BHS Speaker, Cynthia Sutherland

BHS Speaker, Cynthia Sutherland


In honor of Black History Month, Gaffney High School has hosted multiple engaging events. One being motivational speakers sharing their personal stories of their career pathways. Dr. Cynthia Sutherland. Dr. Cynthia is a motivational speaker from Gaffney, SC. She is a cyber-security expert that works for Amazon web services. We will be going over what she talked about during her speech and how her advice can help us push forward.  




Dr. Cynthia is in the graduate class of 1997 at GHS. She got her bachelor’s degree at Limestone College, in computer science, her master’s degree in Capital technology and a doctorate in cyber-security. Dr. Cynthia is a multi-award-winning global cyber-security leader with 25 years of I.T experience and 17 years of cyber-security experience. When Cynthia was attending GHS, she was in a computer class where they taught basic keyboarding and how to use pieces of software. She was able to get a job using the skills and knowledge she learned at Gaffney High. 



Level Up 

Dr. Cynthia asks the students during her speech how much money they would like to make. She showed a pyramid with 7 diverse levels of the amounts of money one can make from. The pyramid started off with Government subsidies/welfare to “old money,” in between being $8,000-$35,000, $12,000-$75,000, $18,000-$250,000, $100,000-$500,000, $250,000 to millions of dollars. Most students answered that they would like to be at a level 6. While some answered to be at a level 7, “old money”. This being millions of dollars your great grandparents attributed and money that has been generated in your family for a long time.  


Cynthia gives a few examples of people who have reached level 6, one example was Beyonce. Her family was between level 2 and level 3. Beyonce’s family put her into a lot of activities which got her to level 6. Cynthia asks the students when they would like to make that amount of money. In their youth stage, young adult stage, adult stage, or seasoned citizens(elderly).  




For Cynthia to reach this point, where she has a job doing her passion and making a lot of money, she struggled more than people might think. Cynthia was sexually abused as a child from 3-10. It took her 11 years to finish Pre-K to the Eighth grade due to the trauma from sexual abuse. She was held back in the first grade because she couldn’t read. Later, she began dealing with depression, self-mutilation and trying to run away from home. In her senior year of high school, she became pregnant. This was life for Cynthia and because of the terrible things that happened to her; it took 7 ½ years for her to graduate with her diploma. But she never gave up! 


Even though all these distressing things happened to her, she never stopped moving towards her goal. She became a single mom living on welfare while still in college. Cynthia changed majors & dropped out of college twice. She wanted to be so many different things that at some point she decided to get her Associate’s Degree and become an accountant. But being an accountant wasn’t what she wanted to do. So, she went back to college and got her Bachelor’s & Doctorate Degree in Computer Science. Once going back to college, she fell in love with I.T. and cybersecurity. 



Path to Success 

Cynthia asks students if they have ever been told that if you work hard, you will get what you want. She says if you been told that it’s a lie. The three things it takes for you to be successful are you, your actions, and your squad. The largest part that contributes to your success is your squad, who you hang out with. As she shows in the circle diagram, only 8% involves one’s education. Getting your education and skills acquires more than a degree. The other part is learning how to use your voice. The saying, “You catch more flies with honey,” means being nicer and inviting people to talk to you. You talk to others, stand up for yourself, people get to know the real you and the value you bring to them and others.  


When a company is looking to hire you, they are looking at the skills that you bring. Based on the value you bring for what they need you for. Cynthia then asks if you need to figure out how to make money, would u ask your broke friends? The obvious answer is no. If you ask your smart friend, that is a different story. This is when Cynthia knew she needed a new squad. Her and her friend’s values were not in line with each other, and they could not help her get to her goal. If you are trying to level up, it is important to be around people who will help you level up. Talking to others and building a great relationship with others can get you where you want to be. 




As Dr. Cynthia speech was wrapping up, she asked if anyone had any questions her or college. These are some of the questions students asked: 

Q1: Did you becoming a mom affect your goal? 

A: “Yes, I had to take a step back and find a new goal best for myself and my son.” 

Q2: Have you created a new goal now that you have reached this part in life? 

A: “Yes, my next goal is to start a nonprofit organization for sexual abused victims.”  

Q3: Are you happy where you are now? 

A: “Yes, I get to do the things I love.”