Success Story: Shontel

“I was already attending classes at Central Piedmont Community College when I decided to try Goodwill’s Career Leadership Academy for Youth (CLAY). A job coach at the college suggested joining CLAY to build leadership skills and gain confidence in communicating with others. I consider myself a shy person and it’s not always easy for me to express myself around unfamiliar people. Because I moved around in foster care since the age of 12, I grew up with few stable resources to cultivate my academic potential.

As a college student, I was one of the oldest people in the CLAY program, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t have to work hard. During meetings, you have to be prepared to speak to the group about any topic at any time. With each session, I opened myself up to communicating with people of all ages in a professional and positive manner. CLAY helped me to be brave and confident in my abilities.

When it came time to finish my Associate’s degree, there was no question that I would pursue a four-year college degree. With the help of my mentor, I applied and was accepted to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to study social work. My first weeks were a difficult transition. I cried a lot and leaned on my mentor for emotional support. She reminded me that I would need strength and poise if I were to be in a position of helping others. Gradually I built up my self-esteem and became a different, better version of myself. 

Looking back on my first semester at UNCC, I know that having a mentor was important because resources were available at all times. For first-generation college students like me, it is a victory that I have come this far and the pressure to succeed is high. With CLAY’s support, I’ve become an example of how where we come from does not determine our ability to excel in school and beyond.”

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