For Shanice Mills, giving back isn’t an idea reduced to special times and holidays.
It’s woven into her life, partly because that’s how her grandparents raised her and also because she knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end.
“You never know when you’re going to need help,” said Mills, recipient of Tidewater Community’s College’s 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship, which will be awarded on Feb. 22 at a ceremony at the Portsmouth Campus Student Center.
In kindergarten, Mills watched her best friend struggle with proper handwriting. She brought stencils to school as a guide.
“I taught him how to write correctly, to be more legible,” she said. “Next thing I know, my teacher is taking me around, telling people, ‘You wouldn’t believe what she did. She helped Timothy learn how to write!’ I was just being me.”
Mills, 19, remembers accompanying her grandmother to the food pantry at their Chesapeake church to donate nonperishables. She also remembers a visit to the pantry shortly before her 10th birthday when they were the ones in need. They left with groceries and a cake with pink icing that read “Happy Birthday.”
These days, Mills participates in “Good Works Sundays” at Point Harbor Community Church in Western Branch. Regularly, the church divides volunteers into groups and sends them into the community for projects. On a recent Sunday, she found herself painting and talking with veterans at an apartment building in need of refurbishment.
“They’re just normal people going through a hard time,” Mills said. “You never know when the tables will turn on you.”
The Nansemond River High graduate is in her second semester at TCC, working toward an Associate of Applied Science in Funeral Service. That’s a program that also speaks to her desire to give back.
“I want to help people on their worst day,” said Mills, who holds a 4.0 GPA.
Learning about Martin Luther King Jr., has resonated with her as long as she can remember. Mills has been bullied for everything from her hair to the darkness of her skin. A friend of hers committed suicide after suffering relentless online bullying. Mills initiated a social media campaign denouncing cyberbullying afterward.
“I wish there could be a change,” she said. “Martin Luther King talked about social justice and not judging people by the color of their skin. He paved the way for everybody. If he didn’t do what he did, I might not be sitting here today.”