Finding employment is an all too common struggle among veterans, who make invaluable employees and can apply skills and traits attained in service to a number of civilian arenas with focus, drive and discipline.
Growing up in a middle-class family in Compton, Shanita, was always smart, strong-willed and independent. After earning an academic scholarship for Tuskegee University in 1997, she became the first in her family to attend college. Then Life happened: the scholarship didn’t provide for room, board or books, and after a year and a half she couldn’t afford her education on her own – and her parents were unable to help.
Not one to give up, at age 19, Shanita joined the Army. After basic training, she was assigned to the Accounting and Finance office at Fort Bragg, NC. Determined to finish her education she immediately enrolled at nearby Campbell University. On base she met Private Chris Seamans and fell in love. It was a happy, promising time. Life was good. They got engaged after two years, and married on Valentines Day, 2001. But just five days later they were deployed – Chris to Korea, and Shanita to Bosnia. The events of 9/11 kept them apart but finally, in April 2002, the not-so-newlyweds were reunited in Hawaii where they would be stationed for two years.
Life was looking up again: Shanita received her degree in business administration from Campbell and completed her term of service. She quickly got a job with Bank of Hawaii. The following few years took them to Fort Drum, NY where the arrival of sons Tyler in 2006, and Tyson in 2007 marked two of the happiest moments of Shanita’s life. Chris’s term was coming to an end and they decided to head back to California where they would plant their roots with the support of family.
Staying with family in 2008, Shanita began looking for a job. Even for this bright, experienced professional, it was tough going. She kept hearing that she was overqualified or they didn’t like that she was currently unemployed (she had taken a year and a half off with her babies in NY), but the real reason was the recession. Shanita pounded the pavement every day. She looked for help at all the veterans’ organizations but no one offered services to female veterans or veterans with children. Then she saw the flyer at the Compton EDD office that said “Helping Veterans Receive Paychecks”. H.V.R.P. is a VOALA employment program that provides case management, job leads, training, and support to unemployed, homeless veterans. Life began to turn around.
The staff at VOALA immediately recognized Shanita’s talents and offered her a temp job as a monitor within the organization, while looking for a permanent full time position. In the years Shanita has been with VOALA, she has rapidly risen from monitor to program manager – and is also involved with grant writing.
For Shanita, Life keeps getting better: In 2010, Chris and Shanita welcomed their third son Tristan into their life. And as if being a mother of three boys and full time employee of VOALA isn’t enough – she received her MBA from Concordia University in 2013.