Eastern Wake community is backing teen’s college pursuit

amoody@newsobserver.comJuly 18, 2014 

Shaquilla Allen, left, laughs during valedictorian Devin Williams’ speech at the East Wake High School graduation ceremony. She was the first member of her immediate family to graduate high school and will soon be the first to attend college.

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— Shaquilla Allen was more than just the first member of the East Wake High School Class of 2014 to receive a diploma at the school’s graduation ceremony in June.

The 18-year-old was the first member of her immediate family to graduate high school, and she did so sporting a 3.5 grade point average.

“It meant a lot. It meant I did it and I can go further and take what I know and keep going with it, not give up,” Allen said. “It makes me proud to be able to make my family proud.”

With her sights set on also becoming the first of her family to earn a college degree, Allen captured the attention of SHARE, a local community outreach organization that partners with area services, churches and non-profits on a variety of human service efforts.

Leaders of SHARE, which stands for Serving Him and Reaching Everyone, saw Allen as a prime candidate for their services.

“The main reason is because of ... some of the stuff she’s gone through in her life, to have a 3.5 GPA in high school, to be the first person in her family ever to graduate high school and then the first one ever to go to college,” said SHARE co-founder Roger Brantley. “She’s just a nice, polite girl, really.”

Widespread support

Brantley was looking for a place to hold a car wash fundraiser to help Allen with her expenses at N.C. Central University when staffers at the Wake County Housing Authority in Zebulon realized their organization could help. Its Filling in the Gaps program awards funding to residents who are looking to achieve self efficiency.

Allen, who plans to major in nursing, found out by surprise the cost of a mandatory orientation held at the university July 10-11 was taken care of by the housing group.

Allen has had support from several others in the community. Among those is East Wake careers teacher Lachelle Wilborn, who Allen said paid the housing administrative fee for her first year of stay at Central.

“I wouldn’t be able to stay on campus if this wasn’t paid,” said Allen, who works at a local grocery store to help support her family. “(College) is very important for my future. I just want to be able to do for myself, my family and be able to give back to my community and make my community better.”

Comfort cash

Like many college students, Allen turned to financial aid to cover her tuition and room and board. But it’s the extra things a college student needs to get by comfortably that Brantley hopes SHARE can provide for her. He was working last week to secure a time and place to follow through with the car wash fundraiser.

“She just broke down crying when she found out we were holding the car wash for her,” Brantley said. “She was just very happy and appreciative.”

Brantley was eying the public housing facility in Zebulon and a car wash in Wendell as prospective sites for the fundraiser for Allen, hoping to hold the car wash some time in August.

Allen had said she was relieved and excited seconds after she crossed the stage and became a high school graduate in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts’ Memorial Auditorium in downtown Raleigh. She’s now keeping things in perspective as she transitions into the next chapter of her education.

“It makes me feel like I have a whole lot of responsibility and a whole lot of weight and pressure, but I know I can do it,” she said. “I’m happy someone believed in me enough to help me and my family. They believed I could do it and I’m just happy and want to thank them.”

Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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