Alison Bragaw-Butler: Brave with an open mind!
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This time our feature story is on a very courageous and open-minded individual that goes by the name Alison Bragaw-Butler. We have chosen to keep her story pure, real, unedited, and straight from her heart. Thank you for allowing us to put you on the spot Alison. Enjoy!
Who is Alison Butler?
Alison was born and raised in Arlington County, Virgnia. Her father is an Elementary School Principal, her mom is a teacher, and her younger sister Emily is a college Student at Pepperdine University. She has an Undergraduate Degree in Social work from VCU, a Graduate Degree in Sports Management from VSU, and a Professional Certificate in Data Science from Harvard. Alison currently works as a Cyber Security Analyst in California.
"I spent most of my time as a child bouncing around from swim practice, to soccer practice, to basketball practice. My parents felt that it was extremely important to keep my sister and I busy, so we were always on the run. I would say playing sports was one of the most positive influential factors in my childhood. I am forever grateful that, even when I didn’t feel like going to a 5am swim practice, followed by a day of school, followed by soccer practice/basketball practice and homework, my parents pushed me to my full potential every day."
" I am completely in control of my trajectory. The saying is cliché, but you really can do whatever you want to if you put your mind to it." Alison Bragaw-Butler
Life as a student athlete:
"My life as a student-athlete was much different from most others. I did not play basketball in undergrad for reasons upon reasons that I will leave for another day. However, I was blessed with the opportunity of a “second-chance,” and was offered a scholarship to use my one year of eligibility to finish out my basketball career at Virginia State University while receiving my Master’s degree. Returning to play collegiate basketball after having not played in four years was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, it was draining – but I couldn’t be more appreciative of the opportunity as it has helped me grow in ways that I could have never imagined.
What did you learn from college and/or being an athlete?
"Persistence, patience, and that some of those most beautiful things come from circumstances unplanned. I did not plan for the long road to getting back in shape after having not played basketball in 4 years. I did not plan that I would start the season out playing significant minutes, only to watch those minutes dwindle as the season went on. I did not plan to struggle on the court in a way I never had before. I didn’t plan to have shin splints so crippling that my shins would bubble and turn colors.
I planned for a lot of things when I decided to play my first and last year of college basketball, and most of those things did not happen. What I also didn’t plan for was to gain so many new sisters, to make such invaluable friendships, to meet the love of my life, or to find a new strength within myself that I never knew I had.
So I guess in short, I learned to take the good with the bad, and instead of waiting for the sun to come out, to be thankful for the silver linings." When asked whether she ever considered going pro as an athlete, Alison responded, "I was ready to start my career and enjoy different life experiences. While basketball had been my true love for over 10 years, when I walked out of the gym after my last collegiate game, that was not a door I ever had an urge to re-open."
"I learned to take the good with the bad, and instead of waiting for the sun to come out, to be thankful for the silver linings." Alison Bragaw-Butler
Passion and Career
"My passion definitely lies with the youth, especially youth who have had adverse experiences. I enjoy watching them grow, experience new things, and realize their potential. While I was in undergrad, only going to school and not playing basketball, volunteering and mentoring kids at a local high school was the highlight of my life. I even had a pretty cool documentary made about my relationship with the kids that aired on PBS!"
What career paths have you pursued in the past?
"Because I did not play basketball in undergrad, it gave me the time to explore different career paths. In college, I did everything from work as event staff, to waitress, to working at a daycare center. As far as my careers after college, I have been employed as a Qualified Mental Health Professional, a Math and Science Innovation Center Weekday Instructor, and now I am a Cyber Security Analyst! Most people look at me as if I have four heads when I give my work experience history because it seems “all over the place,” but I truly believe in the value of different experiences.""At the end of the day, the advice I would give for any career or job is to follow your heart, but use your head, and learn as much as you possibly can along the way. Try new careers/jobs, even if you have no background in that area. You never know what you are good at or may love until you try it. So, try everything until you find what makes you excited to go to work in the morning and feel passionate about every day on the job!"
"I am forever grateful that, even when I didn’t feel like going to a 5am swim practice, followed by a day of school, followed by soccer practice/basketball practice and homework, my parents pushed me to my full potential every day." Alison Bragaw-Butler
Inspiration and turning point
"I have so many people that inspire me. It would be impossible to choose just one. But I’ll try to name a few. Not only am I inspired by the people that are close to me, but I am also often inspired by people who I don’t even know.
I am inspired by my parents and their work ethic. I am inspired by the person in front of me in line who gives the man in front of her a dollar because he is short on change. I am inspired by all my mentees, at how they constantly persevere through the most difficult of situations. I am inspired by the person on the plane who smiles at the mother of a screaming baby. I am inspired by my boyfriend, as I have never met such a genuinely kind person. I am inspired by the woman who can forgive after she has lost her son to gun violence. I am inspired by the Obamas for their courage. I am inspired by my teammates, my friends, and my family. The list goes on and on and on. I am inspired by so much and so many, and they are the reason I am."
What do you consider or identify as your turning point?"My most recent turning point was, for sure, moving to Los Angeles. It was scary. When I made the decision to move, I had no job, no apartment, and apart from a friend or two and my sister, I didn’t know anyone in Los Angeles. I never thought that I would make such a big decision on a whim, but I wanted to test myself. I wanted to know if I was able to make a decision solely for me, and follow-through on it. I hadn’t made many of those, at least not on this scale before. It was liberating (and completely terrifying at the same time), knowing that I am completely in control of my trajectory. The saying is cliché, but you really can do whatever you want to if you put your mind to it."
There is a stigma surrounding mental health, especially in the sports community, and there needs to be more of a dialogue surrounding diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues." Alison Bragaw-Butler
Do you love yourself?
"Yes! All day, every day? Still working on it. Self-love is a life long journey, that requires constant work because I am constantly changing. As I’m changing, I must check in with myself to make sure that I am continuing to make decisions that will promote self-love. It can get tough sometimes with all the societal pressure, but whenever I’m feeling less than, turning Beyonce on during a kick-a** workout always helps!"
What are you proud of the most?
"I am most proud of my new-found ability to do exactly what makes me happy without asking or waiting for anyone’s permission. Last summer, I decided moving to Los Angeles was going to make me happy… so two months later when my lease was up, I did."
Alison gives special thanks to her family, friends, and everyone who has had a part in her journey, "I love you and am so thankful for each and every one of you!"
Thank you Alison for sharing your story with us.
We wish you even more success and happiness in your journey!
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