Herstory In The Making 2022
Alisha Henderson sets big goals. But she sets those goals based on how she feels the Lord is leading her. And she trusts that He will give her what she needs to accomplish those goals. So her story shows us that when we follow the Lord, big goals are just future accomplishments.
Q) What was your upbringing like in Person County?
A) My upbringing was primarily in the church. I grew up at Greater Clegg’s Chapel Community Missionary Baptist Church where my uncle is the pastor. Growing up in church, that’s where you find your first friends. My first best friends are still my best friends, Ramona Burroughs and Tondea King. But along with my first best friends, church is where I found Christ. And I found my gifts and my love for music. There, I grew into the woman that I have become, having been raised by all of the mothers and fathers of the church who parented us all, not just their own children. So my upbringing was defined by church, for sure.
I remember we lived for Sundays. We lived for rehearsals throughout the week—just being together as a church community, being in the presence of the Lord together. I didn’t realize how much I would miss it back then. We would go to Golden Corral after church and I used to hate it because I felt like everybody was going to stop at our table and talk to my family. Now I look back on those days like, man, that was a good time.
Even though most of my time was spent in church, the same kids from church were at school. So the church and the community kind of merged together for me. I went to Helena Elementary School and then Southern Middle School. I went to Person High School for a couple of years, but then Roxboro Community School opened up for high school. So I was in that first group of high schoolers who went there and I think it was 13 of us in that very first graduating class.
Growing up in Person County, it was great to be part of a small community of people who looked out for each other. There was always a familiar face everywhere and I never really felt alone. I recently got engaged and moved to Atlanta, Ga., and it’s been going well, but I miss home. I definitely miss the people. And I’m absolutely obsessed with my nieces and nephew, so it's been difficult being away from them and missing milestones, not being able to show up every weekend for basketball games and stuff.
Q) What has your educational path been like?
A) After high school, I went to North Carolina Central University and I majored in political science with a minor in English. I graduated from undergrad in three years. It was just an accomplishment that I wanted, a goal that I set for myself. I didn’t think I would actually be able to do it but I did, and so I graduated from Central in 2012.
After that, I took some years off and went to work at the District Attorney’s office in Durham. I always knew that I wanted to go to law school, I just wasn't sure how that was going to materialize in my life. But during that time, I felt like I was being led in that direction, so I was praying about it. I really wanted to go to school full-time so I could give it my complete focus. But, of course, by that time I was taking care of myself. I was 27 or 28, so I was completely on my own, and I was like, okay Lord, you know if I do this, I need your help. So in 2018 I took the leap of faith and God met me when my feet landed.
I graduated from Central’s law school in May 2021. That was a huge accomplishment for me because when I pass the bar exam, I will be the first attorney on both sides of my family. It’s just cool to be able to add that to the huge list of accomplishments that began well before me. In my family are nurses, educators, social workers, and entrepreneurs, so just being able to add that to our lineage is incredible and I hope it inspires my nieces and nephew and little cousins to come behind us and add doctors and psychologist and all of those other great professions.
I was also proud that I was able to finish during a pandemic. I literally did half of law school virtually and it was probably the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, but I worked my tail off and made it through.
And I know God was ordering my steps because Central had a program where they had law school alumni come back and essentially sow into the lives of graduating students to help prepare them for the bar exam. And the person who took my name was Erika Johnson. Erika is married to Dwayne Johnson, who I grew up with from childhood at Helena and Clegg’s. So to have that connection from Roxboro sow into my next level and my life was so spectacular to me. So everything matters, every little moment, no matter how small it is. It all just works together.
Q) What is your career path and what are your proudest achievements?
A) I tell people, especially younger kids who are in college, don’t be satisfied with just meeting the bare minimum, whether it be requirements for a course load or whatever. Do the extra work, because everything you do has an impact and will determine where and how far you go in life. Doing more will put you in a league of your own, because not everybody likes to do the extra. Also, for me it's important that I do that, not just to set myself apart, but also to gain knowledge and experience. That’s how I got started in my career. I actually interned at the D.A.’s office my Junior year at Central. Then after I graduated, I was doing some case management stuff at law firms, trying to feel my way through the legal world, when a position came open at the D.A.’s office. I applied for it and the lady who I worked under while I was interning remembered me. And she called and she said, “Hey, I saw you applied for this role and I was really excited because I remember you staying late to do things for me sometimes when I didn't ask. So I pulled your application and they want to interview you.”
So I got that job, which was such a great opportunity, and I met so many amazing people. My mentor and friend who I worked under, Josephine Kerr Davis, is now a superior court judge in Durham. So I was really able to grow in the legal field there, and all because I had built a reputation for going the extra mile. There's a woman that I follow on Instagram who always says that there's no traffic on the extra mile, and I love that because it's the truth. Going the extra mile really sets you apart, and I mean that from both the worldly perspective but also the spiritual perspective. God recognizes the extra mile. God recognizes the extra faith, the extra audacity to do those things that other people may not have the courage to do. And I feel like He uses those people who go the extra mile to reach others—to open up someone else's faith and show them who He is and what He is able to do for them.
I'm currently trying to get licensed here in Georgia. I will hopefully find out the results of the bar exam this summer. Right now I work in a prior-associate position for a family law firm and I’m looking forward to expanding and really figuring out exactly where God wants me to be. I love family law. I also love criminal law. But ultimately, I want to figure out how to focus, even if it's a part-time situation, on assisting singers and songwriters with contractual endeavors, making sure that their gifts are protected, because I feel like they get taken advantage of easily. And also my dream is to assist ministries too so that the gifts people sow into ministries are protected and valued.
Q) Why is it important that women be recognized for their foundational work in our community and our nation?
A) It’s important to have a visual representation of all the things that women are capable of doing. Sometimes coming from smaller communities, you can get stuck very easily in traditional notions and ideals of what womanhood is and what it should look like; for instance, putting marriage and family before a career. And I think that's okay because that serves some people very well and they are fulfilled in that and they're successful in that. But I also think that it is really important for those who don't necessarily want to travel that traditional road to have visual representations of our options and opportunities.
So it's so cool for me to see so many women doing everything from owning companies, to being vice president of the United States, to being attorneys and judges, artists, creatives, and just all these things. And it would not be me if I didn't reference Beyonce, but I always think about her saying, “Smart enough to make the millions, strong enough to bear the children, then get back to business”. I love that. I love the idea that women now are owning every part of our world and every part of our lives. I think that it's important that my nieces can look on TV, or just look in their family, and see visual representation of what they can be.
Q) What do you envision for the future of Person County?
A) One thing I think about often is that Person County needs to continue to grow in the direction of diversity. By that I mean both people and opportunities. There needs to be a diversity of learning and recreational opportunities for our children to have full experiences. There needs to be a diversity of career opportunities for people coming out of school and for people who are looking for career changes, so that they don’t have to go to another city to find what they are looking for. I just want to see Person County diversify in a way that gives people the chance to stay home where they feel comfortable raising their children and still experience super amazing things.
Q) What is your advice for girls and young women who look to you as motivation?
A) I would encourage them to define success for themselves and not to allow anybody else to define that for them. If it's law school, that’s amazing—and please reach out to me. If it’s medical school, that's amazing. If you want to go to the community college and get a degree and start a career or a business in your community, that's amazing. If success is graduating from high school, getting married, and raising a family, that's incredible. I just hope to inspire people, especially girls and women, to decide for themselves and to not be subject to societal standards.
And most importantly, build a relationship with Christ and grow in the knowledge of who you are and who God has created you to be.