By Roxana Pérez and Vita Soto
Welcome to the Next Step Alumni Spotlight! Every month throughout the school year we highlight a Next Step Staff as well as Alumni that have received their GED to check in and see how they are doing and what they’ve been up to since graduating from Next Step PCS.
For this month's Next Step Staff Spotlight, we interviewed Brandi Shelton who is our Director of Student Support Services.
By Roxana Pérez and Vita Soto
Q: What is your name?
A: Brandi Shelton
Q: Where are you from?
A: Born and raised in Charleston, SC
Q: Did you encounter any challenges while attending high school/GED program? If so, can you describe what they were and how you overcame them?
A: I wasn’t a very good student in high school. I got mostly C’s and D’s. I was never really taught how to study and I often had a difficult time retaining information. Because I didn’t know how to study, I would try to remember everything I would learn. That didn’t work very well.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue a post-secondary education?
A: Attending college wasn’t a choice for my brother and I. Education was taken very seriously in my home so it was just understood that after high school comes college.
Q: Were you the first one in your family continue their education?
A: I wasn’t. My older brother completed his college education before I did.
Q: Where did you continue your post-secondary education?
A: I went to Virginia State University for undergrad and the University of Michigan for graduate school.
Q: What did you study?
A: Social Work with a concentration in children and adolescents.
Q: How did you pay for your post-secondary education?
A: My parents paid for both my mine and my brother’s college tuition. They’d saved for it over the years so we didn’t have student loans. However, once I decided to go to graduate school, my father made it very clear that I’d have to pay for that on my own. So… student loans ‘til the day I die, it seems!
Q: What was one of your biggest challenges while attending your post-secondary institution?
A: Having to teach myself how to study. With the challenges I faced in high school, I was accepted into college on academic probation. That meant that if I didn’t maintain a certain GPA, I would be kicked out of school. So it wasn’t an option for me to be a below average student in college. I had to figure out how to study on my own. I would take notes during classes and when I’d get back to my dorm, I’d rewrite the notes again, sometimes twice. That was the only way I could ensure that I was embedding the information into my memory.
Q: Who or what motivated you to continue and get through your post-secondary education?
A: The motivation came during my sophomore year when I decided on a major. Once I started learning about human behavior, mental health, etc. I loved it so much! I couldn’t learn enough about it. So studying became enjoyable. I literally wanted to know everything about the field and I eventually became a really strong student because I was interested in what I was learning
Q: Why did you decide to work in the education field?
A: I chose the field of social work because I’ve always been interest in folks’ life trajectory: how they get to be who and where they are; what makes people engage in particular behaviors, choose certain patterns in life, etc. I had a particular interest in the mental and social development of young people. My best friend in high school had a very difficult upbringing. She was exposed to a lot and neglected by her mother. My parents did a lot for her — making sure she had the basics. They did this all 4 years of high school. I noticed, very early, the differences in my upbringing and hers and how your environment and what is or isn’t modeled for you can have a direct impact on how you experience yourself and the world. I wanted to help people figure that out.
Q: What is your current role at TNS?
A: Director of Student Support Services
Q: What advice would you give to students interested in continuing to post-secondary education?
A: For students interested in post-secondary education I would tell them spend some time thinking about those things they enjoy doing or learning about. I think it’s there that they will figure out the type of career they want to have. I always tell young people to take their time and not to be so hard on themselves. I barely graduated high school, got accepted to college with conditions because my grades were so bad and didn’t figure out what I wanted to do with my life until my second year of college. But I got accepted into an advanced/accelerated master’s program because I became a strong student. So I’d tell them to take their time figuring it out — the way things are right now is not the way they will always be.