Based in Charlotte, NC, Shakaka Perry works as a Re-Engagement Coordinator for Communities in Schools – Charlotte Mecklenburg (CIS). This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Shakaka to learn more about her career path, work and why her position is crucial to student success.
From an early age, Shakaka knew she wanted to work with kids in some capacity. Although her leadership journey began as a kid teaching cheers on the playground, Shakaka’s innate mentorship skills led her into the classroom as a Special Education teacher. During her first year in the classroom, she discovered CIS through one of the organization’s employees, and her interest was immediately piqued. Two years later, in 2016, Shakaka applied and received an official job offer from CIS, and she hasn’t looked back since.
“This role was meant for me, and I know this is where I’m meant to be,” Shakaka said during our interview.
In her six years at CIS, she has received a promotion from Youth Development Coordinator to Re-Engagement Coordinator and is just as passionate, if not more, about the work she does. On a day-to-day basis, she checks in with the students on her caseload to make sure they are not just on campus but are in class. While she balances many roles throughout the day, student attendance is her number one priority due to her assigned school’s chronic absenteeism. Since Shakaka is assigned to a high school, students have the ability to drop out at 16. Her goal is to prevent that from happening, especially since that puts students at risk of being released from a Re-Engagement Coordinator’s caseload. As with many jobs, COVID completely changed and challenged the way Shakaka interacted with students on her caseload.
“Covid continues to be challenging because we’re still dealing with the repercussions that it brought. Covid took us from a space and a place where I was able to visibly see students or catch them in the lunchroom…to now relying on technology to see if our students were in school during the day. We were relying on technology to make sure our students were okay,” Shakaka said.
Shakaka shared that during this time, even her most engaged students became difficult to get in contact with. The following school year, once students were back in the brick-and-mortar building, Shakaka’s main focus became identifying students who had not shown up to school. On the first day back, she shared that over 200 freshmen did not show up to class. Students didn’t attend for various reasons, such as caring for siblings or working to contribute to the family’s finances. For Re-Engagement Coordinators, they had to navigate how to pull students back into the role of student.
To listen to the rest of Shakaka’s story, listen to the latest episode of Productive Disruption.