After 40 years of working as a guidance counselor in Henry County, Georgia, Coreda Shaw isn’t ready to leave behind her love of helping students plot their future course just yet. Although retired, she continues her mission in coaching students toward success.
Shaw learned how to be a leader while at Georgia State College for Women as the instructors expected much from their students including class preparation, responsibility, ethical behavior and leadership skills. She also served in leadership positions in class, clubs and student government.
Although Shaw began her career as a science teacher, she felt something was missing. When she wasn’t teaching science, Shaw would often spend time with students offering advice. The school principal observed this and encouraged her to attend graduate school and become a school counselor. “I took his advice,” says Shaw. “And, I found my purpose in life.”
She went on to earn a master’s of education degree in counseling from Georgia State University plus an education specialist degree in counseling from the University of West Georgia.
Then, her determination took hold when she became a counselor. She recounts many rewarding memories while serving her students, but one especially stands out in her mind.
Shaw helped a student who had not been to school for several years. On the student’s first day of junior high school, she helped the student out of her mother’s car and escorted her to the front office. The next day, Shaw led the student to her office where she sat for several days. “I started giving her chores to do, including helping with standardized testing in the eighth grade,” Shaw states. “I asked her to take the test, and she scored well. I made her a seventh grade schedule and let her pick her teachers. She was in class every day, made Beta Club for two years and graduated from high school with honors.”
“She has a heart of gold and goes above and beyond to make sure that you are a better person for having been in her life,” mentions Rodney M. Bowler, superintendent of Henry County Schools who served alongside Shaw when he started teaching at Eagle’s Landing High School. “Not only does she love everyone outwardly, but she works tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure that everyone is well taken care of. She passionately refers to so many as ‘her children!’ Simply put, Mrs. Shaw loves everybody and everybody loves Mrs. Shaw.”
Recently, Shaw spoke to a former student who said that she was the reason he graduated from Emory University. “He had been told by his counselor that he could not attend Emory,” says Shaw. “So he and his mom came to see me, and we developed a plan for him. A Bachelor of Science degree from Emory now hangs on his wall.”
Since she has retired, Shaw continues to help steer students toward reaching their dreams. At Georgia College, she interacts with the Georgia College Early College (GCEC) high school students about being successful in school, developing good study and testing skills, applying to college and finding financial aid. Shaw also meets with local eighth-grade students to tell them how they can be successful in school and take advantage of GCEC.
Shaw also provides scholarships to the GCEC students. “When I started helping in the GCEC classes, they became my students, too,” Shaw states. “It was a natural progression to help establish a scholarship fund for them.” Within two years, she has provided five scholarships to GCEC students. This year, Shaw will provide 22 scholarships at two Henry County high schools and two endowed scholarships at GC.
“Beyond financial support, Mrs. Shaw has donated her time,” says Runee B. Sallad, Ed.D., director GCEC. “We do not have an in-house guidance counselor for our program. When Mrs. Shaw learned of this, she began conducting informational sessions with our students to ensure they were aware of GPA, course and community service requirements for college/university enrollment. She visits us two to four times per year to make sure students understand what they should focus on in the fall, and then she follows up with them in the spring.”
Last year Shaw began meeting with the eighth grade students in the spring to prepare them for ninth grade. “When she comes, she always shares an abundance of information regarding scholarship opportunities as well as strategies for studying and time-management,” says Sallad. “We love her, and when she enters any room, she can feel the love from our students’ reactions to her presence.”
Shaw’s generosity doesn’t stop there. She also contributes her time as well as gave an endowed scholarship to GC’s Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role models) program—building educational leadership by recruiting and training students from under represented backgrounds to become transformational teachers.
In her local community, Shaw speaks with high school students about being successful, applying to college and finding financial aid. In her church, she conducts sessions for high school students and their parents and teaches the senior ladies class. Shaw also serves on the Henry Youth Leadership Program Board, a program for 10th grade students to enhance their leadership skills and to learn more about their county. She also seeks 11th grade students to represent the American Legion Unit and Auxiliary to attend Georgia Boys State and Girls State.
What are her hopes for all of the students she counsels? Shaw replies, “That they will become successful in college and will become excellent, productive workers in their chosen professions.”