Being brave can have a different meaning for every person. For Kelsey Sanders, it means overcoming obstacles and becoming an advocate for a purpose that is bigger than herself. Sanders '15 was recently selected as a 2019 Women of Excellence Be Brave honoree by the Lafayette Commission on the Needs of Women. It recognizes a woman who has overcome adversities and broken through barriers to change her community. Sanders, who is a survivor of domestic violence, has done just that. She currently serves as the vice president of the board of directors for Faith House of Acadiana and is a founding member of the Voices of Acadiana, an organization that advocates for victims of domestic violence. Sanders has made an impact on the Lafayette community, and it all began with her time here at UL Lafayette.
Originally from Patterson, Louisiana, Sanders began her colligate journey at Xavier University. Initially, she was interested in going down the pre-med track. However, due to financial circumstances, Sanders transferred to UL Lafayette, where she changed her major to exercise science. As a student, Sanders was extremely involved on campus. She was first involved with SOUL Camp, a program that provides first-year students with resources and networks to help develop leadership skills and Ragin' Cajun spirit. "[At SOUL Camp], you could find a way to relate to someone no matter where they came from," said Sanders. She also was a founding member of the Black Women Leadership Association. Starting an organization from the ground-up was challenging; however, Sanders said that seeing their hard work pay off, in the end, was incredibly fulfilling. It was through the Black Women Leadership Association that Sanders got involved with Faith House of Acadiana, an organization that would soon become an instrumental part of her story.
Toward the end of her undergraduate career, Sanders was exposed to the Faith House of Acadiana through the Black Women Leadership Association and her mentor, Tonya Bolden-Ball. They began volunteering with the organization, and Sanders even spoke at an event about her experience as a survivor of domestic violence. "It was very challenging, but I knew the purpose of the message I was sharing," said Sanders. After graduation, Sanders was contacted by her mentor to see if she was interested in serving on the board of directors for Faith House of Acadiana. The organization is a private, non-profit program for survivors of domestic violence and their children. Sanders immediately accepted the position, and three years later, she is now the vice president. "I really want to take a different approach to my position since I have a different connection to the organization," said Sanders. In her role as vice president, Sanders hopes to continue to raise awareness about domestic violence and the Faith House of Acadiana in general. Recently, Sanders has also taken on the role of helping to start the VOICES of Acadiana. This organization is made up of survivors of domestic violence. It aims to bring change through domestic violence education and awareness.
Currently, Sanders is pursuing her MBA at UL Lafayette. After graduation, she hopes to one day open a non-profit that would aim to provide more services for survivors of domestic violence. "There are [resources] that are still missing," said Sanders. She is excited about where her future will take her and encourages others to follow their dreams as well. "Tomorrow is not promised, so go after your dreams," said Sanders. As her journey keeps unfolding, Sanders will continue to serve as a leader in the community and show others just what it means to be brave.
Photo: Kelsey Sanders '15