Shanard Deas grew up in an community where few children dare to dream. With a small number of overstretched role models, and limited academic direction, young people in his neighborhood were often left merely aspiring to survive – to move beyond the disheartening realities of their surroundings.
Deas was fortunate; his passion for the radio and television industries pushed him to pursue opportunities outside of his community – yet limited confidence and less-than-stellar high school grades would keep him from fully realizing his dreams. Though it took years of struggle and doubt, Deas would discover that he had far more potential and drive than he ever believed, and – perhaps most importantly – parents who refused to allow him to give up his dreams, and a mother who would not stand to see her child fail.
Within his community, Deas never encountered anyone who had attended college. His was a tough neighborhood, and survival translated into finding work, perhaps learning a trade. Pursuing a college degree was a lofty ambition, particularly for Deas, whose grades were mediocre at best, and who did not view himself as particularly intelligent. However, he was ambitious enough to apply to college, and after being turned down by the College of Charleston, pursued an Associate’s Degree in Communication from Trident Technical College, with a specialization in Radio and Television Broadcasting.
For a time, this path seemed sufficient for Deas, who admits that he didn’t even need a degree to pursue work in radio, but wanted additional technical credibility. He worked as a “graveyard shift” DJ for WWWZ Z93Jams, served briefly as a camera operator for Channel 5, and owned and operated his own business, Showcase Entertainment. Following a downturn in the local entertainment market, Deas accepted a position as a long-distance truck driver, a difficult job he strongly disliked. Low on savings, and finding that no available positions matched his level of education and experience, Deas had hit a wall. It was his mother who offered the first of several rays of hope: “…my Mom suggested that I start substitute teaching while I looked for jobs.” Explains Deas, “she was a substitute teacher, and thought my temperament would be a good fit.”
Deas threw himself into substitute teaching and, after a few years working throughout Charleston County, was offered a full-time position at a local middle school – working as a substitute, teachers’ assistant, student concerns specialist, and a basketball coach. His work within the school system inspired Deas, who was also working as a weekend DJ. He enjoyed helping young people, but struggled with the lack of growth opportunity. Once again, his mother was ready with inspiration. As Deas recalls, “she simply said, ‘why don’t you go back to school, you are smart enough!’” Deas followed his mother’s advice, but there would be obstacles ahead.
Deas was frustrated to find that most of the schools he contacted would not accept his hard-earned credits from Trident Technical College, and many programs would require him to take classes during the day – which was not an option considering his place of employment. “At this point in life, I have real bills that require a real job,” Deas explains. “I needed something I could do that fit into my schedule…” An employee in the College of Charleston Admission office suggested that Deas contact the CofC School of Professional Studies, where a program was offered specifically for adults. Deas couldn’t have been more pleased with what he learned: the Bachelor of Professional Studies program would accept a large proportion of his credits, and would allow him to complete a bachelor’s degree in two years – without needing to abandon his day or weekend jobs.
Once accepted into the program, Deas’ motivation grew. With a timeline and tangible goal in his sights, he was ready to give his all to earning his diploma, and was determined to avoid being frivolous with this tremendous opportunity. “I understood the magnitude of what I was trying to do for myself,” Deas says. “This may sound hilarious to some, but I began to cheer for myself.” Deas offered himself congratulations with every passed assignment, and cut back on weekend work, social outings and family events – to devote as much time as possible to his studies. Deas reminded himself that he was playing with house money, and regardless of whether he succeeded in his academic endeavors, the student loan bills would come due.
Deas would need to retain this attitude to overcome the hurdles ahead. As an adult student many years past an associate degree, Deas felt bombarded by foreign concepts and new technology. Without internet at home, and a lack of knowledge of current research and citations methods, Deas considered himself to be at a significant disadvantage. Yet he persevered, asking his colleagues at the middle school for assistance, watching YouTube tutorials, obtaining tutoring from the resource lab, and setting up help sessions with the North Campus librarian. Deas became more driven than ever, sometimes devoting hours to the mastery of a particular concept. When the strain of working two jobs to fund his education began to wear on Deas, it was his mother who continued to be his most ardent supporter, helping relieve some of his financial burdens, and ensuring that he was eating well. “Without (my mother’s) constant support,” Deas explains, “I would not have made it through my first year.”
The hard work, self-issued cheers, and family support soon paid dividends for Deas, as – at the end of his first year – he began to earn surprisingly strong grades. While he still had doubts as to his academic ability, he gained confidence in his strength as a hard worker. His good grades eventually led to being awarded two institutional scholarships: the Office of Institutional Diversity’s Departmental Scholarship and the School of Professional Studies’ Sue Sommer-Kresse Award. Deas’ achievements fueled his desire to pursue work in education, wanting to help the youth that inspired him to follow his dreams. He applied – and was accepted – to the Teach for America program.
Having earned his Bachelor of Professional Studies degree, with a concentration in Communications, Deas is looking to apply to graduate school, and is considering the fields of education, psychology, and counseling. He looks forward to giving back to his community, and hopes to one day open a learning center, geared toward connecting minority children with Science,Technology, Engineering, and Math subject-areas. Of this dream, he offers, “It’s a long shot but so was I.” Perhaps when Deas someday founds his learning center, he will inspire his students with advice similar to what he shared with us:
“They may be younger than you are, smarter than you are, but don’t ever let them outwork you. Verbalize your desires, make your dream your reality, and live to check off items on your bucket list. See you at the top. “
The School of Professional Studies offers several undergraduate programs, and has recently launched the Cougar Path program, to assist technical college students in their transition to the CofC’s Bachelor of Professional Studies degree completion program. All of our programs are designed with the working professional in mind.
For more information, please visit our website, or contact the School of Professional Studies at 843.953.6684.