Soon-to-be College Graduate Empowered to Make a Positive Impact

WASHINGTON – Ten years ago Latina Shelley was in the process of filing for bankruptcy.  She had lost her home and her car.  She had just graduated from Craven Community College and was trying to start a new career path when she found the strength to leave an abusive relationship.
“Even though I realized I was entangled in a dangerous situation with my abusive husband, I still wanted to try to work things out with him, so for a couple of years, our relationship was on and off.”
Shelley eventually left her abusive husband behind – completely and continued charting a new course for her life.  Shortly afterwards, she found an apartment and a part-time job to help pay the bills and to provide for her son, DaSean, who was five years old at the time.
In November 2005, Shelley met her current husband, Octavius Shelley; they married on her birthday in 2007.  “This year will be our five- year anniversary.”  In 2009, the Shelley’s welcomed a daughter, Meyari, to their family.
Continuing on her path towards a new life, Shelley made a decision to use what she learned from her abusive past to help other women who may be going through what she went through.  In March 2010, she enrolled in the Management and Organizational Development program at University of Mount Olive in Washington.
“I felt the time was right because my daughter was becoming a little more independent, my son was getting older and I knew God was calling me to get things started as soon as possible.”
While enrolled in college, Shelley has worked full-time, has taken care of her family, has been involved with her church, and has advocated for the rights of state employees as vice-chair of the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) district 64.
“My husband was VERY supportive. We have had to rearrange schedules, and he has had to step into my role at times in order to provide what was needed for our family.  The support of my family gave me the courage and strength that I needed to keep going towards my goal when I was tired and wanted to give up.”
With graduation just days away, Shelley is making plans for the next step in her future, which includes opening a safe-haven home for female victims of domestic violence.  “Some of the classes I have taken will help me with strategies in maintaining my own business,” she said.
Shelley believes that her center will differ from similar ones with a like purpose because it will offer more than a safe shelter to women.
“It will be a place where women can come to be spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically healed: a holistic package.”  Shelley’s center will give women the support they need to begin a new life.  “I think it is important that women obtain all the tools needed to start over should they choose to leave their abuser. I want it to be a home where they can feel safe and have an opportunity to grow and mend in all areas of their lives.”
Shelley, who currently lives in Winterville, NC, hopes to start working with other local groups as well.  “I would like to help teach and mentor teenagers or young ladies about the dangers of being involved in improper relationships, the importance of obtaining proper self-image and self-respect, and how to develop mutual respect and boundaries in a relationship.”
Shelley’s path away from an abusive relationship and her education at University of Mount Olive has helped transform her into a leader.  “I feel that my life has been transformed by University of Mount Olive because I feel more confident about my future.  I feel more assertive about attaining this business and running it with the skills and knowledge I have obtained.”
Shelley is one of approximately 370 students scheduled to graduate from University of Mount Olive on May 5.  Graduation exercises are scheduled for 2:00 PM in the George and Annie Dail Kornegay Arena.  The commencement speaker will be North Carolina General Assembly Representative Efton M. Sager.
University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The College, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Goldsboro, Research Triangle Park, Washington and Jacksonville.  For more information, visit