DeKALB – The odds didn’t seem to be in Shatoya Black’s favor.
In 2009, Black was a single mother with cervical cancer who had lost her job and had no place to call home. Overcoming these challenges and turning her life around were daunting.
But Black didn’t believe in odds. She believed in herself.
“If people don’t support or believe in you, you have to believe in you,” she said.
Today, Black is a cancer-free senior at Northern Illinois University who lives in an apartment and supports herself and her 9-year-old daughter, Ja’coya.
She also was recognized Saturday for sharing her inspirational story through KishHealth System’s “This One’s for the Girls” women’s health expo.
Black and five friends and family members received a free limousine ride, breakfast and other prizes.
Black credits Nancy Perish, her former counselor at Kishwaukee College, for helping get her on the path to success three years ago.
“She planted the nugget of education in my life,” she said.
At the time, Black was pursuing a certificate in social work. Knowing Black was passionate about becoming a social worker, Perish encouraged her to pursue a bachelor’s and eventually a master’s degree. Black promised her she would try,
Black graduated from Kishwaukee College in May 2011, and will complete her bachelor’s degree from NIU in May.
She has earned several awards and scholarships during her time at NIU and founded Unique I.M.P.A.C.T. (Individuals Making Plans and Changing Together), an organization she said fosters unconditional love among children and adults.
She said volunteerism is a huge part of her life, and she believes it’s important to give back. Although many people don’t have money to give, they can offer their time and talent, a lesson she learned growing up.
“A person can only give you what they have,” she said.
Although Black said she doesn’t have much, she believes in giving what she does have.
“It’s a blessing in being a blessing,” she said.
Black said she wants to be the change people want to see, but she knows she can’t do it single-handedly.
“Individually, we do community service,” she said. “But together, we can make an impact.”
Black said she doesn’t let any of her past struggles define her, and she is not bitter about how her earlier life played out. She lives with the mentality that there’s a reason for everything.
“I don’t regret anything I went through,” she said. “Even to this day, everything I’ve gone through has prepared me not only for the present but for the future.”
Black realizes how fortunate she is to have changed her life.
“After everything I’ve been through, I should not be here,” she said.
The one person who has been with her through it all and constantly keeps her going is Ja’coya.
“If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have the courage and motivation to move forward,” she said. “She’s my everything.”
Black plans to attend graduate school in the fall, but she is cautious of looking too far into the future.
“Do you know how quickly it takes for something to happen in your life?” she said.
Second by second is how Black lives her life, but she is optimistic about what is in front of her.
“I don’t know what tomorrow brings,” she said. “But I’m grateful for today.”