Photo courtesy Winston-Salem State University
Rasheeda Shankle’s non-profit recently received a $15,000 grant from The Woman’s Fund of Winston-Salem
From single mother to a determined chief executive officer of a local nonprofit, a Winston-Salem State University business student is on a mission to help other single mothers and their daughters break the cycle of poverty. Five years ago, Rasheeda Shankle, who was to earn her bachelor’s degree in business administration in December, was a single mother living in a poverty-stricken area of Winston-Salem and working a minimum wage job.
“I became a statistic, a product of my environment,” Shankle said. “Living here, I witnessed how awful the living conditions were, I saw how the community’s living conditions forced people to live and behave unethically.
“I also noticed that there were many individuals who had a desire to do more but were unable to due to their resources or lack of support,” she said. “Some people that have ambition to do more lack the confidence to step outside of their comfort zone. Their comfort zone was their community, and I knew it was not the life that I wanted to live.
“One day I asked myself, ‘Rasheeda, if your life was a book, and you were an author, how would you want your story to be told?’ And that basically changed my life forever,” she said. “With the support of my family, I was able to overcome those obstacles and climb the ladder of opportunities.”
After transferring to WSSU from Forsyth Technical Community College in 2015, she started Honorable Youth, a nonprofit that focuses on rebuilding communities and mentoring youth. Over the summer Honorable Youth hosted a young entrepreneur’s summer camp for middle- and high-school students to explore entrepreneurship. She said as the program began to expand, many of the mothers began to ask her for similar programs to help them succeed.
In November, the nonprofit received a $15,000 grant from The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem to start a program to help low-income mothers achieve intergenerational economic security. The program, called Two-Generations, will offer free workshops and financial planning assistance to help mothers open a banking account and learn to manage money.
After graduation, Shankle, originally from the Stanly County town of Norwood, plans to pursue a master’s degree in business. She recently spoke at the open house for WSSU’s Center for the Study of Economic Mobility (CSEM), a new center that focuses on studying the barriers to economic mobility. WSSU Economic Professor Craig Richardson, founding director of CSEM, is hoping stories like Shanklin’s help to motivate others.
“Based on research, we know that many residents in Forsyth County face enormous impediments toward moving up the economic ladder,” Richardson said. “However, there are so many people like Rasheeda in our community who are motivated to improve their lives. It is even more inspiring to see how Rasheeda is motivated to help others improve their lives.”
The Two-Generations program starts in January. Applications will be accepted through the end of December. For more information, visit honorableyouth.org.