Shay Hunt is a woman with a plan. In fact, when she was 16 — a time when most kids are worried about school, sports, getting into college, or getting their driver’s license — Shay was making plans to start her non-profit to help kids, because, “I wish more people had taken more time when it came to raising me.”
Shay didn’t come by this plan easily. At 14, in Johnsonville, SC, Shay became a teen mom. It’s not an easy way to do things, but Shay says she had a whole village around her, encouraging her to stay in school, work towards her dreams, and still enjoy her childhood. And in 9th grade, she had a life-altering experience — she took an accounting class.
Yes, accounting. It clicked a light bulb on in her head.
“Now I understand why my family struggles. Now I understand why my community struggles. We don’t have this information,” she recalls thinking. “I wanted to be able to learn that skill and bring it back to my community.”
And that started the plan — to give back to her community, to repay what they had done for her as a teen mom. She was determined to use accounting as her path to make it happen, since without money or knowledge, she wouldn’t be able to fulfill her mission.
She worked two jobs to get her degrees in Accounting and Business Administration while raising her young son. She kept going to get her Master’s of Accounting and Business Management. She also got married, gained a bonus daughter, had another child, and got a good job. She pursued a career in finance for 20 years, knowing it would enable her to follow her passion to help others. She raised her children by seeking out opportunities to expose them to more experiences than she had seen growing up. She helped other parents do the same.
In 2018, she switched gears from her business career.
“It was never my plan to stay in corporate America my whole life,” she says. She followed her inner voice to “do what you were created to do” — to help others, and inspire children. The time was right for her and her family. She was mentally prepared.
She created Raise a Child of the Carolinas, the name she thought up at 16 when she first envisioned her plan.
“Our goal is to expose children to things they aren’t exposed to,” Shay says. “Our target is communities who don’t have the opportunities others have. I know where the resources are.”
RACC follows a project-based STREAM model (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, Math) to teach kids real-life skills in entrepreneurship, financial literacy, college and career readiness, and physical fitness. Camps are centered around learning a discipline and taking a field trip to see its practical use in a business. And in most summers, there are also fun trips to pools, water parks, or spraygrounds.
Of course, if you’re going to take 10 – 30 kids anywhere, you need reliable transportation — a good set of wheels.
The church that hosts the RACC program allows them to use their 15-passenger van, but it’s not big enough for all of the kids. Some have to ride with counselors or in private cars. And to make matters worse, the church van broke down.
Shay figures this is as good of a time as any — while programs are on hold — to raise money for some new wheels. Her careful research shows she needs about $30,000 to make it happen.
“You have to be mobile to have upward mobility,” says Shay, noting Charlotte has been known to need some help in this regard. “When COVID allows us to take kids places, we want to do that.”
If you’ve got a good pair of shoes and want to help Shay go that extra mile, you can take a walk or run just for her. On Labor Day weekend, RunCharlotte is hosting the Run Charlotte, One Charlotte 1-mile virtual challenge to help RACC buy an activity bus.
“In Raise a Child of the Carolinas, we saw an opportunity to connect the Charlotte running community with a young nonprofit that’s already making a difference… and has the potential to do so much more with just a little bit of help,” said Tim Rhodes, president and founder of RunCharlotte.
Rhodes said he felt a 1-mile event would be approachable for most everyone, no matter their running experience. And that approachability is what he hopes can drive donations and help buy that bus.
You have all weekend to do it, and you can even donate extra dollars, or buy a shirt to help RACC teach kids to become responsible, actively engaged, global citizens and leaders.
“This is my way of giving back,” says Shay. “You can grow up to be whatever you want to be and accomplish what you want to accomplish. Use the people around you to help.”
That’s you, Charlotte!