Shawna Selby spent eight years working at a Barnes and Noble as a single mother. It’s that time in her life that provides the motivation she needs each day to finish her degree, raise five kids and have a baby in the middle of the semester.
“My life has changed,” says Selby, a social justice major. “I went from being a single mom to two kids and working 60 hours a week and barely making it by, to now being a stay-at-home mom to six children and getting to go back to school.”
Selby had given up thinking that things could ever be different or better. She had two children and had worked at a Memphis Barnes & Noble for eight years and had muddled through difficult relationships before marrying her husband, Trevecca Track and Field Coach Austin Selby.
Between her discount for being married to an employee and grant money, Shawna is able to get her degree for free. Her time as a single mother inspired her to study social justice. Her goal is to one day work with children who need support and resources.
The Selby’s combined families when they married. She had two children, he had three and on April 16 they added their sixth child with the birth of a baby girl.
Her efforts and motivation in class in the midst of raising six children are noticed and admired by several of her fellow social justice majors.
“She’s so loving and caring,” says Alyssa Landreth, a freshman social justice major. “She works hard in every aspect, but is also very well balanced and full of grace for those around her.”
Selby’s professors also takes notice of her work, and see her as a model for other social justice students.
“Her drive and strong desire to succeed in her goals is an amazing example of the type of students we hope to equip to accomplish social justice ministry,” says Jamie Casler, head of the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice. “She knows her education is a gift. She wants to absorb every ounce of information in class. She raises the bar for our students in the social justice system to be challenged to succeed.”
A day in the life
Selby’s alarm goes off at 6 a.m. and her bedtime is rarely ever before midnight.
“I get myself up and dressed, and then begin waking the kids up and getting them ready for school.” says Selby.
After all the kids get dropped off around 9 a.m., Selby drives to campus, where she attends class and studies until she heads back to pick up kids.
“Thankfully the kids’ schools are close together, so I’ll pick the youngest up around 2:30 p.m. and then pick the older ones up at 3 p.m,” says Selby. “After we all get home, we spend about an hour and a half to two hours on homework and getting ready for the next day. After that, dinner is started and we all eat together. Then they do chores, where they can earn some extra money by helping me out.”
All this bustle is then followed by family time, and getting the kids into bed.
“Around 9 p.m. each night, I start a pot of tea and begin (my) homework which is where I’ll sit until around midnight,” says Selby. “Because of the pregnancy, I haven’t been able to fall asleep until around 2 a.m. and then it’s back up at 6 a.m. to start all over again.”
Weekends are more difficult for Selby, as she doesn’t have the down-time on campus to work on projects.
“I’m having to get essays written and exams studied for and goals completed for classes. I’m trying to do that with five children running around,” says Selby. “It’s hard because I feel like I need to be spending more time with them, so on weekends I’ll push back the homework to where it still doesn’t get started until 9 p.m. so I can take them to the zoo or the park.”
This pressure to always have time to spare for both her kids and homework can get overwhelming for Selby. But this is where her husband comes in.
“He can see me getting frustrated with everything I have to do,” says Selby. “Sometimes he’ll take all five kids by himself just to give me that time. He’s my rock.”
The long nights and endless piles of homework weigh heavily on Selby, but she knows her drive and motivation will be seen by her kids.
“If anything, I want to work harder for them,” says Selby. “I want to show them that no matter what life throws at you, you can succeed and you can prevail.”