By: College and Career Readiness Team
Welcome to the Next Step Spotlight! Every month throughout the school year we highlight a Next Step Staff as well as alumni to share their experiences with education, and how both good and bad moments have guided them to success.
For this month’s Next Step Staff Spotlight, we interviewed ESL and Language Arts teacher, LaShaun Franklin.
Q: What is your name?
LaShaun Renee Franklin
Q: Where are you from?
Born in Washington, D.C. I’ve lived in DC and MD my entire life.
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?
Yes, I encountered challenges. These weren’t academic challenges. They were more social and societal in nature. The late 80’s and early 90’s were a rough time in DC. There was addiction, incarceration, and violence. I lost family and friends. I remember sitting in class and hearing gunshots then learning that a friend had been killed on the corner. On two other separate occasions, I lost two separate friends that were both killed on their way to school. My father was addicted to drugs, in and out of jail, and absent from my life for long periods of time. He was, eventually, encouraged to move to North Carolina with family to get clean. I didn’t see him for years until my high school graduation. I saw him for a weekend. The next time I saw him was in the hospital for a day six months later. The next and last time was at his funeral two weeks after that. He had contracted AIDS as a result of his drug use and died from meningitis. My uncle was also addicted to drugs, also in and out of jail, and also absent from my life for long periods of time. He’s been in recovery for over 10 years. My sister’s Godfather spent 10 years in jail for murder.
I had to overcome. I had no choice. The only alternative was failure, and that wasn’t happening. I decided to overcome these challenges by being the best at school. It had been a competition from 3rd grade on. Each class was a race that I had to win, and I did. I loved it. So, here I am.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue a post-secondary education?
It felt like the most natural step to continue school after graduating. It was what I was supposed to do. It was never a question. I was accepted to boarding school in Massachusetts for high school. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the financial aid. So, I applied to the pre-engineering program at Dunbar. (25 years later, I’m still close to most of my classmates.) I applied to and was accepted at schools around the country. I chose Maryland because they gave me a full ride and pay during the school year. Besides, I would be close to my family, and I wasn’t ready to leave yet. At least, I didn’t think I was.
Q: Were you the first one in your family continue their education?
Yes, I am the first in my family to go to college and graduate.
Q: Where did you continue your post-secondary education? What did you study?
I graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School’s Pre-Engineering Program. I entered the University of Maryland, College Park (#FEARTHETURTLE!!!!) as an Electrical Engineering major in the Honors Program. I later changed my major to Information Technology. I didn’t see either as being anything I would want to do for the rest of my life. I changed my major one final time, following my true desires, and graduated with a B.A in American Studies with a Primary Focus in English and an Interdisciplinary Focus in Law and Criminal Justice.
Q: How did you pay for your post-secondary education?
Entering college I received a scholarship from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). To secure this scholarship I was required to work for the agency. I would go to school and spend my summers working in Langley, VA. After two years, I decided that this was not a career path I wanted to continue on, as I no longer desired a career in Electrical Engineering. This also meant that I would no longer work for the CIA or benefit from the scholarship. To finish, I secured student loans and grants and grants.
Q. What was one of your biggest challenges while attending your post-secondary institution?
Entering my first semester in college I was exposed to all new experiences, and, at times, it was overwhelming. I did not have the privilege to have someone close to me tell me what to expect and guide me on the right path. I had to be responsible and monitor myself and keep my grades up and attend classes on time. I had to learn to prioritize class, school work, and relationships, which became challenging at times. I made many mistakes along the way, especially in the beginning. But, with support and maturity, I did it!
Q. Who or what motivated you to continue and get through your postsecondary education?
My motivation to push through was my mother, but my grandmothers provided motivation, as well. My grandmothers’ approval meant everything to me, and I was motivated to keep it. It was important for me to finish for them.
Q: Why did you decide to work in the education field?
My earliest memory of my interest to work in the education field was in 8th grade. I had an incredible science teacher, Dr. Virginia Weaver. She had such an effect on me and her students. As a class we talked about more than Science. We talked about history, our history, Black History. I think she was radical in our eyes, even though we didn’t really know what that meant. I think our views of the world were shaped by hers. I kept in touch with her all throughout my college experience and so on. I remember her reaction when I told her I was working for the CIA. “You working for the man”! HAHAHAHA!!!!!!!! She was phenomenal. I wanted to be a teacher just like her and to have the same effect on other kids that she had on us.
Growing up, I always worried about the welfare of children. It has always pained me to see children in pain, physically and emotionally. I enjoyed being around youth which I enjoy being a teacher. In 18 years, no two days have ever been the same. That’s exciting, and few can say that about their career.
Q: What is your current role at TNSPCS?
I am an ESL and ELA teacher, and I fill in where I’m needed.
Q: What advice would you give to students interested in continuing to post-secondary education?
I would say go...Go research schools. Go research majors. Go research programs. Go talk to people who have attended college, those who graduated and those who didn’t. Go talk to people that decided not to go and ask, why? Go look at campuses, with family, with friends, alone. You can receive advice from everyone but experience is important, it is important to know for yourself. So, just GO!
Q: Who do you admire and why?
I admire my sister Andrea. She has four kids, and their relationship is amazing! There is such natural joy and laughter in that house. I always have a good time when I’m there. My sister holds it down for her kids. SHE IS DOPE!
I also admire Dr. Marla Dean, Executive Director at Bright Beginnings. We worked together before at Cesar Chavez. She is one of those individuals that you know is genuine, means well, and loves their work. I have the utmost respect for her as a leader.
Q: What motivates you LaShaun?
Words motivate me. I genuinely love words. I love the nature of words...how they sound, how they’re used, why they’re used, how they make the user and receiver react and feel...I love everything about words. I LOVE that none of these things is the same for any two people. Words are verbal snowflakes.