2019 Public Voices Fellow of The OpEd Project
My name is Stephanie Drenka. I was born in Andong, South Korea and adopted at the age of 3 months by my loving White family. Most of my formative years were spent in Marietta, Georgia and Southlake, Texas.
Adolescence was a lonely experience for me, with the exception of a few close friends I made through choir and theater. As an introvert - and one of very few minorities in a predominately White community - the Internet became a retreat for me. Early experiences in online journal platforms and social networks steered my interest towards online communications from a young age.
My very first job was as a performer in the Crazy Horse Saloon show at Six Flags Over Texas. I am a classically trained singer (mezzo soprano), though nowadays my performances are limited to karaoke nights and playing showtunes on our mid-century console piano handed down from my mom.
I received my Bachelor of Arts in Communication from DePaul University, minoring in Asian American Studies and Women’s Studies. During my junior year there, I served as president of the Asian Cultural Exchange, which won the Organization of the Year award from the university. In 2008, the now-defunct Asian Week Magazine named me one of “Ten Asian American Young Women Who Will Change the World” for my activism work in a prominent human rights campaign.I was previously the Strategic Optimization Manager at an influencer marketing agency working with fellow bloggers to help optimize their websites, improve social media engagement, and increase audiences.My next home was in the non-profit world as the Senior Communications Manager at a non-profit organization where I was able to leverage my passion for the performing arts, photography, visual communications and technology to promote creative educational programs for Dallas youth. Inspired to amplify more stories of the incredible community work happening in the city, I left the organization and formed SD Media LLC.I’ve leveraged my own personal blog and social media channels as a creative outlet for writing, photography, and building community - especially with other adoptees. In 2013, I was reunited with my birth family in Korea which completely changed my perspective around adoption and loss. It inspired me to write more on the subject, including a recent personal piece in the Huffington Post for National Adoption Month.Across a variety of spaces and industries, my work has always been centered around helping people, including myself, to share their stories. Whether it be through written word, photography, videography, website creation, social media strategy, I am driven by a personal mission to help people feel seen and heard - and in the words of Lady Antebellum:
Leave nothing less than something that says, “I was Here.”