As Marianna Sousa walks from class to class, she is greeted with waves and “hello”s from fellow students. She is well known around City College from her time serving as student body president. The 39-year-old communication major jumped into the college pool with both feet after mentors, friends and loved ones encouraged her to continue her education. When she began her college journey, she wouldn’t have guessed that by her final semester she would be a published author.
Sousa enrolled in classes at City College in 2015 with the goal of achieving her ultimate career dream of fusing her two areas of focus: communication and journalism. With the right mindset and encouragement from professors, Sousa recalls that she began to thrive.
“I got a great transition into some awesome communication professors,” Sousa says. “Kim Church was really big in helping me understand my power through speech and debate. Professor Heimer was instrumental in my journalism. She referred me to some really great internship programs.”
After the completion of two local internships—the Sacramento Voices program and the other through NPR’s Next Gen internship—she found herself budding with knowledge and was inspired to write. Sousa’s passion for written word and love and affinity for multimedia journalism was born.
“I got really clear that journalism and storytelling was the route,” she says.
Sousa went on to take everything she learned over the course of her academic experience and used it to create a workbook. Over the last year she produced her book, “Own Your Shit.” The book is the product of Sousa’s personal struggles and traumas transformed into a 50-page self-healing guide. It’s broken down into three parts.
“The first part is memoir writing. I learned from a sociology professor the importance of knowing who you are in society is to begin with your own story telling,” Sousa explains. “A lot of us want to be successful and overcome things, but we don’t look back at our history. In that is encoded our trauma and the negative things that affect why we do or don’t believe certain things about ourselves.”
The second part of her book connects struggles to symptoms such as anxiety and depression. The third segment analyzes how the symptoms show up in choices, deficiencies and challenges, according to Sousa.
“It took a year of working it on myself then sharing it with other people,” says Sousa. “As I was healing myself, I started providing workshops and sessions for other people. I started giving to other people what I gave myself, just administering it.”
In Sousa’s first year at City College, she found herself immersed in leadership after her sociology professor suggested she run for student body president. Sousa campaigned and won.
“I’m heavily involved in leadership in the community through activism, but I had never taken up such a formal route. After I got into it, I realized I was definitely built for leadership on this level.”
After serving as president Sousa took on the role of student trustee for all Los Rios colleges, making her the student representative of nearly 80,000 students.
“A lot of people don’t realize when you are in high level leadership you have your own struggles too,” says Sousa. “It’s your job to be the positive representation—not that you don’t have those struggles, but it’s not part of the job to be so open about what you’re struggling with.”
There was a point in Sousa’s journey where her plate was full: She was a full time student, the student trustee for the Los Rios colleges and dealing with family matters that were weighing on her heart. On top of all that, she was nearly homeless. She began falling into depression.
“I was falling apart, and a lot of people didn’t know.”
“Luckily I had an adviser that let me know there is an emergency fund that students can get on campus. That emergency fund helped me to get into a facility (so) that I was not going to be a homeless student.”
Sousa’s fight for her own inner balance led her to undertake what some may consider the toughest job of all: her own healing.
“I realized it’s not enough to look at memes online to inspire you to get mentally and emotionally accountable for the emissions you put out there,” says Sousa. “In working with students and the community, I realized mental health is on a rise because people’s lifestyles are getting harder.”
She began chipping away at a personal project in an effort to transform her wounds.
“I wanted to create a workbook. A lot of the exercises and things that are in it don’t come from this ‘holier than thou’ place. They were literally tools and methods I would pick up from different healers or speakers and maybe modify them in a way that would work for me.”
Sousa says that writing her book helped her heal emotionally.
“I dedicated it to my daughter so as we get on our healing path more and more she’ll know that I not only used this tool for myself and others, but I wrote it as a gift for her as well.”
As Sousa’s time at City College is coming to a close, she plans to take what she has experienced and learned and amplify it.
“In coming to the end of this whole journey I realized the power of reaching—in any capacity, in any role,” Sousa says. “Whether it’s student to student reaching for help in comradery to get through a struggle. Whether it’s student to professor, student to admin. My reach was everything.”