Youth Leader: Lose Yourself in the Service of Others

Shanice Turner comes from a family of doers and go-getters. When her grandmother and other households in Midway, Alabama, struggled to drive one hour to get basic groceries, they all came together to do something about it. They contacted Dollar General to open a store and after gathering signatures on petitions and sending emails to the retailer, they were successful in launching the first major retail store in Midway.

When asked how she would describe the tenacious nature of her family, Shanice uses a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Shanice, 25, has been a youth leader since 2013 with the Aspen Institute Opportunity Youth Forum (OYF) an initiative that works with 24 communities across the country to build and deepen education and employment pathways for opportunity youth, who are 16-24-year-olds that are not in school or employed. 

Shanice considers herself a former opportunity youth who left her hometown of Waukegan, Ill. (just outside of Chicago) for Atlanta just two weeks after graduating high school for better opportunities.

As soon as she arrived in Atlanta, Shanice became a student with Year Up, a program that provides young urban adults with job and education skills, then landed a VISTA position with the United Way of Greater Atlanta as well as becoming a VISTA leader with Points of Light. Shanice is now a Vice Chair of Year Up, the program that initially gave her a push, and a Grant Manager with the Gate City Daycare Nursery Association. She believes the full-circle nature of the last few years gives her insight into the struggles of young people.

“I was in their shoes as a young person,” she says. “I know what it feels to have that barrier of being shy, quiet and insecure. You can make something out of yourself and push past these boundaries.”

Although Shanice is known as someone who speaks her mind and describes herself as having the “gift of eloquence,” she recalls how the first time she attended a grant meeting she was afraid to talk.

“This was the first time I assisted in writing a grant,” she explains. “I started as a young shy and soft-spoken person who pushed herself. I used to worry about what people said about me and what they thought about me.”

Shanice says the years doing this work have given her “the perfect alignment with myself. I was able to grow with this movement.”

Shanice is viewed as a leader across the opportunity youth movement and has accomplished much in this role, from being named the Vice Chair of Year Up Atlanta Alumni Association, co-hosting the Opportunity Youth Network 5th annual conference, co-hosting The CLASP Creating a More Inclusive Economy Internal Convening, co-founding Opportunity Youth United with The National Council of Young Leaders, and assisting United Way in receiving the OYIF grant, she strives for more. This includes launching her own website and completing her bachelor’s degree in business management.

One day she wants to become a program manager and continue her consulting, photography, voice acting, and her work as a community leader/advocate. Her ultimate goal is to establish her own business and help young people find their own voice through motivation, poetry, voice acting, spoken-word, and the arts.

“My journey as a leader has been one of inner strength, hidden potential, and challenges,” she says.