School Board Member Shares Life Experience With Youth Success Forum

Board of Education member Michelle Shelton, right, speaks to members of the Success Forum of Franklin Township June 30.

Members of a 5-year-old youth mentoring group received some life advice June 30 from one of the newest members of the Board of Education.

The group, called the Success Forum of Franklin Township, had as the featured speaker for its annual annual celebration Michelle Shelton, who was elected to the school board last November.

The group was formed in 2013 after one of its co-founders, Jada Abdullah, and her friends realized from their own experiences that students transitioning from one school to another would have many questions, and that there were people around who could answer them.

“This started when I was in the 8th Grade,” said Abdullah, who is now a sophomore at Rutgers University. “My sister’s friends were talking to me and some of my other friends about advice about going to the middle school. We thought since a lot of people probably have the same questions, let’s have an organization to start talking about things and help people move along.”

The group was formed by Jada, her sister Nia and their mother, Jacqueline Gardner.

Shelton’s topic was “Reach For the Stars.” Her message to the 16 students in attendance, some of whom, like Abdullah, were in college, was that dreams are developed, not created; that they need to recognize people with whom they interact as potential resources and that they shouldn’t get stuck in a negative mindset on their way to achieving their dreams.

“You’re not creating your dream, you’re developing it,” she said. “How are you creating something that is already a part of you, it’s already there. It’s a matter of you identifying it, being aware of it, and then from your awareness you can develop it.”

Mentorship is key, she said.

“If you know that you want to be an activist or want to get into that realm, than anybody who is tied to where you’re going is a resource to you,” Shelton said. “People want to be a resource because we are each atoms tied to a bigger humanity. We are all a part of it.”

And while everyone is going to have negative thoughts about themselves, Shelton said, the key is to not dwell there too long.

“It’s OK to visit negative, just for a little bit, but don’t make it home, she said. “You’re in that moment telling yourself all these negative things about what you think about yourself. But time is still going. So you can stay there, but time is going to keep going … think about how much farther you could have been had you not ruminated in that distraction.”

Afterword, Shelton said she enjoys talking to young adults because “I really feel like it’s a connectedness to my purpose as far as tapping into young people and whatever it is they’re trying to accomplish in their life. So any opportunity I get to share my experience, I try to do it, and hopefully they can take something and apply it to their life and hopefully it will help them along their journey.”

Abdullah said that in addition to meeting every other month, the group is engaged in mentoring, peer coaching and community service projects.


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