TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Shaqualyn Shedrick founded She Academy, Inc. nearly four years ago with mentorship and mental health top of mind, and is now preparing for her fourth mentorship class in Tallahassee.
According to youth.gov, around seven out of ten children who end up in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder. That's just one reason why it can be important for children to have supportive communities geared toward good mental health practices.
"Mental health is the main thing overlooked in the black community," Shedrick says. "There was a time when going to counseling was overrated and overlooked. My minor was psychology, my major was criminal justice, and going through those courses [I realized] that a lot of people who are not successful or unhappy, it has a lot to do with their mental health and the lack of care that they give it."
She Academy Inc. offers space for young girls to freely express emotions, improve self esteem, and build positive social bonds. Shedrick is now mentoring her third class of girls between the ages of 14 and 18, equipping them skills needed to take on life's challenges.
"Problem-solving is one of the skills that we want them to develop," she said. "And they're developing it quickly. And they realize, like, 'hey, Ms. Quay, this may have triggered me in this way, how should I do?' Or 'this is how I responded, what are your thoughts?' And so they're already actively engaging with how to make the right decisions and how to skim away from what doesn't bring them joy."
One thing she say does bring them joy is gaining real world experience, like "getting them involved in the community, showing them what community service is, and what it feels like when you work from the heart," Shedrick adds.
For parent Karla Dennis, her 18-year-old daughter Hailey is her heart, and Karla says she's pleased with the growth she's seen.
"Hailey has gained self-confidence being here at She Academy," Dennis said. "The skills that she's gained being here at She Academy has helped her throughout the year and I know that she will use those skills after graduation."
Shedrick says she'll continue pouring into each young girl she mentors by "making it to parent teacher conferences, making it to extracurriculars, tracking their goals, really helping them do what it is that they need to do, and loving them the way that they need to," all to make sure they carry a strong foundation into adulthood.
She Academy is preparing now for their summer boot-camp sessions. If you'd like to learn more, you can visit them during their open house Saturday from 10am to noon at 1637 Metropolitan Blvd, Suite A-2, Tallahassee, Fl.