Features November 2018

Igniting Change

Written By: Sharla Head-Jones

When I was 6 years old growing up in East St. Louis, Ill., I declared to my great-grandmother that I was going to change the world. I didn’t know how I was going to do so at that time, however, 40 years later, I have a greater understanding.

I always helped my granny with affairs around the house. She was the community cook and counselor. I followed her everywhere just like Mary’s little lamb followed Mary.

Working with my granny helped me develop work ethic and compassion for others. After my dad died when I was 2 ½ years old, my granny cared for me while my mom worked. My mom often worked two jobs to provide for my two older sisters and me. We even lived in low-income housing for a few years. It was called the Norman E. Owens housing project, also known as “the hole” in my home city. A few of my childhood friends who lived in the hole include University of Missouri Basketball Team Duo Head Coach Cuonzo Martin and Director of Player Development Marco Harris. We all had humble beginnings and remained close friends together through school. Cuonzo was my classmate and Marco my junior high school “boyfriend.” We still communicate and I’ve given them ideas for their non-profit organization, Bonded Brothers.

It was challenging growing up in East St. Louis, nevertheless, God blessed all of us and we are all doing very well today.Preparing to Change the World

I am a proud graduate of Florida A&M University, Santa Fe College and Nova Southeastern University. Along with my degrees, I have several certifications from the Department of Children and Families, law enforcement agencies and community programs. I can never have too much education or too many credentials.

In August, I received my DCF director credentials for childcare to add to my professional portfolio. Moreover, in September, I completed the docent training to become an official tour guide at the Historic Haile Homestead Plantation. I believe in being a lifelong learner, both professionally and personally.

Truthfully, all of these experiences give me the foundation on which to build upon. I have been building for this moment in life since I was a kid.

As a kid, I was always doing something, making something, tearing up something. I would talk a lot about the future and what I was going to become. I saw my granny and my mom plan their bills and write family activities on a notebook pad. Likewise, I began to do the same thing. I often carried coin money accompanied by a pencil and a little notebook in my hands or pants pockets. I could not write well. Therefore, I used letters and symbols to indicate my thoughts. I guess you could say the “writings” were my future business plans and the coins, of course, were my “start-up” funds. Changing the Community

Now, my plans and start-up funds have all come together to establish not just one, but two organizations: Phoenix, Cooper and Haile Consulting and Management, Inc. and Simply Innovative Solutions, Inc.

PCH Consulting and Management provides professional guidance for business and personal matters. We specialize in services to start non-profit organizations, coordinate community development projects and fundraisers, strategic planning, life coaching, grant writing, or facilitate trainings, workshops and conferences.

On the other hand, Simply Innovative Solutions is a non-profit and faith-based organization that aims to provide enrichment services for at-risk youth and their families.

When I’m not working for my companies, I portray “Sunshine,” a radio personality on the “Monday Refreshment” show, which airs on Mondays from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. on WMBT 90.1 FM. The show is the birthing of probably 50 or more conversations Daniel “DJ Jerk” Jerkins and I shared during a year or so about my reading community announcements. One thing led to another and he graced me to form the program outline of the show. We tweeted the outline and, ta-da, the show came to life in March.

The show is the continuation of the celebration of Black history and heritage. I present legendary figures who have made a significant impact on the world. We celebrate the accomplishments of local students and teachers. I give a healthy tip and tidbit to make life better and spotlight an HBCU (Historically Black College), among other topics. We have a blast, and DJ Jerk also runs the show on his personal Facebook Live page.

In addition to the radio show, I co-host the “Caleb and Sharla” show, which can be viewed on Sunday evenings at 6 p.m. via Facebook Live. Caleb Young and I discuss current issues that affect our community and news topics for political correctness.

Being the Change

With all that I do, some people are amazed to find out that I’m a single mother of four sons. My mom and sisters laugh at me because as a teenager I vowed not to have children after I returned home each time I babysat. Nevertheless, my eldest son Charles, 19, attends Valencia State College in Orlando. My second son, Chad, 18, attends the University of Central Florida, also in Orlando. And my two younger men, Gerald “AJ” is 11 and in the sixth grade and Geremiah, 9, is in the fourth grade. They attend St. Barbara Leadership Institute where I also work and teach middle school Grammar and Earth and Space Science and assist in the kindergarten class. I am thankful to God that all my sons are wonderful young men and honor-roll students.

I also work as the high school educational staff member at the Gainesville Police Department Reichert House Youth Academy. I can’t seem to get away from kids. I love them and want them to succeed in life. I had so many awesome teachers and coaches who took special interest in me when I was growing up. I know my success today is a result of all their good mentoring.

Furthermore, all my cooking and baking skills have developed into my catering service, Simply Sweet by Sharla. I prepare signature desserts such as Red Velvet cakes and Sweet Potato pies and American soul food classics like ox-tail stew over yellow rice with collards and yams.

I have always enjoyed cooking and baking. I was handed these skills from my granny who let me bake my first pie when I was 4 years old. I couldn’t even read then, but I remembered seeing what she did and the ingredients she used. That first pie was horrible, however, now I can bake one with my eyes closed. I donate the money from the catering service to church to build certain auxiliaries, such as the youth department and community outreach.

I know I live a very busy life and my family and friends worry about me being so active. My mentor and friend Senator Keith Perry often asks me, “Sharla, when do you sleep?” I tell him my granny said you sleep when you die. While you’re living, do something … work … change the world. I just give my children a living definition of “being the change” they’d like to see.

Regardless of how busy my schedule may be, attending to my family, going to work and advancing my newly established businesses, I am blessed to be able to maintain my extreme lifestyle and serve as a living example for my sons and mentees that life is what you make it. I am determined to uphold the model and standards used by my granny to raise my sisters and me to be great people and do great things in life.

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