From her first day at Girls Inc., Cynthia Davis Lacey says the LDT Center was “a breath of fresh air where there were smiling faces and everyone was nice. Fannie Belle Burnett and the staff were awesome and I felt like I could talk to them about anything.”
So much about her Girls Inc. experience was new and exciting, she says, especially being exposed to things like orchestra, plays and ballet.
“I remember when several ballet dancers who were African-American came to LDT to perform for the girls,” she said. “At age 8 or 9, I had never seen anyone who looked like her perform ballet. It gave me the feeling that she could be a ballet dancer.”
She didn’t wind up pursuing ballet, but that sense of possibility has never left her. She was introduced to gymnastics at Girls Inc. and was good enough to compete locally, as well as in college, while studying education at the University of Memphis.
“Those experiences stayed with me and helped me become more well-rounded,” she says. “I felt like the sky was the limit.”
By the time she earned her education degree she had already decided that teaching was not really what she wanted to do. After graduation, she worked in customer service before landing at FedEx, where over 34 years she worked in data entry, then human resources and finally procurement.
She took lots of lessons from Girl Inc. into her adult life—including that everybody is somebody and that her life mattered.
“And I learned how to be bold enough to tackle the world, and that as long as long as I’m willing to put in the work, I can do and be anything I choose,” she said. “I still believe that when one door closes, another opens.”
She’s grateful for all the help she’s received along her journey, at Girls Inc. and elsewhere, and she gives back any way she can, including volunteering at The National Civil Rights Museum and MIFA.
The message she hopes her example sets for those who know her is straightforward—and straight out of the Girls Inc. manual:
“Be all you can be,” she says. “Do all you want to do—but first be a girl!”
Cynthia Davis Lacey
Girls Inc. Alumna
Participant from 1963 to 1970