For this week’s Woman Wednesday, we highlight community leader and activist Shalonda Michelle.
Michelle is a mother of four, non-traditional junior at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and marketing coordinator intern for the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences. Michelle is also heavily involved in political reform and community improvement in her neighborhood and in the world around her.
Michelle’s desire to help the community around her is also reflected in her job.
“Arkansas Center for Data Sciences is a nonprofit organization offering apprenticeships throughout the state of Arkansas to help increase the talent in Information Technology and Technical Career fields here in Arkansas,” Michelle says. “Individuals receive free training with a national credit in the field of their choosing. We help them find an employer and have the employer commit to that individual for at least one year of mentorship and one pay increase.”
Michelle strives to make sure that everyone is represented and has an opportunity to grow.
“I really try to encourage the African American community as well as women to seek IT jobs because we’re not represented as much as we should be in this field,” Michelle said.
Michelle is currently working towards a degree in applied communication and a degree in sociology. With these degrees, she hopes to study patterns in disadvantaged communities to pinpoint solutions.
“It is my hope and goal to use my degree as a way to learn and study communities, how they respond, how they live day-to-day and their needs,” Michelle says. She hopes that her continued education helps to ensure that all communities have resources that can allow them an opportunity for success and betterment and through working with legislators on improving policy.
Additionally, she hopes to obtain a PhD.
Michelle takes a moment to elaborate on the difficulties of being a woman of color in a male-dominated field.
“There’s not a lot of brown people in this field, nor are there a lot of women in it, so I am a brown woman in a field of mostly white men,” Michelle says. “So the challenge is staying positive while helping to create diversity. I am very blessed to have a team that believes in diversity and welcomes me to be a part of that creation.
Michelle shares with us the importance of being a woman.
“Even as a young girl, I realized the power that we have as women. If we choose to, we can create another human– not only create, but mold and shape that individual to be their best self. Whether we have a child or not, we have the power in us to improve anyone that comes into our presence,” Michelle says. “Women make things grow– women make things better.”
Michelle offers a word of advice to other women.
“Tap into who you are as an individual– the weird, the quirky, the goofy, the intelligent. You have to naturally tap into the exact person– the unique person– that you were made to be, or who you want to be,” Michelle advises. “Be completely engrossed with being that person and allow it to work for you, and work with your profession and who you are as an individual.”