Shadena always loved school and loved to learn. She dreamed of obtaining her college degree, but found it impossible to balance everything when she became a single mother. She withdrew from college, with the hope that she could return someday.

Today, at age 39, Shadena is a full-time student at Ohio Dominican University and has set her sights on a double major in risk management and business administration, with a minor in nonprofit management.  Her journey has been long, and it hasn’t been easy.

“I’ve had a hard life. One of the biggest words I’ve used on this entire journey is perseverance. I have to persevere through all the adversities of life. I’m not going to be hand dealt everything and I’ve learned that,” she explained.

After overcoming a battle with addiction, Shadena struggled to figure out where to turn and what to do with her life. She felt like she had no future or goals. Then one day she walked into Godman Guild, a United Way nonprofit partner, to vote in an election and noticed an E3 poster and brochure. She called, applied and was accepted into the program, which was established in 2011 by United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council.

E3: Educate, Empower, Elevate opened doors for Shadena in ways she had never imagined. Eve, her WLC mentor through the program, became like a best friend and supported her every step of the way. The program helped her obtain a Presidential Scholarship and a WLC scholarship that has helped pay for a large part of her tuition.

“I learned that when people see you working hard for your dream that they will support you,” said Shadena. “So I put my all into my school work. I’m on campus all day.”

As a result, the doors keep opening up for Shadena. She has been on the dean’s list every semester, and she recently completed an internship at State Auto Insurance Companies. She’s also on the board of the YWCA, a place that kicked her out when she was battling addiction.

“To be walking in there three and half years later, clean, as a board member and giving a hug to the very lady who kicked me out,” Shadena smiled. “She couldn’t believe it was me. It’s profound.”

In addition to serving on boards and studying hard, Shadena serves as an E3 ambassador who tells her story to people and companies who may be looking for good causes to support. She wants them to know just how much impact their gifts to United Way really have.

“I like to have people hear the personal experience of where their money really goes,” Shadena explained. “Like they changed not just my life, but my children’s lives, you know?”


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