From Struggling Single Mom to Determined CEO Helping Women Break the Cycle of Poverty

Rasheeda Shankle headshot Meet Rasheeda Shankle, a Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) graduate and founder, president and CEO of Honorable Youth, Inc. (HYI) a nonprofit, that focuses on helping single-family households break the cycle of poverty to achieve intergenerational wealth and economic stability.

Our Center, the Center for the Study of Economic Mobility (CSEM), provided HYI with free education, financial support and mentoring in 2018 through its Community Acceleration Track, a program nurturing minority-owned local organizations with close ties to WSSU and the communities they serve.

Rasheeda herself once struggled as a single mother, working a minimum wage job while attending college at WSSU. With faith, determination and grit, Shankle believed that she could overcome poverty and one day be in a position to help other families living in fragile communities break the cycle of poverty.

Rasheeda’s organization, which launched in 2015, blends short- and long-term programs and services for at-risk minority youth with incentives for single mothers to expand their resources (income, time, and mindsets) and achieve sustainable employment and economic stability. Here is her story.

My Inspiration

During the time that I was a single mother living in a poverty stricken area and going to school, I knew that my surroundings did not determine the woman that I was destined to become. I had support from my family to help me achieve my goals, but I saw dozens of other women living in the same environment and with the same aspirations who did not have a support system. This saddened me and inspired me to figure out a way to be a support system to these women and their children and to help them achieve their goals.

After doing a lot of research, I founded Honorable Youth Inc. Because I filed the Articles of Incorporation and 1023 by myself, the whole process took a year.

“My determination allowed me to not only accomplish my goals to help others but it allowed the woman and children participating to achieve theirs as well.”

About Honorable Youth, Inc.

Women Studying at Honorable Youth, Inc. The overall poverty rate in Winston-Salem is 21.7%, greatly driven by the poverty rate of single mothers at 45.6% (female-headed households, no spouse, with related children under 18 years old). Single mothers of Winston-Salem lack the knowledge and skills necessary to improve their economic wellbeing.

For the past five years, HYI has been dedicated to providing programs and services needed for single mothers and their children to gain the knowledge and skills they lack to to improve their economic wellbeing. Short-term programs and services include financial literacy workshops, workforce development programs, entrepreneurial camps, summer camps, free tutoring, financial assistance services, and food assistance.

At this moment we are working harder than before to ensure that families are not displaced or evicted due to new housing developments. Our families have been struggling to pay their bills since the pandemic began and even with stimulus checks they are still behind on bills.

Communal Living Housing

With the help of CSEM, we’ve recently completed a strategic business plan to create a safe and affordable communal living housing facility called Salem Cohousing Community to help at-risk minority youth and their parents achieve economic stability.

The lack of skills and education among single mothers living in poverty likely contributes to employment with low earnings and also inhibits their opportunity to advance their careers.

Just 28% percent of fragile community residents said they “strongly agree” or “agree” that all people in their area have access to an affordable college education if they want it, according to our State of Opportunity Report

HYI’s communal living model, which is currently running a fundraising campaign to purchase land, will create a sense of belonging and community and provide the participating women and children the opportunity to overcome poverty alongside other similar families in an environment where there is mutual care and support.

Having daily access to programming like financial empowerment, job development, education, and psychological support allows the women to expand their resources of income, time, and wellbeing to support their children.

Our financial empowerment programming will provide courses on financial literacy and financial planning as well as access to a personal financial coach. The workforce development programming will provide the training necessary to obtain and maintain employment, and economic self-sufficiency.

Honorable Youth students

Reflecting On Our Work

I have been deeply moved by Honorable Youth, Inc’s mission and the work we’ve done to help low-income families of Winston-Salem achieve economic stability. It has been heartwarming to be able to provide them with an organization that they can not only trust but one that actually helps them and their families overcome poverty.

We have built a life-changing organization and with our future plans of the Salem Cohousing we will be able to make an everlasting impact on our families and our community.