Today, we wanted to highlight Shonta Sellers, one of our amazing Board Members who helps ensure that we can continue to provide equal access to educational opportunities and hands-on career experiences.
Born and raised in Winston Salem, Shonta is a proud alumna of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, where she completed her undergraduate career; she also has a master’s in marketing from Capella University.
Prior to moving to Harrisonburg in 2015, Shonta worked in various roles in the marketing field, both within corporations and small businesses.
“I learned a lot of things about education [in that role] and it fed into my passion” Shonta explained. “I have a daughter … and you want to try to create opportunities for students to do things that you provide for your child, but that these other children may not have the opportunity to do or be exposed to.”
Shonta carried this desire to serve the next generation with her when she moved to Harrisonburg in 2015 and agreed to serve on our board in 2017.
Shonta said she welcomed the chance to learn while serving with us at On the Road, especially after first visiting a learning showcase and seeing the amazing things our youth were doing.
During that experience, Shonta said she immediately saw how On the Road was working to enrich the lives of the next generation with additional learning opportunities that inspire growth and she felt pulled to be involved, especially as our organization was growing and working toward our first graduating class.
“I wanted to be a part of … and be able to celebrate an organization that really was thinking about the future of students in our community,” Shonta continued. “[And I loved] that there wasn’t some qualification to participate, that [On the Road] opened their doors for any and everybody to come in and … get help and attention and support and love and a sense of family and unique friendships.”
“That is one of the stronger parts of what on the road has to offer: the support system that we provide to the students and to each other,” Shonta added.
She said she also hoped that she could contribute in her own unique way as a non-native of the area.
“One of the things that I was excited about when I learned about On the Road was the opportunity to share what happens outside of these mountains,” Shonta said. “It’s important to think about what your next steps are and how you’re going to become who you uniquely are … and On the Road helps these youth do that.”
Shonta says that in addition to the work she gets to do to help our youth, she also loves being a part of On the Road’s Board of Directors, which she says is a group of fun and supportive professionals.
“We enjoy each other and we respect each other,” Shonta said about our Board of Directors. “We are a very diverse group of people, in ethnicity and background and education and career, and all of that brought together helps make this organization what it is. And it helps us prepare these students for something far greater than they could ever imagine.”
Shonta said that this year, as our organization has worked to continue providing support to our youth in the time of COVID-19, our mission has remained true and more important than ever.
“Just thinking about this year alone, this is what we’re here for,” Shonta said, recognizing the importance of our work as youth adjust to virtual learning. “To still be able to provide ourselves as a resource to the community and to the youth in our program [during this season] is phenomenal.”
But Shonta said she also understands that the work we do is only made possible because of the amazing support we have from our community.
“To know that we have the community support to be able to do [this work] is amazing,” Shonta said. “Our partners and our sponsors are great, and to know that they’re still willing to pitch in a hand or a dollar to help support us is a major thing. And I think the youth feel that, too.”
Shonta said that for those who don’t know much about On the Road, she’d most want them to know “about the smiles”.
“I know that sounds cheesy, but really, when you see the pictures and when you walk into the classrooms and when you see the kids cooking or making pottery … or working on cars, and you see the smile—that’s when you know we nailed it,” Shonta said.
“I would want everybody to just try it for one day and see one child smile, and you’ll know why on the road is important and why it’s relevant to this community,” Shonta said.” “That child may not have smiled yesterday and they may not have smiled today, but once they get to On the Road and they get to do things that they are interested in and be with people that are genuinely interested in what they are interested in, that smile is what makes it all the more relevant. That’s what makes it worth it.”