At the age of 15, founder, Summer Owens, became a mother by someone she did not know. In her memoir, she explains how low self-esteem was a major factor in her becoming a teen mother. She lived a challenging life as a single mother raising a young man alone. However, she graduated from high school, college, and business school with honors. She did this all with limited support and without government assistance as she balanced being a mother with getting her education and her rewarding yet demanding career.
Summer beat the devastating statistics teen mothers face yet as a concerned mother, she witnessed the challenges her son and most youth and young adults face— From dealing with emotional issues and challenging home lives to trying to fit in and figure out who they are. Watching her son and countless youth fighting and often succumbing to these trials, Summer knew she had to help youth and young adults find themselves, make good decisions, dream, and pursue their dreams regardless of the obstacles they face.
In 2010 after recognizing her responsibility and ability to understand, connect with and help youth make better decisions about their bodies and their lives, Summer published the intimate details of her life. Her memoir, Life After Birth- A Memoir of Survival and Success, was well-received by youth and adults alike. Summer began to receive invitations to speak in schools, colleges, churches, and community organizations across the country and was asked to create a curriculum to help teach the multitude of lessons in her book. After launching her speaking business, S.O. What!, and the S.O. What! Literacy, Life Skills, and Character Education curriculum, Summer wanted to contribute more to the Memphis community and the hurting youth with so much potential. In 2012, she started The S.O. What! Foundation to help youth embrace the S.O. What! attitude and learn to overcome any obstacles they face. Through workshops, retreats, and mentoring relationships, The S.O. What! Foundation helps youth and young adults, especially those with challenging circumstances, overcome the obstacles that keep them from being successful. Our programs aim to help youth understand and appreciate who they are, discover who they want to be, and fight for their dreams.
The S.O. What! Foundation was established in 2013 to support the efforts of founder, Summer Owens, and her business, S.O. What! LLC by providing opportunities for others to get involved in helping youth and young adults overcome obstacles and live to their full potential. Owens shared her story of survival and success as a teenage mother in a memoir that turned into a speaking career after gaining national attention for her inspiring story.
Her passion for helping youth overcome obstacles and demand for her to share her story and implement programs led her to start the S.O. What! Foundation where she could create programs and invite the community to participate in helping youth and young adults learn how to say, "S.O. What!" to their challenges and be successful regardless of the obstacles they had to overcome.
Owens balanced starting both organizations, and by 2014 was able to fully begin work on the foundation. The foundation was propelled when an experienced program director joined the team 2015 initially in a volunteer capacity. In 2015, the foundation held its first program events focused on self-esteem, decision-making, goal-setting, and sex education. Each of the foundation's programs focuses on academic achievement, personal development, and challenge management and starts with a S.O. What! statement. The S.O. What! statement is something that hurts the youth and that could keep them from being successful. Through the S.O. What! programs, youth create S.O. NOW What? statements and plans on how they will overcome that hurt or challenge to be successful.