From Facebook Live to the streets of Park Heights, alumna Shalene Wallace has a message to friends, family, and neighbors: If you’re ready to believe in yourself, the Center for Urban Families can help you step into your purpose.
Ms. Wallace was 20 years old and carrying her first child when she learned about CFUF. It was 1999, and her father Woodrow Wallace found a flier for the then-fledgling organization and encouraged her to go. The timing was right, so Ms. Wallace joined STRIVE® and is a graduate of Cycle 19.
“It was definitely tough,” she said. “The instructors didn’t give me any slack, even though I was pregnant. I am a motivated individual, and this gave me a stepping stone. It gave me an extra family.
If you’re ready to believe in yourself, the Center for Urban Families can help you step into your purpose.
Nicknamed “Pooh” by her STRIVE® instructors, Ms. Wallace was voted “most likely to succeed” during the program. She has always been a go-getter, graduating from Northwestern High School at age 17 while holding down three jobs.
Completing the training at CFUF as part of Cycle 19 took Ms. Wallace to the next level. She received a minivan through CFUF and Vehicles for Change that she proudly paid off. Next, CFUF sent her to Baltimore City Community College to become a patient care technician, and she also earned her associate’s degree
in early childhood education. In 2020, she completed her bachelor’s degree from the University of Baltimore in human service administration. Recently, she took part in an entrepreneurship program at Morgan State University. She is now working as an elementary school teacher.
“I did it with the supervision and confidence and mentorship of the staff at CFUF,” she said. “They’d say, ‘Pooh, don’t give up,’ and I’d get fatherly advice from Mr. Hammett and a push from Ms. Pitchford and Mr. Jones.” The future is bright for Ms. Wallace. She has given her all toward raising her three daughters—Shaniya, 23, Miracle, 15, and Zendaya, 10—and now she dreams of founding her own nonprofit. She wants to build on her mentorship efforts and outreach work in Park Heights and surrounding communities, including the back-to-
school events, food drives, and summer camps she’s planned at her church, Mount Zion Apostolic Faith Church, with the guidance of her late grandparents, Elder Wilson, and Mother Daisy Wallace, and Bishop E.A. Mangum. She also dreams of becoming a first-time homeowner in 2024, and she will turn to CFUF for support.
“Just looking at the outside of somebody will never determine what is going on inside,” Ms. Wallace said. “I may not have been an addict, incarcerated or living on the street, but sometimes you feel like a burden on others. I lived in it, but I didn’t live with it.
“Thank you to the Center for Urban Families for giving me the opportunity and never turning your back on me.”