Shaekwon Heard

Spartanburg Community College

"If I can be someone who perseveres, then I can help the next person persevere."

I was born in Anderson. When I was in sixth grade, we moved to Spartanburg – and it was literally the best thing that ever happened to me. I admit I was a little lazy in school and didn’t fully apply myself. Despite high test scores, my Anderson teachers and the school district refused to put me in higher-level courses based on my in-class performance. When I got to Spartanburg, however, they looked at my scores and immediately put me in the honors-level classes. When I graduated in 2014, I knew I didn’t want to go to college, but I had no plan B. I hadn’t even thought through any options beyond a four-year college. This is my story of figuring it out and finding my way.

 

So what did you do after graduation?

Within a year of graduation, my mom had a terrible accident and broke her leg. My life stopped for quite a while because I was taking care of her. After she healed and got back to work, I also started working again and began the process of joining the Air Force. Things were going great until I had some chronic health issues come up. I had the option of staying in the Air Force or coming home, and decided to go home and start working again. One night, I went to sleep and had a dream that I was a teacher. When I woke up, my calling was clear. Two years later, I have just finished my final semester at Spartanburg Community College.

 

After high school you said college wasn’t for you. What changed your mindset?

Throughout high school, I felt homework should be illegal and I hated the concept of school. It seems ironic since I later went into the military, but I just didn’t like the concept of having to do things that I had already proven myself to understand. In my mind, if a teacher showed me something in class and I could explain the concept back and quiz well on it, then why should they keep giving me homework on the same topic? I assumed college would just be more of the same.

My family, teachers, coaches, counselors and school principal all wanted me to go to college and encouraged me to do so. I understand where they were coming from. I had the grades and the athletic abilities to go to pretty much any reasonable school that I wanted to, but college just wasn’t for me at the time.

As far as how I got to the point of applying for SCC, I knew that I couldn’t be a teacher without college. So here I am.

 

What have you enjoyed most about SCC?

Everything. The classes I’ve taken, the people I’ve met, the connections I have made — everything has really been phenomenal. There are so many false stigmas and prejudices toward community and technical colleges, and I think that my story really contributes to breaking those apart. I chose SCC because of how helpful they were during the enrollment and admissions process. They were the people who seemed to want me there the most. If I called them three times a day because I couldn’t figure out something on the website, they helped me. Nobody ever sounded impatient or resentful. That personal, caring connection is why I ended up at SCC over some other prestigious four-year institutions that were on the table.

 

What are some of the things you have overcome in your life?

First, just being a young, black man and being stereotyped. Being black shouldn’t take away from me being professional, whether it’s the way I wear my hair or the fact that I am a guy and I wear two earrings. I am constantly defying the parameters and barriers of how people perceive professionalism.

Also, all you have to do is look at incarceration numbers in South Carolina. Most inmates are of my same demographic: young, black men that probably came from single-parent households. For me to have that same core backstory and never have been arrested – or even gotten so much as a traffic ticket — is something I take pride in. I constantly make it a point to defy the stereotype and statistics. A black man can be professional. A black man can not be a criminal. A black man can be a law-abiding citizen. A black man can persevere, and by persevering I am defying the expectations of a lot of people. If I can be someone who perseveres, then I can help the next person persevere. If they continue and do the same, it becomes a cycle.

 

How are you feeling about graduation? Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?

I plan to start teaching middle school. What SCC gave me before I even started was a mentorship program called “Call Me MISTER,” a mentorship program that focuses on fostering black, male teachers.

I genuinely am proud of myself, but I don’t let myself feel that just yet because the journey is not over. As much as I appreciate and love SCC, the institution has been a stepping stone to gain some experience before I transition to university. I know that I have more to do.

 

What advice do you have for others who might be where you were when you graduated high school?

There’s literally only one thing that matters when making these decisions and that is you. Your feelings matter more than anyone else’s feelings. Your desires matter more than anyone else’s desires. You’re the only person that is going to be in your shoes. Don’t get me wrong, you will have support and people who love you and care about you along the way, but you’re going to be the one who has to go through it. Listen to other people, but do what you feel is best for you. Don’t just rely on what you want to do, but think about what’s really best for you. Go to school when you’re ready. Don’t set yourself up for failure by worrying about what other people want. Do what’s best for you.