Abandoned. Foster care. Aged out of the system. Homeless. Incarcerated. Decided to not be a statistic. Transformation. Graduated from college. Graduated from graduate school. Social worker. School counselor. Motivational speaker. Author. Businesswoman. That’s the nutshell version of this woman’s life to date, and she’s only 34 years old. And from what we have learned, there’s a lot more goodness to come from this motivated and inspirational woman. Meet Shannon Higgins, today’s FACE of Louisville.
You have turned your life around, from foster care, to homelessness, and now you’re a social worker and motivational speaker. Tell us a little bit about your past and what caused you to change your life completely.
Turning your life around is not always as easy as you think. For me I got tired. I was tired of the homelessness, living pillow to post and incarceration. I knew something had to be done, but at that point I did not know exactly what. After not having money, living on the streets and doing just about anything to survive, life got hard … me, I became hopeless. Homelessness became my life, and I did not know anything else. I was incarcerated, hanging with the wrong people, but getting in trouble will always show someone’s true colors. My mentor told me “let a real situation occur, and it will always expose fake people.”
You are a school social worker at Minor Daniels Academy. How does your background help you in this job? How do you motivate others, especially youth, to NOT be a statistic?
Today being a school social worker for Jefferson County Public Schools has made me really humble and also has opened my eyes to how blessed I am. It has taken me back to where I came from. As I mentor, my kids at school and outside of the school, I teach them about adversity. I share my life with them, and, as you can imagine, they say, “Ms. Higgins, you don’t look like it!” But thank God we don’t look like what we’ve been through. I encourage my youth that they are not a product of their past, and they are not a statistic. I teach them reality skills, hygiene, pregnancy tips and prevention, how to choose the right friends and choose their own paths. After the experiences I had in life, it allows me to connect with other people in many ways. It may be writing a book on my experiences, doing a motivational speech to inspire others or participating in community events and functions.
What words of hope and wisdom can you give to young women?
The words I like to share with other women are, “This too shall pass.” Whenever I’m going through something, I have to look back over things I’ve gone through and see everything I’ve overcome. I also share with women that our past does not define us, and we should continue to move forward. “It’s not where you started but it’s where you’re headed.” Women are always motivated by hearing other people’s testimony, and sometimes I even shed a tear when sharing my own story. It can be quite emotional, but showing my pain and passion is very purposeful.
Tell us what is on the horizon for you personally and professionally.
For me, the next thing I have planned is that I have officially opened a business called Pretty in Pearls. This is a mentoring agency and transitional home for girls who are transitioning out of foster care and state’s custody. These girls will be mentored daily. They will be in a home setting being taught life skills that should have been taught to them from day one. They will reside in the home, get skills and training, hold jobs, go to school and attend groups for mental health, budgeting, financial training, young adult issues, women’s issues, pregnancy prevention, incarceration prevention, life skills, time management and any other groups they can learn from. This is a transitional program with rules and guidelines. I also want to write another book about my life, but it will be a message to my young ladies.
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
To be honest, there is no typical day for me. Each day is different and comes with new surprises, and I have to be ready to take on different issues.
What are a few words that describe you?
The words that describe me are hardworking, sweet, overcomer, strong, focused and free spirited. School social worker is definitely not the end of my journey. There is so much more motivating and encouraging to do, many more people to reach and lives to touch.
What advice do you treasure?
Words of advice I have always taken to heart: “Hard work pays off … stay focused!” I’ve also learned how much I love to travel, to get out where and when I can.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my _____________.
Agenda book or planner, business cards and water bottle. Scarves are also a favorite of mine.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
You can usually find me at a community event, the public library, a new restaurant, church, business meeting or out for a night of fun. At age 34, I have learned to love life and live it and not just survive it.
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Shopping, of course, Books and Breakfast and local community events
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
One of my favorite books is Steve Harvey’s Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success: Discovering Your Gift and the Way to Life’s Riches; my personal book, I Have a Beautiful Life Because My Ugly Past Did Not Win; Joel Olsteen’s Fresh Start: The New You Begins Today
What are three of your favorite things right now?
My favorite things right now are creating my business, mentoring my girls and sharing my testimony.
Thank you to Adele Reding Photography for the wonderful photos of Shannon.
Read about more inspiring women in Louisville in our FACES of Louisville weekly features here.