(Updated 05/14/14) By the time Shanna Green was 15, she had lived in more than 25 group homes, seven foster homes, been confined by legal and state health facilities three times, and molested by three different men.
Now, as she prepares to graduate from Morgan State University with a degree in sociology, Green wants to use her experience to improve the lives of foster children who, like her, were failed by the foster care system.
Green entered that system at age two, taken from her drug-addicted parents and placed in a home where she would suffer her first molestation, she said, telling her story to the AFRO. Between the ages of five and eight, she said, Green lived with an aunt, serving as a de facto mother to her three siblings and was routinely molested by a cousin, a friend of an uncle, and her aunt’s boyfriend.
Green said she bounced around between foster and group homes—and was confined by the state three times after five suicide attempts—until, at the age of 15, she ran away, spending the next three years keeping herself afloat through prostitution and drug dealing.
“The whole time I was gone . . . nobody came to look for me,” said Green. “No one cared, like, ‘Is she okay?’ No missing person’s report. Nothing.”
At 18, Green moved to Virginia where she became involved with her cousin’s gang, posing as a prostitute and robbing unsuspecting johns at gunpoint. The last attempted robbery ended prematurely when the mark was pulled over for a broken indicator light. Green spent three months in prison after pleading guilty to a concealed weapons charge.
“When I was locked up I told God that I would go to church,” said Green of a promise that would change the course of her life.
Having returned to Baltimore after her stint in prison, Green said, she was on her way to a bar to purchase a few drinks and some marijuana when she came across a sign for Victorious Ministries International on York Road and felt something tug her toward the fulfillment of the promise she had made while incarcerated.
“I visited the church for that first time at 18, and I never left,” she said. “And while I was there I got associated with mentors and Pastor Lenora [Howze]. . . she was one of the people who were assigned to me as a mentor and from a mentor relationship I asked her—because I felt like she had a mother spirit — could she be my mother.”
At age 22, Green had finally found a stable family relationship. But a new mother was not the only gift Victorious Ministries provided for Green.
Edwin Johnson, another pastor at the church who also worked in the admissions office of Morgan State University (MSU), helped Green attain her GED and steered her toward admission to the university.
At Morgan, however, the late Army Lt. Col. (Ret.) Joseph Bozeman, at that time the director of the school’s Enrollment Outreach and Veteran Services, voiced skepticsm, noting Green’s criminal record and her only having completed the seventh grade of formal education.
Bozeman insisted on interviewing Green prior to sending out a letter of acceptance, and tasked her with providing five letters of recommendation, as well as a letter detailing how she would pay for Morgan. Green obtained all the necessary references and returned with Howze, by now her adopted mother, and another Victorious Ministries pastor, whose impassioned speeches on her behalf helped win Green a letter of acceptance.
“My words to him were, ‘Mark this date down, because I’m telling you that Morgan State University, should they accept Shanna Green, will be proud to say that she’s a Morgan State University graduate,’” Howze, who is now the AFRO Advertising Director, told the AFRO.
Howze’s words have proved prophetic. Morgan State officials have embraced the Green success story and is promoting it heavily in advance of the May 17 commencement exercises, a ceremony in which Green’s story will be featured.
“Once she realized who she was and the potential that she had, that we helped to show her when she came to my church, she was unstoppable,” said Howze.
Green, who said she could have easily ended up an unknown fatality or just another foster care statistic, credits her faith in God for her transformation, and is now preparing for graduation and for a wedding planned for next October, she said.
While at Morgan, Green started Project D.R.E.A.M. Foster Care United to provide mentors and aid to Morgan students who emerge from the foster care system.
Green raised funds to help provide books, school supplies, and groceries for those students, helping provide a financial bulwark for students with no reliable family to turn to for assistance.
Green is most passionate about her work as a motivational speaker, using her story to impart on persons in similar situations the lesson that the difficulty of their current circumstances need not limit their future horizons.
Green plans to turn Project D.R.E.A.M. into an IRS Sec. 501(c)3 nonprofit organization upon graduating. She said she would also like to see her story made into a book, or perhaps even a movie, noting that she only recounted about one percent of her journey to the AFRO. Green can be contacted for motivational speaking engagements by email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 443-608-1544.