"I'm not just a number."
Growing up in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood, Shaquwanda Allen developed a taste for food preparation by watching her older brother, Markeith Leary, who worked as a cook.
"He always told me to come and help him, and I started to like it," she says. During Shaquwanda's junior year in high school, Markeith was diagnosed with a heart defect that eventually required that he get a transplant. Her brother's health ordeal prompted her to dedicate herself to his chosen profession, she says. She became involved in Future Chefs, a career-development program for high school culinary arts students in greater Boston, through which she earned a partial scholarship to SNHU.
During her first two years on campus, Shaquwanda earned an associate degree in culinary arts with honors and is now a student in SNHU's Bachelor of Applied Science degree program in hospitality management.
"My goal is to work in a hotel and become an event planner," she says. "And from there, I'd like to open my own catering business."
Shaquwanda helped found SNHU's Beloved Community, a club that celebrates and promotes diversity on campus. A member of the SNHU cheerleading team, she was also named a 2010 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sport Scholar by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine.
Although she misses home and her brother, who has recovered from his transplant, Shaquwanda has found happiness at SNHU.
"It took me a while to adjust to the environment because I'm a city kid, but I really enjoy the school," she says. "I like the small classes, and I like how my teachers help me if I need it. I'm not just a number; they know me for me."