Dear Tom and Family,

I have a cousin, Shantelle Wells who epitomizes what Maya Angelou describes as a "Phenomenal Woman". She is a mother of two children Alan, 11 and Bri O'nna 17. She was a teenage mother and moved out of her parents’ home by age 18. She has always been independent, worked the jobs to support her family and in 2001 after giving birth to her youngest decided to go back to school. As many young people do she went to community college directly after graduating high school. She was not ready and ended up leaving without withdrawing from any of her classes. So, when she re-enrolled some years later she found that she had F's in all of her previous classes that needed to be retaken.

Shantelle took on this daunting task, she was working full-time, raising two kids as a single-mom with little to no outside help, she was also experiencing personal turmoil in her relationship and going to school full-time. She got through community college and decided to keep pushing toward a college degree. It took a while, but she received her Bachelor's in Criminal Justice in 2007. She then decided to pursue her Master’s Degree and will be graduating with her Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology this May.

Tom, it has taken her eleven years on this journey; she has worked hard and has never given up even though she has faced many life-challenges along the way. She has never asked for anything; she is the woman who opens her home to cook for family, she is the woman who always has kids at her home. Her interest is working with the kids that everyone else has given up on or forgotten (even the tough- teenagers Tom) she loves them and believes in them and the kids respond to the respect and non-judging demeanor she has.

This last semester is stressing her greatly and the weight of what she is carrying seems to be even heavier right now. I would love for her to have a few days of peace, no stress, just a time to enjoy her children and the time to reflect on what she has been able to accomplish before she starts studying for her licensing test and taking on the new stress of finding a job in her field.

If there is anything you can do Tom to make my hope for her a reality it would be greatly appreciated. She deserves it, I think it would help lift her up into a joy-filled space that she needs to be in. I know that when all is said and done it will be repaid by Shantelle in her passion for the kids she will impact on her new journey. She is as I said, a Phenomenal Woman-mother, daughter, student and cousin. Thank you for taking the time to read this; I appreciate your efforts in recognizing those who rarely get the "thank you" they deserve.

God bless you and the entire Tom Joyner crew,


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