Interview with Hall of Fame Honoree – Valerie Still

Valerie Still has an impressive resume and we are honored to have her join the Camden Schools Foundation Hall of Fame on May 20th!

The Camden Schools Foundation sat down with Valerie to find out more about her thoughts on the Hall of Fame, her legacy of service, and her advice to the students in Camden. 

What does being honored by the Camden Schools Foundation mean to you?

Being honored by the Camden Schools Foundation provides me an opportunity to show children in Camden that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what your circumstances are, or how society views you, if you follow what is inside of you, who you really are, anything is possible. It’s the hero’s journey that Joseph Campbell presented. The hero is always there inside even after traveling across the globe and returning to where he/she started, for me Camden, New Jersey. Once you learn that, you return to where you started and share the knowledge so others are empowered as well. Eventually, others recognize it and confirm your awesomeness. It is always extra special being recognized in the place you were born and raised.

What do you hope your legacy of service will be for future generations?

I hope my legacy of service will inspire others to live an altruistic life. Not just thinking about success, which is based on what others think of you and what you can accomplish but instead living a life of significance that once you are long dead and gone, people continue to follow your example and are uplifted by your experiences and energy. That’s what the Still family is all about-a legacy of service, altruism, and excellence.  My ancestors include the great abolitionist, my great-great granduncle William Still (“Father of the Underground Railroad”), my great-great-grandfather, 19th century Dr. James Still (“Black Doctor of the Pines”), Dr. Caroline Still Anderson (one of the first female doctors in the country), my great-great-great grandparents, Levin and Charity, who escaped enslavement and my mother and father who raised ten children in Camden, New Jersey and carried on the legacy, as I do today. They all inspire me to remember that I am not a race, gender, class, religion,  sex, age, or any of the other little boxes that people try to put me in. I am pure unlimited energy, a superstar like each person I meet.

What are some of the greatest lessons serving the Camden community has given you?

One of the greatest lessons I have received from serving my beloved Camden community is it reminds me greatness lies in each one of us and the more I offer of myself, the more I serve others… the more I receive…it’s a wonderful phenomenon. If you clench your fist, you are unable to receive anything. The tighter you clench it the more you hurt and the less you receive. Once you open your helping hand, abundance flows. As I coach young girls in Camden now or when I’m substitute teaching in Camden Public Schools, I am always inspired and learn so much from these awesome, beautiful students. They teach me how to enjoy life and have fun.

What wisdom would you like to share with the youth in Camden today?

Dream, Believe, Never Quit!  A dream is one pure, positive power thought. You only need one! It’s something that makes your heart sing. Eliminate all the negative and wasteful thoughts and hold onto one, pure, positive power thought, a dream.  Believe in yourself. You have everything you need within and when you want something, the universe will conspire in helping you achieve it. Never ever stop believing in yourself. No matter what the situation, or circumstance, no matter how many times people tell you “No”. Never stop believing and following your passion. It’s not about the stuff you obtain or what people tell you is important, how much money you have or what kind of car your drive or how pretty you are or what kind of house you have, doesn’t matter if you are “rich” or “famous”, doesn’t matter if you are a “girl” or “boy”, what matters is that you know that you are a superstar. Pure, unlimited, powerful, loving, peaceful energy capable of doing anything! 

This pandemic has taught me the importance of being with self. Self-reflection, the power of silence, and understanding that life is extremely fragile regardless of age.  I’ve had so many friends and family impacted by COVID which not only meant losing loved ones but also not being able to be with a loved one at the time they needed the support and love of family the most. To think of all the people around the world who unexpectedly were victims of this dreaded pandemic in the last year is overwhelming. We must live each moment to the fullest and enjoy the present moment it’s all we have in this life. We can’t do anything about the past and we don’t know what the future holds. Sometimes it’s important to just stop being busy doing stuff and just be love.  I know it sounds corny but it works for me.

Who would you like to thank who has helped you reach your goals?

I thank each person I have encountered in my life.  Each one regardless of the situation or circumstance or even the amount of time shared together, has contributed to me being where I am today. A space of peace, love, and bliss. I am very grateful for people who have told me “no” or seem to have been challenging in my life because they have helped me grow the most, recognizing that love is the most powerful energy.  Love cancels out all negativity and ensures my peace and power. Of course, I’ve been blessed with a myriad of amazing individuals from across the USA and around the world, who have showered me with love, goodness, kindness, and respect becoming my chosen family. Many from Camden nurtured me as a child and provided me with exactly what I needed to not only be successful but significant. A “little poor girl of color” from the public housing projects of Roosevelt Manor in Centerville, living at 813 Ferry Avenue, playing endless hours on the small basketball court on 9th Street and Ferry Avenue. My space to dream, believe, never quit. I am blessed that I get an opportunity to thank them publicly today.  I wouldn’t be who I am today if I had not had my foundation in Camden. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

And thank you Camden Schools Foundation for providing me a platform to inspire the children of Camden today. They are great souls! It’s organizations like the Camden Schools Foundation that empower children and ensure each child in Camden will have an opportunity to fulfill dreams and return to Camden to guarantee a bright future for generations to come, like me. I am a proud product of Camden Public Schools. We are Camden Proud. I am Camden Proud.