Friends are the people that we hold close to our heart. They uplift and empower you, they make you laugh, they keep it real, they have the quality of forgiveness and they are loyal. We need friends to survive. Without our friends, happiness wouldn’t be an emotion that we are all fortunate enough to have.
It’s not everyday that you get to call people that you have met on the internet “friends.” In fact, it’s not everyday that you get to call people that you have met on the internet “sisters.” This past month, I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of a network of sisters from all over the world by the name of #heysis20.
So, what is this #heysis20?
It all started by a young woman by the name of Taylor Landry, who had the dream of attending Spelman College. She created this chat to make relationships and form the sisterhood that she was so eager to have.
I joined the “#Spelman20” group chat on GroupMe on November 15, 2015. At first, I was apprehensive and fairly timid about joining the chat because it felt awkward to join a discussion where I didn’t know anyone or what to say. Once I was added to this online community, I immediately introduced myself, and I was nervous about the responses that I was going to get. Right after I sent my first message, dozens of girls replied back to me and they welcomed me by saying “Hi Coltrane! Welcome to the sisterhood!” or “Welcome, Spelmanite” or even “Hey sista! Can’t wait to get to know you!” Immediately, I could feel the love, positive energy, and the sister to sister connection and I knew that I had made the right choice of joining the group chat.
As the chat went on that day, I noticed that there was a hashtag going around the chat called “#heysis20.” As an embarrassed newbie, I blushingly said “what is #heysis20?”
The #heysis20 hashtag was started by Mikaela Clarke to foster sisterhood and support when applying to Spelman College.
“I’ve been in the chat since the beginning. I’ve seen the good and the bad of the chat, but throughout it all, we’ve established a bond. One day, all of us ladies were having one of our usual daily discussions and we ended up dropping our @ handles for Twitter. We started talking about how it was so much work and then we decided that we should create a hashtag so we could just click the hashtag and follow each other. It would be quicker and more efficient. Of course we couldn’t use “#Spelman20” because all prospective students were using that hashtag (not to mention party promoters that would be flooding the hashtag soon. And then I thought to myself ‘why not do something involving ‘sis” considering that we call each other ‘sisters’ and share that type of bond. I sort of just threw ‘hey’ in front of ‘sis’ because when you greet someone, you usually say ‘hey’ and it’s not so informal. The ‘20’ at the end of ‘HeySis’ came from our graduating year!”
As I started my college application process, I have had plenty of help support from my parents and other adults, which is something that I have been very fortunate to have. But I was also seeking out the help and support from my peers. As great as it is to receive advice and words of wisdom from the adults who have helped me, there isn’t anything like having a group of girlfriends that you can relate to and that you can turn to that will love and support you.
She continued, “the ‘HeySis20’ has worked out perfectly because we are aware that not all of us will be accepted to Spelman, but #heysis20 has been an inclusive environment for everyone, whether we’re accepted or not, because we’re Spelmanites at heart.”
Not only do we have a #Spelman20 chat, but we also have a “BigSisLittleSis” chat, which is a group of 50 Spelman class of 2019 young women and my #heysis20 sisters. The BigSisLittle Sis has been an amazing chat filled freshman of Spelman’s advice and wisdom that they have so graciously passed down to us.
In the #Spelman20 chat, we have shared our hopes, dreams, aspirations, career goals, majors, GPAs, test scores, our fears, our beliefs, our strengths, our weaknesses, and so much more.
Through this chat, I have learned about so many girls’ stories.
Mikaela noted, “we went through talking of Spelman, waiting for the application to open up, editing each other’s personal statements, submitting apps, talking to our admissions counselors, and now waiting for acceptance letters.”
In addition to talking about Spelman, we have talked about very deep topics and issues such as our experiences with racism and isolation. We’ve also talked about losing family members and we have even gone into deep conversations about our hair, which has always been a very sensitive topic for young black girls to be able to talk about. Having a congregation of other young Black women that I can relate to has been an amazing outlet for me, especially while I am enduring this stressful part of my life as a senior in high school, applying to colleges.
Another member of the group chat, Eyerusalem Mesele, created the #heysis20selfcarechallene, which is a 30-day self care challenge. In the morning, she posts a quote along with a challenge, and we all share what we did to accomplish that challenge at the end of the day. The ultimate goal of this challenge is to empower one another and to love ourselves.
I first joined this challenge on day six, where the challenge was to finish something that we have been procrastinating on. When the time came for everyone to share, one of my sisters shared that she finished a book, another finished her Millennium Gates scholarship application, another went to the gym, and another applied to two colleges. The accomplishments that my sisters executed really empowered me to embark on this challenge, so I could empower others and truly love myself. Other challenges have included drinking 8 cups of water a day, reflecting on how other people see us, and going to bed early. This self care challenge has been another aspect of our bond that has brought us together to encourage, push, and motivate one another to be the amazing and beautiful young women that we are. Our next self care challenge will be a hair self care challenge for all girls with all hair types, whether you have kinky hair, permed hair, straight hair, curly hair, or if you wear a weave or a wig. In January, I plan to launch a 31-day self care fitness challenge and I am so excited to start it!
Recently, I proposed the idea of us all recording videos of our reaction to our acceptances to Spelman and everyone was ecstatic about the idea. Later, that idea turned into making a #heysis20 YouTube page and everyone became even more excited. I added in the idea of making #heysis20 t-shirts and my sisters became even more giddy about my ideas. Many of the girls proposed that we start recording vlogs and start with our own introduction videos that give a personal touch about yourself, the major that you want to pursue, where you’re from, and one special fact about you. Some girls noted that they didn’t think that it would be a good idea to start recording anything before we get accepted because if some of us don’t get accepted to Spelman, it would feel really sad. After this, Taylor Laundry clearly stated that HeySis is separate from Spelman, so it can be a vlog about all of our journeys, regardless of the school we end up attending.
This spoke very powerfully to me because I felt that sisterhood inclusion and most importantly, I felt that I was going to continually be loved, supported, and accepted by these girls, so matter where my journey takes off.
I am part of an iMessage group chat with only a few of my sisters that want to go to Spelman, and a few days ago, one of the girls honestly said that she didn’t know if we were going to see her at Spelman next year. We asked her why, and she blissfully responded saying that Spelman is too expensive (and it is expensive indeed) and that she cannot afford to take out student loans. She also noted that she still has graduate school to pay for, once she graduated from her undergraduate term. Right after this, another one of my sisters elaborated on how she won’t be able to attend Spelman unless she gets scholarship money, but she’s hoping for the best. After this, I spoke about how I am in the same position as them and I need to be able to attend and pay for graduate school and I cannot afford to take out student loans.
That was one of the most emotional moments that HeySis had ever gotten me because we had developed a bond that allowed us to be honest with each other. To be honest, you have to be vulnerable, and to be vulnerable, you have to be free. Our freedom to be our true selves allowed us to express ourselves and share the daily thoughts, struggles, and emotions that we go through every second of the day. A week ago, I did not know any of these girls, and now, I have cultivated a strong and lifelong sisterhood with 100 new sisters. A week ago, we were dead set on Spelman, and now, we are realistically opening up to the possibility of attending other institutions.
A little over a week ago, we notices that one of our sisters had been missing in action or as we call it “going ghost,” and she had removed herself from all of our group chats and #heysis20 related social media. We had all been wondering where she went and we started to become deeply worried about her. One day, she rejoined our main Spelman20 group chat and she told us about how her worry for not being accepted to Spelman has caused her to want her to distance herself from all of us because becoming close with they #heysis20 community and not being able to see all of us would break her heart, and she wouldn’t be able to handle that fate. After that, she left our chat again and we all came together in sorrow. Everyone started to express their sadness and how heartbroken they felt by sharing small vignettes of how amazing a person our lost #heysis20 sister is.
As the tears went on, Taylor stated “acceptance time is taking a big toll on people more than any of us know. I hope ALL of your know that I love all of y’all to death and I told you guys from day one you’re stuck with me regardless of where you end up in the fall. You are all my sisters until the end. Anyone else who is struggling, know that you have us, we are here. Forever.”
She later continued “I think it’s time we changed this from “Spelman” to “Heysis… I’ll start a Spelman chat when letters start rolling, but this…this is us.”
When reflecting back on this, I have realized how truly lucky I am to be part of #heysis20. As seniors in high school, we have constantly been taught to compete against one another. Success has always been measured based on who has the highest grade point average, the highest standardized test score, the person who is involved in the most activities, and the person who is the star-player of their sport. This competition has caused a disconnect between my peers and myself because it puts us against each other to be better than one another. #heysis20 does the mere opposite, it allows us to empower one another and it has been an amazing support system that I know I can turn to for anything.
#heysis20 is beyond Spelman, it’s about a friendship. It is a network of young women who have cultivated a sisterhood of love, support, respect, trust and optimism. Regardless of where we end up, #heysis20 will always be with us. My #heysis20 sisters, I can’t even comprehend the amount of gratitude that I have for welcoming me into your amazing and empowering community that has been an amazing outlet from my stresses over school, college applications, and scholarships. I can turn to this chat and know that I can count on someone to motivate me to be the best that I can be, while putting a huge smile on my face and making me giggle. Applying to college involves a lot of competitiveness with your peers on getting accepted to certain schools and receiving certain scholarships. This sisterhood transcends the competition, and is about cooperation, support, and a place to feel loved and valued.
#heysis20 sisters, I am so grateful to have you all as mentors, shoulders to cry on, companions that empower me, and people that make me laugh. But most importantly, I am thankful to have you all as sisters. I live by the great Lucius Annaeus Seneca quote “One of the most beautiful qualities of a true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” Thank you for being sisters that understand me and allow me to understand you all as well. I am so thankful to have joined this sisterhood, and #heysis20 is something that I will keep in my heart forever.