How does education support a path toward achieving DREAMS?
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As I reflect on my life’s journey I wonder, without education would I be achieving my dreams? As a young child, I grew up in a home where, unfortunately, my father who I loved so much, was an alcoholic. As I watched him suffer from alcoholism, he told me and my siblings to go to school and get an education. This was difficult for me. I didn’t care about my grades even though I had been declared as academically talented and was later a magnet student at Shortridge Middle School. None of that really mattered because I didn’t know how to cope with growing up in a dysfunctional home.
All I wanted was for my parents to be happy, but they argued. I couldn’t cope with being bullied by peers, called frog eyes and anorexic. I didn’t respect authority figures who didn’t seem to understand or care when struggled in class because of lack of sleep after I had been crying all night watching mom and dad fighting. I battled with low self-esteem and eventually was labeled an easily-angered, juvenile delinquent.
When I was 12 years old, I was expelled from school for fighting and truancy. By the time I was 15 years old, I was remanded to the Indiana Girls’ School. My life spiraled downhill. I had become a rebellious teenager. I had been expelled from an alternative high school. I had an abortion at the age 16 years old and I was hopeless and without an education. By my 18th birthday, I had nothing to look forward to and was ready to give up on life.
I felt like a failure to my parents and a statistic to society. I knew deep down inside of me that an education would change my life. I prayed for God to give me the strength to study and pass my GED. I knew that earning my GED and going to college would keep me from a life of poverty, incarceration, homeless, and even death.
Through determination, perseverance, faith in God and a good use of my resources, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps. After obtaining my GED, I prayed and believed that God would open the door for me to attend college. I applied to Ivy Tech, received my first scholarship, and felt like I was on my way.
Accepted into college looking forward to starting my first day of school as a college student, life’s curve ball came, my father died one week before classes started. I used my father’s death and all of my pain to be my motivation to finish school. Desperate for a change of environment I applied and was accepted to Indiana State University. I blossomed academically at ISU, and during my sophomore year, I felt a desire to prevent young girls (many like myself) from making the mistakes I had made.
While living on a limited college student’s budget, I established G.L.A.M. (Guidance Life Skills and Mentoring). The program serves at-risk girls ages 9-18. I poured my energy, time, expertise and the education I had gained into the organization and the girls who enrolled in the program. I graduated in four years with a bachelor’s degree in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations and a second bachelor’s degree in Political Science Legal Studies.
In recognition of my academic achievement, as well as my community outreach to young girls, I was selected to be ISU’s 2010 commencement speaker. My address was featured on C-SPAN. After graduation, I returned to Indianapolis to expand G.L.A.M. Now a 501©3 corporation, G.L.A.M. Inc. offers comprehensive programs that prepare and empower at-risk girls to live independent and productive lives. Because of the effectiveness of my work, Indianapolis Public Schools hired me for several years to work with their at-risk girls at an alternative school using the curriculum I created. It was important for me to reach at-risk girls before they were tempted to leave school.
My education allowed me to understand the importance of servant leadership as I continue to serve as Founder and Executive Director of G.L.A.M. I know that having an education has led to my journey of purpose and success, and I am still learning. While running G.L.A.M. full time, I am currently a second-year student in the Masters of Arts Program at the IUPUI Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Through this program, I also have a graduate assistantship with Steward Speakers.
G.L.A.M. reaches more than 50 girls per year, but most importantly it changes lives. Fourteen G.L.A.M. graduates are currently university students and one is training to be a certified nursing assistant. These same girls, just a few years earlier, were unsure if they would even graduate from high school. The G.L.A.M. program works and boasts a 90-percent retention rate with 50 percent of its graduates continuing with G.L.A.M. as peer mentors.
I thrive to be an inspiration to everyone. In particular, I want my story to show women and girls who are in difficult circumstances that they do not have to be defined by those circumstances. I want to serve the youth of today with the challenges that they face of drug abuse, low self-esteem, lack of education, and a lack of parental guidance. I will continue to mentor and be a role model to those who need guidance and direction in this world. I have been to the brink of hell and came out of it through education and self-motivation. I have made a conscious decision to take my life experiences and help these young ladies develop self-esteem, learn to navigate difficult life circumstances, and handle peer pressure. The most powerful example I can give to the young ladies I serve is one of community spirit, determination, and leadership characterized through the education and the totality of my work through G.L.A.M.
My goal is to Empower, Encourage, and Educate people that dreams do come true!
How did Shanel's story speak to you? How has education had an impact on your dreams or the dreams of someone you know? Share on social media using #AmGradIndy.
Shanel Poole overcame truancy, expulsion, and a dysfunctional family to earn a GED and graduate from Indiana State University. While in college, Shanel pooled her limited resources to create and establish G.L.A.M, an award-winning organization that has helped over 350 girls develop self-esteem and a plan for a productive future.