they have been through lots of challenges, obstacles, and painful experiences already. Yet, they somehow made it through. We all have a story, and we are still here to tell it. So, just reassuring them that they are not alone and reminding them that they have incredible strength continues to be our focus. Stand tall, stay positive, and keep the faith, take it one day at time, build a strong support system, stay focused and fight for your dream, say a prayer, self care is very important. Lastly, remember that you are Leaderlicous. Leaderliocus doesn’t mean being perfect. It means that when you get knocked (because you will definitely feel like it) you fight and you rise again better, stronger, wiser.
What do young girls need most right now?
I think our girls need lots of love, support, and listening ears. Taking the time to show interest and just listen to them as they express how they feel is so important right now. When COVID-19 hit it changed a lot of things, especially our communication with each other. We humans like to see and touch one another as we engage in our daily lives. One question that I had to ask myself is “What is the main reason for starting this nonprofit , and what have you always done.” I thought to myself… meet the needs of our youth however I can. It’s why we have started our new social media channel called BeRare BeYou TV. This is a platform created for youth, by youth and provides the opportunity for them to lead and to be heard. We are going to learn so much from them and I truly believe that this will lead to a greater understanding and awareness of how to best support our youth. P’s & Q’s Etiquette has always met students where they are at, whether it was providing a safe space for girls to express their feelings, helping them to discover their talents and strengths, or creating opportunities to connect with other students and caring adults. This is who we are.