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Inspiring Conversations with Shymika Stephenson-Davison of PreCollege Solutions

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shymika Stephenson-Davison.

Hi Shymika, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
When I was ten years old, my fifth-grade teacher was giving our class a lecture about going to college. She talked about it being the key to changing your life and would give us the opportunity to leave the small town of Vivian, Louisiana. I remember being so filled with hope and excitement, I can home and told my mother. I kept saying repetitively, “I am going to college.” At this time, I did not know we are considered poverty and no one in my family had been to college, instead of my mother discouraging me and making me face the reality of our situation. She just said, “I guess you are going to college,” to her innocent 5th grader. From that point, I made it my goal to attend and graduate college.

Fast forward to my junior year of high school, I met with my high school counselor and explained to her that I was going to college and needed help finding scholarships. He looked me in my eyes and told me, “Shymika, you are not in the top 10 of your college. You should not be thinking about college but a trade. A job that you can work around here in Vivian.” I was heartbroken for a couple of days and then I decided heartbreak turned into determination. I graduated from high school and college, Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, Louisiana. I worked as a youth development professional with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Acadiana for three years. I moved to Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex and transferred to the Boys & Girls Clubs. There is where I found my passion working with teenagers in the area of college readiness through the federally funded TRIO Programs. I have had no greater joy than helping a high school student achieve their dreams of attending college, such as myself. Eventually, I decided to start my own college readiness consulting company, PreCollege Solutions. The impact I foresee for PreCollege Solutions is to take the complex systems of college admission and scholarship processes and to make them easy to comprehend and complete. As a college student, I was able to pay for college without student loans. It was exceedingly difficult. I can say today it was one of the best sacrifices I ever made. I can live my life fuller with that burden. Therefore, I am an advocate for financial planning for college education, especially scholarships.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
One of the biggest obstacles of my business is the allusion of this work/service should be free. There are numerous federal grant programs and nonprofits that offer college prep programs for free, but most have the requirement that students must be low-income or first-generation future college students. In a larger scope, potential customers assume college readiness consulting services and seek free services before considering purchases. As the owner, I must educate, market, and create products and services that are deemed financially worthy.

The lack of minority representation in this industry.

The government- The education structure is run by the government. It was obvious to see during the pandemic the constant changes to the college admission process, which means business owners in this industry had to educate and quickly adjust to the multiple changes as well.

As you know, we’re big fans of PreCollege Solutions. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about the brand?
We are a College Readiness Consulting Company serving as a Guide and Support System for Families, Youth-Focused Organizations and Tutoring Companies during the College Admission Process.

Our expertise in the college admission process, scholarship process, financial aid process, and other experiences spans nearly ten years. To assist in producing college graduates and skilled professionals with a minimum amount of student debt.

We offer services in college admission and scholarship application assistance consulting for high school students, college readiness and college admission professional development training, college readiness workshops for families, youth, and organizations. We offer products such as a scholarship subscription plans for high school seniors and college students, college readiness checklists for parents, and apparel.

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
This pandemic has taught me numerous lessons, from the difference of supply and demand to the importance of one’s mental health. Here are my top three lessons I have learned and working towards. The first lesson is how innovative and creative I have become. Being a business owner during a pandemic was very challenging mentally, I struggled at the beginning of the pandemic with pivoting quickly to adapt to e-commerce. In trying to keep my business afloat, I discovered creativity in marketing and innovation. This led to product creation, such as the scholarship subscription plan.

Generational wealth is my second lesson. I lost a family member and a college friend to Coronavirus. This made me push forward in creating systems in place for my family. I have a goal of making sure everyone in my family has a will by the end of 2021 and have been working on a business contingency plan for my business. Taking these baby steps has opened dialogue within my family about generational wealth.

Being and having a support system is my third lesson. As I work with youth, this pandemic has been difficult for them to understand. It has felt like something was taken from them. Currently, I mentor about ten college students. Most of these college students had to return home and attend college virtually. I made sure to check in with them every few weeks. Believe it or not, shifting to a virtual setting was incredibly challenging for them mentally. I also held tight to my own support system, my husband, sisters, parents, and friends as celebrations, milestones, and family gatherings were canceled or modified. Our daily conversations, virtual karaoke, and group messaging sometimes felt like virtual hugs.

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All photos are from PreCollege Solutions. Except for Graduating Young Lady. Image Credit for Graduating Young Lady: Canva Photos

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