Nonprofit helps single moms, daughters break poverty cycle
By JENNY DRABBLE
Mar. 10, 2018
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — For years, Rasheeda Shankle was counting pennies, living paycheck to paycheck.
As a single mother, all the money she earned at her minimum-wage job went to pay for day care, food and low-income housing, she said.
Now a college graduate, Shankle is paying it forward as the CEO of a nonprofit to help struggling single mothers and their daughters break the cycle of poverty.
"I became a product of my environment, but I always knew I wanted more out of life," said Shankle, who graduated from Winston-Salem State University with a business degree in December.
"As a broke college student, I got to meet and see a lot of children and single mothers down on their luck, who wanted to prosper and lead better lives, but just didn't know how."
Shankle's new program, "Two Generations," kicks off in late March with monthly free workshops that will include financial planning assistance and help opening a bank account for mother-daughter duos.
The program is targeted at single mothers who make less than $15,000 a year and did not obtain a college degree. Their daughter(s) must be enrolled at a Forsyth County public middle or high school and have college aspirations.
Applications for the program will be accepted through March 12.
"I remember saying to myself, 'Rasheeda, your life is a book, you are the author, now how do you want your story to go?'" Shankle, 27, said. "I knew I wanted more for my son and me and I want to show others that there are opportunities out there."
The mothers and daughters accepted into the program will attend five Saturday workshops and five course-related field trips throughout the academic year.
The program will tackle topics such as financial literacy, home ownership, college preparation for students, entrepreneurship, healthy habits and budgeting.
To teach the mothers money-saving skills and help them improve their credit scores, the women will be tasked with saving $10 to $25 each month, which the program will match, she said.
"That might not seem like a lot (of money), but many of these mothers work fast food jobs all day long and barely have money to feed their kids," Shankle said. "If they don't have money to save, they can never become financially stable."
Shankle said her son, Zadis, now 4, has been her greatest inspiration in turning her life around and spurring her passion to help people in underserved areas.
WSSU economics professor Craig Richardson, the founding director of WSSU's Center for the Study of Economic Mobility, said he is hoping stories like Shankle's will help 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," Richardson said.
The idea for the "Two Generations" program evolved out of a nonprofit "Honorable Youth" that Shankle created in 2015 to mentor elementary and middle school students with a focus on rebuilding communities.
She also started a "Young Entrepreneurs" summer camp and as it began to expand, many of the mothers began to ask her for similar programs to help them succeed.
On Nov. 16, Shankle received a $15,000 grant from The Woman's Fund of Winston-Salem to start a program to help low-income mothers.
"My hope is that these women will gain knowledge to become financially stable with tools to succeed in life," she said.
As Shankle applies to grad schools, seeking an MBA slot at Wake Forest University, she hopes to continue her work fighting poverty in the city, she said.
"This is essential because people living in our target area don't have the means or support to go out there and pursue their dreams," she said. "I just want them to know they're not alone."
Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com