My Name is Shatoya Black and I am twenty-nine years old. I grew up in a single family home.

I am also a single mother of a nine year old daughter. I was nineteen years old when my daughter was born. My mother was fifteen when I was born and struggled to finish high school, and my grandmother struggled to finish elementary school. My Father was thirteen when I was born and I was denied by his family while I was in my mother’s womb. I am the oldest child of six on my mother’s side of the family and the eldest of ten on my father’s side. We have four generations of fatherless homes in our family on both sides of my family. During my experiences, parents that I have encountered have a desire for each generation of children that comes after them to achieve and excel further then they did educationally and in life. Higher education was not something that was encouraged by my mother after graduating from high school. Mother pushed her children to at least get a high school diploma and it was our decision to make after that. However, working was encouraged because she felt that I needed to provide for my family (my daughter). I have grown to understand that a person can only give you what they have been given and believe to be important which is what my mother provided for me. As a child, I felt as though I was missing something. I felt like I received an unfair life until I got older and finally understood that a person cannot give you what they do not have themselves. I strived as a single mother to embrace new experiences to the best of my ability. I was determined to break generational curses so that my daughter would not have to experience many of the things that I encountered. I wanted to be that example of change that I wanted to see happen. In 2009, I was told by doctors after many visits that I needed to have the surgery to try to remove cervical cancer. My current job at the time would not allow me the time off that I needed to have the surgery. It put me in a place where I had to decide between the job and my health. I had the surgery and my daughter took care of me by providing the most assistance as possible because everyone was busy with their own personal lives. December 2009, I lost everything while fighting unemployment for a year because my previous job stated that they were not aware of my illness which was not true. I ended up living from house to house and out of my car while attending school for a certificate for Social Work. I had a job lined up working with behavioral teens. I went through so much pain, hurt, rejection, and disappointment from people. The grace of God helped me endure life struggles and perseverance through every obstacle I faced in my life. I had no money or support, but I kept smiling and saying repeatedly, “The joy of the Lord is my strength and he will never leave me nor forsake me”. I cried at times but kept moving forward no matter what happened. Many times I wanted to give up on myself and life but was encouraged that my situation would not always be like that. I kept fighting with tears running down my face and no one truly understanding my pain. In 2010, I was offered an apartment in DeKalb, Illinois at University Village which I accepted. I went to Kishwaukee College for an appointment with a counselor by the name of Nancy Perish who changed my life for the better. When I met with her, we had a conversation and at that time, I was tired emotionally, mentally, and physically. She asked me what I wanted to do in life? I began to explain and when I was done, she stated “I can see that you are very passionate about being a Social Worker and helping people. She stated that I need at least a Master’s Degree to be a Social Worker which is

one of the requirements. I stated to her that I was not trying to go to school and I just wanted to get a job so I could provide the basic needs for my daughter and myself. Nancy empathized with me and stated let’s look at your classes to see where you currently are academically. She challenged me by saying “If we look over your account and you are close to obtaining an Associate’s of Arts Degree, then you have to promise to at least get a bachelor’s degree. I agreed, looking to prove her wrong because I did not believe in myself enough to excel academically. Little did I know that she had already previously reviewed my current academic records before we met. She went over the classes that I had and mapped out my courses on the Associates of Arts course out line folder. Nancy Perish at Kishwaukee Community College planted the seed of higher education into my life that aided me in my current academic success. I graduated May 2011 with my Associates of Arts form Kishwaukee College with a GPA OF 2.3. I enrolled at Northern Illinois University in Fall 2011 after struggling still to meet the basic necessities of life, but focusing on keeping my promise to Nancy who is currently the Vice President at Kishwaukee Community College. I am currently a senior at NIU. My cumulative GPA is currently a 3.5 on a 4.0 grading scale. I am an active member in the University Honor’s Program and John Henry Clark Honor Society. My Major is Family and Child Studies with an emphasis in Individual Development. During my first year at NIU I was elected as a Senator on campus for district eight. My second semester, I was awarded five awards such as outstanding Junior Student leader, Martin Luther King Academic Success Award, Higher Achievers Award, John Henry Clark Award and Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. Obtaining an education has been a struggle in our family. I am proud to say that I will be the first person in my family to attend college and will be graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in May 2013. I want to be an example to my daughter that excelling academically is very important and higher education is obtainable no matter what life challenges come your way. My goal as a parent is to instill in her values of knowledge, wisdom, purpose, and destiny. I plan to do this with my actions and not just with words so my daughter and others around me can see that all things are possible. I have healed from the pains of life and I am uniquely free in every area of my life. I am not perfect, but I strive for perfection. I have currently created an organization called Unique I.M.P.A.C.T (Individuals Making Plans and Changing Together) which is an outreach program that focuses on the power of unity and the impact of unconditional love. My goal is to be that change that I want to see individually, collectively, in our communities, and in our nation as a whole. I create programs that motive, inspire, empower, encourage, and create unconditional love for self and others. I also help others to embrace their own identity and promote the importance of individuals outreaching to their community. I promote the importance of higher education and believing in your own abilities as a person. I encourage individuals to understand that the change is in the challenge. In Conclusion, I believe that I am living proof that no matter what challenges life throws your way, with a positive mind and heart to overcome, you shall come through wiser and stronger. I believe that the storms of life redirect you individually to your destiny and purpose. Life’s adversities will come, we may not be able to control them, but we can

control our attitude and perception toward these situations. Losing everything in December of 2009 and becoming homeless in 2010 was my storm that started me on a path to higher education and authentic living. Sincerely Yours,

Shatoya Black