Her Story: Patricia Russell

Motivating Stories from Local Women


Every woman has a story to tell, and no two stories are alike. Meet the women who have persevered through challenges and tribulations and come out the other side stronger than ever. These unique individuals have seen their fair share of adversity but continue to inspire those around them with the lessons they have learned and their love of life. Read on for a truly motivating story by a woman who experienced them firsthand.


Photo by Emily Pérez Long / Photos taken on location at Common House




Patricia Russell, East Brainerd


Because I was born in Chattanooga to an African American couple, I am well aware of adversity. Even at a young age, I was cognizant of the sacrifices made to ensure my brothers and I had our basic needs met. I spent countless hours at my grandmother’s house after school while my mother worked to make ends meet. 

I matriculated through high-poverty schools and graduated from Howard High School. As I approached my senior year, I was faced with the challenge of post-secondary options and the affordability of college. My family did not have money to send me to college. I would be a first-generation college student, which meant this was a journey unfamiliar to me and my family. Gratefully, I had several mentors and my faith that helped me navigate this uncharted territory. I received a full academic scholarship to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and this opportunity resulted in no debt to my family and a changed trajectory for my life.  

Earning an undergraduate degree and several graduate degrees gave me access to more opportunities.  I became involved with the community while working as a teacher. I became a school counselor to educate students and families regarding social, emotional, academic, college, and career skills, and through my passion, I co-founded The Student Leadership Academy of Chattanooga, which inspires life leadership strategies for students. 

Currently, I am continuing this work as a district administrator. I am helping others battle poverty, creating opportunities to remove barriers for student success, and educating parents regarding resources and opportunities for their kids. My advice for anyone hoping to change their trajectory is not to be afraid of uncharted territory but to turn your fears into stepping stones for success. We are often afraid of the unfamiliar, but it is the unfamiliar that can set us free. I am the first of many things in my family, but I am determined not to be the last. I would like to encourage every woman to continuously educate herself. The education I received has greatly impacted my life and allowed me to impact the lives of others for generations to come.  


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