“Old dogs can certainly learn tricks from new dogs,” chuckled Ruby Dawkins, program manager of the Youth Leadership Institute at the Urban League of the Upstate. In a recent conversation, she shared this personal observation along with the compelling story of LaNasha Shell, an exceptional young woman and recent graduate of Howard University. LaNasha currently spends her days sharing these new tricks and her many talents with the Urban League. She is organizing the upcoming job fair for youth to be held on March 14th at McAllister Square.
One day while in 10th grade, LaNasha learned about the Urban League’s Youth Leadership Institute by visiting a table that was set up in the school cafeteria. She was intrigued by their pre-college program and asked her mom if she could participate. Reflecting on this many years later, LaNasha fondly remembers touring several South Carolina colleges with members of the Institute. She also joined their Saturday programs where she learned interviewing techniques, how to develop her resume and write effective cover letters, and the basics of business etiquette. As a result of her participation, LaNasha had the unique opportunity that summer to intern at the Wyche law firm as a high school student.
LaNasha entered this world on a path that did not include college or a “cool” summer internship. “I was born into a bad situation and the odds were not in my favor. My mother was an addict, and I was born with drugs in my system. She actually died at a very young age and was out of my life,” she shared candidly. Fortunately for her, Gennie and Melvin Sullivan raised her from a very young age. LaNasha started at the very bottom, lagging behind other children with her pre-reading skills and ability to speak. With Gennie’s love and dogged support, LaNasha was enrolled in every available program to get her on the right track to enter school ready to learn.
And she did! LaNasha entered elementary school with high test scores. She learned to read easily and continues her love of reading today. In addition, throughout her school years, she was in the gifted and talented programs. She participated in the debate and drill teams and graduated from the International Baccalaureate® program at Southside High School. Then she went on to Howard University, graduating in 2014 as a psychology major. LaNasha still aspires higher and looks forward to getting her MBA in the future.
So what did the Urban League mean to her? The Youth Leadership Institute was there for LaNasha every step of the way as she prepared for college and a career.
“Ms. Dawkins always went above and beyond,” she says. “She offered guidance when I took the SATs, wrote my college essays and completed complicated scholarship applications. She even checked on my well being when I got to college, making sure I was still breathing and making time for myself.”
As you can tell from LaNasha’s story, she is a “young dog” who is wise beyond her twenty-four years. She advises others, “‘Don’t ever let your past determine your future. When things get hard you just need to push harder. Always take full responsibility for who you are!”
The Urban League of the Upstate is committed to the principle of equal opportunity for all citizens in housing, education, employment, and economic development, without regard to race or socioeconomic status. For more information visit www.urbanleagueupstate.org or call 864-244-3862.