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Conversations with LaShundra Richmond

Today we’d like to introduce you to LaShundra Richmond.

Hi LaShundra, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
As I’m wrapping up this school year, it dawned on me that I am celebrating 15 years of being in the educational space in a variety of capacities: classroom teacher, a teacher coach/mentor, school administrator, testing coordinator, parent liaison, community advocate, curriculum designer, potential school founder, and non-profit leader that specifically serves schools, middle & high school students and communities.

Those are just the professional capacities, without mentioning the unofficial capacities in which educators, like myself, serve.

So in short, most of my adult life has been dedicated to the forward advancement of students and communities. I am the last born and only girl of two educators: (the late) Rev. Franklin J. Richmond and Dorothy Richmond (retired educator from legacy Memphis City Schools-MCS). Both of my paternal grandparents were educators, (the late) Roosevelt Richmond and Yvonne Richmond (retired educator from legacy Memphis City Schools-MCS), so I like to put it this way:

A. Being in education is almost by default. It’s all I saw. It’s all that I know. B. I very seldom “played” school, because in my family, school wasn’t anything to play about (similarly to church). I think you can call me a legacy Educator and though I am sure educators are deeply embedded throughout my lineage, it would be the profession that chose me, I definitely didn’t choose it.

And 15 years later, as I reflect, I realized even after running, I mean like sprint racing away-it continues to pull at me, show up in my dreams, and arrest me to make sure (me and Education) are “4-lifers” (as these kids say)!

I really can skip over the past 15 years and say-its been my desire and hope to work towards transforming the educational landscape all across this country and it’s been that same hope that has carried me into various realms throughout this country in hopes of reimagining learning experiences for students and creating equitable opportunities for students and communities to thrive.

This work has continuously propelled me as even as I’ve transitioned to the West Coast and now call San Diego, CA home. I still find time to visit Memphis to continue the mission of sowing seeds and helping to positively impact the educational space.

So here’s how I can sum up my answer of how I got to where I am today-

Adopting 1 John 2:27 as my guiding scripture through life: “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him,” accompanied by a personal motto of two short words: “I Win.”

I have embarked upon a journey that has taken me to new heights, surprising depths, and a life full of unexpected twists and turns, that has single-handedly ushered me into what many may view as unbelievably inevitable, though I simply take it all in and remember the words found in James 1:2, “to count it all joy.”

Yeap. That’s my story!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Struggles??!! What are those?! Lol. Yessssss, there have been struggles. Nooooo… it has not been the smoothest road. I mean and most of them (the struggles), I’ve learned simply comes with the territory. There are internal struggles and grapplings and then there are those struggles that stem from social, political, cultural, etc. factors.

The internal struggles center around feelings of: am I not enough? Am I too much? (this is THE one), how do my gender, race, and background impact this space I’m attempting to two-step in, will I be hushed when I challenge leadership, do I even feel like fighting that battle today, what consequences will I have to face when I don’t “follow these antiquated and ineffective rules,” etc.

External struggles that just come with education being a very politically charged space especially since you have to deal with people, personalities, and pressure. Those elements in themselves can often create a not-so-kind environment and culture and just add to the many stressors related to working in Education in any capacity.

Not everyone wants that needle of student achievement to move. I think (on most days), it’s a game to folks-how we play with and play over our children’s futures. So the real struggles lie with our children who have to wake up daily because the adults can’t figure this ish out–that harsh and sobering reality is a struggle for me and also why I’ve taken well-needed sabbaticals from the space.

For me, I often struggle with when to bow out gracefully or when to roll up my sleeves; when to shut up and when to go and snatch the mic, when to sit back and just watch and when to come in and flip all this crap on its head. On a daily-those are my struggles and also the thorns that come along with the assignment…

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
As a transformational Educational Leader & Design-Thinking Strategist, I am a highly-motivated and purposely driven Practitioner with a passionate commitment to student development and the learning experience; skilled in the design of challenging, enriching, and innovative activities that address the diverse interests and needs of students;

Also known as the Destiny Coach, I am the proud Founder & Senior Strategist of the Destiny House (TDH), a non-profit organization, based in Memphis, TN that strives to equip and empower high school students by providing the tools and resources necessary for postsecondary success. This work stemmed specifically from my observations as a classroom teacher and school administrator.

At TDH, we believe that all students should have the knowledge and understanding of all of the post-secondary options that are available to them. This work is quite distinctive because, throughout the years, the narrative around post-secondary success has highly rested on going to college and the military and very little on workforce, entrepreneurship, and the gap year. We believe students shouldn’t have to choose either be well informed of every option and then choose accordingly. For us, it is not just an achievement gap, it is also an exposure gap.

Before the Destiny House, I could be found in schools & classrooms, legislative hallways & urban communities as my combined passions for Education, Advocacy & Ministry claimed my time, efforts & energy in more direct roles & spaces. I have humbly and happily served in a variety of capacities that have afforded me a lens into the constantly evolving educational landscape at the local, state & national levels and have spent years directly serving the Memphis & the Mid-South region as an educator, community change agent, spiritual leader and voice.

Currently, my work on the West Coast centers around Professional Development & Adult Learning, Marketing & Media, Strategic Planning; Social-Emotional Learning; Gender-Specific Studies, School Design & Curriculum Development; and Race, Diversity, Inclusion & Equity studies

I guess I am most proud of my ability to adapt and reimagine success for myself and what that continues to look like for students as I dream about the next 15 years. Currently, I am on tour with my organization the Destiny House going from city to city, school to school talking to 8-12th grade students about their; “what’s next?!” I get to run my mouth, connect with students and leave them with, if nothing else, information, awareness, and a push towards a destiny that awaits their arrival.

That’s the technical answer.

My abbreviated, straight-no chaser response is-What sets me apart is that I’m not the either/or professional or person. I am not just the classroom teacher. I am not just the school leader and/or school designer. I am not just the curriculum writer and/or coach. I am all the above! There is no such thing as limitations unless you put them on yourself, and predicted chapters. Lol. Make them read the whole book because just reading a chapter will cause someone to miss the entirety of your existence. I am the whole book, not just a chapter.

Make sure each chapter of your life gives a new and insightful look into a life that’s constantly evolving, unfolding, and blossoming. That’s the lesson and model I hope my daughter embraces and others as well and what I believe sets me apart-I am the destiny coach-where I work each day to help others birth destiny and build legacy!!

What were you like growing up?
Oh, this is a fun question and I have a short answer. I have people tell me how I am as an adult, I was the same as a kid: smart, funny, witty, curious, loud, talkative, always involved in something, etc.

What you see is what you get. I’ve always been the over-the-top, extra, loud, live, lit, talkative person you see before you today. The only thing that’s changed is my age, hair (wigs), and zip code. Besides that, I am the same. I think I am a lot more mild-mannered, though people closest to me highly disagree.

My interests are still quite the same: Give me my soap operas, a good movie, some great food, and travel-filled with fun and laughter and I’m good.

Professionally – I just want to travel the world (even more) doing what I do!

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