How One Woman Rose From Poverty to Advocate on Behalf of Children –
What You Can Learn From Rhonda Scortino
You have the strength to rise up from even the direst of circumstances. Rhonda Sciortino is living proof of that. Here’s what you can learn from her journey.
The unfortunate truth is that there are millions of young women who get deprived of opportunities from the moment they’re born.
Abject poverty may prevent them from seeing the potential that they hold inside. A lack of education may mean that they’re not even aware of a life beyond what they know.
The world is not always how we see it on television, or even how we remember it for ourselves. Not every child has the perfect start in life.
But no matter the circumstances, every child has within them the potential to do something amazing. Every young woman has the ability to succeed despite, or even because of, their painful experiences.
Rhonda Sciortino is living proof of this. She’s risen up from the depths and fulfilled the potential that every young woman has. And going further, she’s dedicated her life to helping others in need.
Introduce Rhonda Sciortino - a business owner, author, speaker, and child advocate.
Who is Rhonda Sciortino?
Let’s start with the basics.
Rhonda Sciortino is a business owner, speaker, author, and child advocate. All of these things look very impressive on a résumé. However, they don’t tell you about her journey. They don’t tell you about the experiences that shaped her into the person that she is today.
Rhonda’s parents abandoned her when she was still an infant. For the first 16 years of her life, she grew up with her grandparents. Unfortunately, this was not an ideal situation for the youngster. Her grandfather had a mental illness that led him to struggle with the responsibility of raising a child. And her grandmother was an alcoholic who abused and neglected her.
For most of that 16 years, Rhonda grew up in complete poverty.
When she was just eight years old, the shack where she lived with her grandparents burned down. With no insurance, the family couldn’t find another place to live. For months, Rhonda was homeless.
However, there was a brief moment of respite when a foster family took her in.
It was during this time that she heard the words that inspired her. Rhonda’s foster father said to her:
“Young lady you better quit feeling sorry for yourself and start figuring out what you were put here to accomplish.”
The words had a profound impact on her.
For the first time in her life, Rhonda believed that there was a purpose behind her existence. She realized that she could achieve more than being the victim of neglect, abuse, and poverty.
At age 15, she began proceedings to emancipate herself from her grandparents. But to do that, she needed to have a job.
She took the first one that she could find. Rhonda began working with an insurance agent.
It was during this time that she discovered her passion for helping children in disadvantaged positions. After learning all that she could from her employer, she founded her own company. The business was a specialty insurance agency focused solely on homes for children who’d suffered abuse.
Unfortunately, her own Vice President betrayed her. In an interview with Price of Business she said:
“Just before leaving on a business trip, my VP stole my American Express card out of my purse left on my desk while I was in the ladies room. Once I was out of town, she packed up client and prospect files, and left.”
Fortunately, her clients informed her what the employee had done.
And at that moment, Rhonda learned a valuable lesson, both in life and in business.
Today, she works as the Child Welfare Specialist for Markel Insurance. She’s also published a book - Succeed Because of What You’ve Been Through.
Rhonda also advocates for abused children in her work as a speaker.
She is a survivor in every sense of the word. These are the four lessons that you can learn from her.
Lesson #1 – Not Everyone is “For” You
This may be the most difficult lesson that Rhonda has learned so far. Yet it’s one that both her personal and business experiences reinforce.
In speaking about her business betrayal, she says:
“I learned that not everyone who is “with” you is “for” you. Because I saw my work as a mission or ministry, I assumed that my co-workers felt the same way.”
Rhonda’s VP was “for” herself. She had selfish motives for building her own business behind her stealing of Rhonda’s American Express card.
You could also argue that Rhonda’s grandparents were “with” her rather than “for” her. Neither provided Rhonda with the opportunities that she needed to fulfill her potential.
The difficult lesson here is that the people in your life right now aren’t always the people you need to have in your life. Many of you may have to deal with negative influences, such as an abusive relative or an unsupportive “friend”.
It’s important to distinguish between those who want to support you and those who are just there.
Lesson #2 – Don’t Let Your Wounds Dictate Your Life
Unsurprisingly, it’s very easy for those in difficult situations to fall into the “victim” mentality. There is no blame attached to that statement. If a vulnerable person, especially a child, has nobody to guide them, they are a victim.
What’s important is that you use those circumstances to fuel your fire.
That’s the message that Rhonda’s foster father tried to instill in her. He told her that she needed to find her purpose, whatever that may be in life.
Rhonda’s own experiences helped her to realize what that purpose is.
The lesson here is that your experiences do not define who you are or what you can become. You are not the wounded victim. You are the strong, courageous, and resourceful survivor who can achieve so much more.
Lesson #3 – You’re Not Here to Live Someone Else’s Life
Building from that point, it’s also important to think about who inspires you.
“Inspires” is the word to focus on here. An inspiration is somebody whom you can emulate to a certain extent. However, that doesn’t mean that you should dedicate yourself to copying them in every way, shape, and form.
As Rhonda puts it:
“We weren’t put on this earth to live anyone else’s life but our own. It’s a sad mistake to want to be “the next” Oprah, “the next” J.K. Rowling, or “the next” Beyoncé.”
There’s only one Oprah or J.K. Rowling.
There’s also only one of you.
Allowing inspiration to turn into copying means you struggle to see your own successes. Instead, you’re constantly comparing what you’ve achieved to the person who you want to copy. That can lead to jealousy, which only does more to hold you back.
You are the only version of you on the planet. Allow others to inspire you while still finding your own purpose.
Lesson #4 – Show Love Without Expectation
It would have been all too easy for bitterness to consume Rhonda’s soul. Many who’ve undergone similar trials in life put up walls around themselves. They struggle to love other people and expect any love they show to get returned in kind.
Unfortunately, that will not always happen. Rhonda says that this should not have an impact on who you are or what you do:
“Giving love to others is not a task to be added to an already hectic schedule or a goal or objective to be attained. Giving love to others can be a way of living that enhances the lives of everyone involved.”
To show love without expectation is to open yourself up to the world.
Yes, you do make yourself more vulnerable because of this. However, showing love also means that you’ve overcome your experiences. It shows that you’re capable of finding happiness in your own actions, rather than someone else’s.
“…If our focus is on receiving love from others, when we don't get it, we’re left empty and wounded. Whereas, when our happiness is dependent on our own loving actions, we retain control over our happiness.”
Other people do not dictate who you are or how you feel. When you give love without expectation, the love you give is its own reward.
Find Strength in Your Experiences
Rhonda Sciortino overcame the neglect and abuse she experienced during her childhood.
More than that, she used them to fuel the success that she enjoys today. Rhonda’s purpose is to help as many children to escape the cycle of abuse as she can. And in doing so, she hopes to provide a guiding hand to those who need it the most.
Her story shows us that even the most grueling of circumstances don’t last forever. More importantly, they don’t control what you become.
My mission is to empower young women to overcome the challenges that they face in life. I hope to help young women turn their obstacles into opportunities.
Please contact me today if you would like to discuss a speaking arrangement.