March is Women’s History Month. While this month often outlines the achievements of recognizable women who have made strides in science and technology, social activism and politics or art and music, it is equally important to recognize everyday women — women who have influenced the lives of those around them in ways that may seem small, but are pivotal in shaping the lives and worldviews of young people.
Who are these women and what impact have they made in the lives of Mercer students?
Prescott Judd, a freshman psychology student, attended Roswell High School, where she took English classes with her teacher Samira Bregeth. Bregeth was her student from the time Judd was 15 until she was 18, she said.
“She became definitely like a mentor… we were really close,” Judd said. “She was like, very emotionally supportive.”
Judd would visit Bregeth in her classroom even when she was not in a class she taught, Judd said. During these visits, Judd would confide in her about issues she was facing at home. Bregeth encouraged her to seek help.
“She sat me down one day and told me that if I didn’t … help myself (or) I didn’t… tell a social worker or a therapist or something, then she was gonna take me there and do it with me,” Judd said. “She wasn’t threatening or anything. It was just, she knew I needed help. She recognized it and she was the reason that I escaped an abusive situation. I owe that to her.”
Bregeth’s influence has left a lasting impact on her, Judd said.
“She’s made me more open with other people like me, less afraid to share things with other people and more comfortable opening up,” Judd said. “More perseverant, in that way.”
Judd continues to stay in touch with Bregeth even after she graduated high school, she said. Her teacher continues to provide career and academic advice, alongside emotional support.
“I consider her like a friend now as well as a mentor,” Judd said. “She (is) just like a loving woman figure in my life, which is not something I’ve ever had.”
Landon Cameron, a junior mechanical engineering major, found similar guidance in his mother, Jewel Cameron.
“I feel like she’s pretty involved in my life,” he said. “She’s always been really supportive.”
Landon and Jewel Cameron are from Dublin, Georgia, where Landon grew up. He is the youngest of his seven siblings.
“When I was younger, probably just like the way that she acted had more of an impact than anything she specifically said,” Landon said. “She just never really thinks about herself first, more other people she’s trying to take care of.”
His mother’s life story is especially inspiring for him, Landon said. Jewel was born and raised in Soperton, Georgia, but moved around frequently as a result of her father being in the military.
“They didn’t have a really good relationship … her dad was a huge drinker,” Landon said. “She didn’t know how to swim, but he would do stuff like throw her in and make her learn and things like that.”
Jewel’s tumultuous family life led to the separation of her parents. She and her brother were sent to live with their grandparents in California. Her mother made periodic trips to visit them. However, these visits began to dwindle because her father did not want her mother to see them, Landon said. Eventually, Jewel stopped seeing her mother entirely.
“She never saw her again,” Landon said. “Later on in life, she hired a PI to try and find her mom, but never found her. She doesn’t know where she is buried or died.”
Jewel took up the responsibility of caring for her younger brother, Bobo, as they consistently were moved from school to school. As her dad got older, she continued to take care of him too, Landon said.
“She still tried to maintain that relationship with him and kind of give forgiveness whenever she got older, even though I probably would not have been able to do that,” he said.
Jewel Cameron’s relationship with her father remained difficult as she got older, the absence of her mother being “pinned on” her father, Landon said.
“Her story really is one of the things that I think about a lot as far as why it’s inspiring to keep moving forward and be nice to everybody,” Landon said.
He said his mother’s example of treating people with kindness is one thing that Landon tries to emulate in his daily life.
“Especially with relationships with other people, I mean, carrying on that same attitude towards people and treating everybody with respect,” Landon said.
This Women’s History Month, take a moment to thank the women around you that have impacted you in both big ways and small ways. Thank your mothers and grandmothers and teachers and mentors. Thank the Samira Bregeths and Jewel Camerons of the world. Thank them for their strength, their kindness and their support.