Amber Smith | Staff Writer
Amber Gardner, a Hampton University alumna and Newport News native, shares her story on overcoming hardships and learning how to walk in her purpose in Bigger than Me, a memoir that follows her life through childhood to college years. Gardner discusses battling homelessness while being a student and the strong support system that ultimately contributed to her success.
“Regardless of the cards you are dealt, you can still make it into a full house,” Gardner said.
Gardner struggled with homelessness for five years, first while attending Heritage High School and eventually while attending Hampton University. This period included living in hotels, shelters and with different family members. It was a special teacher in high school who supported and helped Gardner through this dark time. She even recalls being able to meet President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama at the White House with her high school choir.
“This experience was big for me because I was suddenly the homeless chick meeting President Barack and Michelle,” Gardner said.
At Hampton, it was the feeling of knowing she was attending the illustrious HU, the stability and the support from being involved in different campus activities that kept her going. Her lifelong friends made Gardner’s college experience a positive one.
“Hampton for me became a place where I could step into my own, a place where God wanted me to be,” Gardner said.
The experiences Gardner has gone through have taught her to walk in her own purpose and to stop trying to be the person others want her to be. Specifically, a program at Hampton called “I Do” contributed to Gardner’s growth. This program helped her become who God wanted her to become, release drama from her past and step into Amber.
Gardner wants students to simply gain motivation and encouragement from reading Bigger than Me. She wants people to read about how she overcame her own struggles in order to become the woman she is today. Most importantly, Gardner wants students to understand that every hardship is set up for a reason and it will ultimately only make a person stronger.
“Whatever you are dealing with, you will make it through in the end,” Gardner said. “You’re going through what you’re going through for a reason and a purpose, and knowing that [there is a purpose] will help you move through [hardships] because [your purpose] is bigger than you.”
Bigger than Me and merchandise associated with the book can be purchased on Gardner’s website, amberbkgardner.com. For updates on all things motivational and her future work, follow Amber on twitter @abkgardner, Instagram @_agardner and Facebook @Amber Gardner.