Shamia Turlington

Age: 24
Home: Millsboro, Delaware
Education: 2011 Sussex Technical High School graduate
2016 Clark Atlanta University graduate with a bachelor’s in social work

Shamia is a graduate student at New York University (NYU) pursuing a master’s in social work

The future is very bright for Shamia Turlington. She is a first-generation college graduate currently working on her master’s degree in social work at New York University. Her inspiring journey began when she was a girl already aware that she wanted to go to college.  Without a family member to show her the ropes of finding and paying for college and coming from a single-parent home, she faced a few obstacles. But she found lots of support, from her high school counselor who discussed tuition-assistance programs to her aunt who helped her with all the applications and, of course, her mother, Lori McCray, who encouraged and supported her every step of the way — and even enlisted guidance from her supervisor, who stressed the importance of looking at the quality of the program she wanted to study instead of the school.

To cut costs, Shamia attended Delaware State Technical College on the Seed Program for the first two years, transferring to Clark Atlanta College for her bachelor’s. Two professors and mentors at Clark Atlanta strengthened her self-confidence and helped her understand that she could go as far as she desired in her educational pursuits. They were influential in encouraging her to pursue graduate studies at NYU.

The hardest part for Shamia and Lori was the initial separation when Shamia moved to Atlanta. Shamia felt unsure of how she would react away from home in a large city, without her family and friends for support. Lori worried too, but kept the big picture in mind — making sacrifices to achieve bigger goals. She was extremely proud of her daughter. As the oldest child in the family, Shamia leads the way for her two younger siblings.

“Don’t let the fear of financially not being able to afford it hold you back, because there are ways around it.”


Lori McCray has enjoyed many new experiences as a first-generation mother

Lori, a single mother and hotel housekeeper, talks about how proud she is of her daughter’s accomplishments and growth. She also discusses how Shamia’s experiences are now inspiring her younger siblings.

“She has really accomplished goals that I had, but I just always pushed them back.”

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