She runs two organizations from home, created a charity focused on helping veterans with PTSD and holds community events to raise awareness. She also helps personal brands and businesses benefit from innovative solutions. Oh, and did we mention she's a mother of two?
Meet Sha'kiya Morris, a junior at Arizona State University studying sustainability online. "To me, sustainability means an opportunity to practice mindfulness," Morris said. "I believe that with collaboration, transparency, and an openness to understanding, we can take our species to another level. But to evolve, we must first become involved."
In the following Q&A, we discuss her life, the reasons she created her organizations and why she decided to study sustainability at ASU.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
A: I grew up in Peoria, Illinois, in a lower middle-class military family and interracial home. Both my parents were from low income families and were no stranger to sacrifice and struggles. My mother was a stay at home parent and never showed us these struggles. This gave me my first glimpse into the complex world we live in. My parents also inspired me with a love for cooking and design. This led me to develop an affection for helping people feed their minds and bodies.
A military family is a family of high value in principles and this is something I carry with me every day. Understanding the struggles and inequities that my parents faced, I feel that I can in some way begin to create a solution for their struggle, a struggle that so many still fight today and the reason that I got into the focus to explore sustainability.
Since I was young, I have always used my time to help others, guided by my awareness of the moral and ethical impacts our actions can have. My journey has not been without obstacles but I see then as necessary because I needed to make the mistakes that would get me where I am today and learn from them.
I didn’t do so well in high school as my main focus was sports and community involvement. Nothing else mattered. But I had a coach and an art teacher who seen in me what I couldn’t see in myself: A leader. A creator. An innovator.
Shortly after a serious conversation about the fate of my future, I found out that I had received a scholarship to play soccer in college. I thought, "I made it.” Then shortly thereafter I found out I had gotten another scholarship for my artwork. I thought, “Wow! I have really done it. I'm the first in my family, YES! I have made it."
I thought that I could continue the same work ethic and still get the same results in college. I thought.
Though this was not the case, I put all of my hard work and effort into training into building up my physical being so that I was able to execute on the field. I had been putting my schoolwork in total disregard. This made me just take a step back and look at what I'm doing and what I wanted to do. I realized that I was not happy with what I had chosen to do.
"I have to change; is it too late?" I thought.
It's kind of funny how life throws curve balls at you and as things began to turn around for the best, I ended up pregnant. This put a huge stick in the road because I hadn't prepared for this. Remembering my principles, I chose to take on the responsibility and become a mother. By putting my dreams aside, I was able to understand and be more connected socially. When you have children, certain things become clearer and easily put into perspective than without.
Today, I am a stay at home mom of two, podcast host, community leader, author and owner. I don’t think that I would have been able to do all of this without the support of my family, close connections and network.
My work is not over. Every day, I try to empower those around me to see in themselves what they have yet to see. Holding the mirror up is something that I and my tribe of business leaders follow to help inspire others to be their own version of greatness. Because in this amazing world of beauty the most unique and majestic experience is when you can just be yourself.
Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study sustainability?
A: I ended up returning to school later on where I initially chose to pursue an interior design degree. However, I wanted to approach it in a way of knowledge in policy and the way it impacts larger populations. To do that, I would have required extra schooling so I just decided to look for sustainability degree options.
Q: Why did you choose Arizona State University and the School of Sustainability?
A: I was drawn to ASU and the School of Sustainability after reading many reviews about the school, the curriculum and the outcome of the degree. It seemed to be really fitting and resonated with my end goal to help create innovative, equitable and regenerative solutions.
Q: How do you envision applying sustainability to your future career?
A: I hope to become an influential leader in sustainability, using biophilic and sustainable development to create equitable development for lower income areas. I would also like to do this while fighting for fair policies and access to resources for the preservation of humanity. I believe in building up the spirit and encouraging more morality and dignity to create a platform that develops a prosperous future where ecological gentrification is reduced.
Q: Why did you feel it was important to create your own organizations, “The InternCollective” and “The Powers of Her”?
A: I began the InternCollective to help businesses, entrepreneurs, students and others build qualitative relationships and help the environment. By offering a one-on-one or team consultation and coaching services, I hope to provide people with the tools and platform to truly evolve, professionally and mentally. My goal is to encourage members of the community to become more active and involved in generating solutions to improve the current way of community involvement and value of the environment. I offer a personal and engaging approach to aiding students and/or business professionals looking to get into sustainability, natural sciences, green-tech, and/or business management fields with experience and resources that will help their career.
I started The Powers of HER publishing and Podcast (TPOH) to get my voice and other business leaders heard. Children in particular need to have an understanding of the changes in the world and how they can use their imagination and science to solve technical problems. So I began writing books to help children understand alternative resources and to provide information on sustainable techniques and principles. Understanding the risks that we face can help innovate creative solutions.
TPOH became a way to reach out and connect with people who are out there truly trying to make a difference. I began collaborating with city organizations and companies such as UCapture, GOEFER and ReGenFriends; nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity, Lions Club and Goodwill Ambassadors; and empowerment artists such as Rob Howze. Coming together, we put our words to action by educating and connecting with the communities. I will continue to use my voice to create awareness about the environment, sustainability and community involvement that promotes the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
I aim to showcasecompanies and individuals who are making HUGE impacts in their community and for the environment and make connections with amazing people — people who have lifted me and helped with my confidence, helped me understand that my mission is not over, it really is just the beginning. TPOH has become a way to deepen the dialogue about sustainability and raise awareness while having great conversations with game changers and those who think outside the box.
These projects have really pushed me to understand mindfulness and the dynamics and complexities that are involved when trying to deal with not having equitable access to resources and/or opportunity whether it be based on location, race or gender.
Q: What experiences inspired you to establish your charity, Resilient Heroes Sustainable Action (RHSA)?
A: My father suffers from PTSD due to his service in the military, and the many men, women and children who suffer from PTSD have to fight a battle every day that no one sees. Why? We have the technology and information readily available. Yet, often times I hear, “Did they tell you?” or “How’d you figure it out?” People who suffer from PTSD often times don’t reach out to ask for help, and sometimes it is too late.
RHSA is a platform for veterans and children who suffer from PTSD to have a chance at a better tomorrow, because the sky is always blue, even if sometimes clouds get in the way. I want the kids to understand that a soldier’s sacrifice is for their freedom and the soldier can see the children lifting up that dream of a better future.
Furthermore, RHSA will donate services and throw fundraisers to aid veterans and teens who suffer from PTSD. I and a team will aid individuals in receiving the services that are necessary while performing team-building and community-building exercises. We will inform communities about how they can be helpful and aware of the members of their community who suffer from PTSD.
Q: How did you come up with the idea to write “The Adventures of Ben and Rug-B”?
A: This was and is exciting! I have for years wanted to write books, cookbooks, calendars and sci-fi illustrative adventures. So, I decided just to go for it and began to write a book about my favorite drinking receptacle, a Re-Usable Glass Bottle, and Rug-B was born. I am a huge fan of hidden object games and added games and a fun design-your-own-invention page.
I created several versions and was inspired by the story about the turtles in the Caribbean who oftentimes get lost on their way to the ocean and end up caught in plastic debris and other beach garbage, or run over because they are distracted by the lights. While raising awareness, my books will provide children with a chance to imagine a future they can be a part of — a chance to look at a problem and try to fix it. To inform them about how to become citizen scientists, today. I hope to inspire innovation, to evolve the understanding of our connection to the planet and each other, while teaching children about equitable actions, social and developmental design, and resource management.
This prompted me to bring together what I'm learning and what I feel, and I want my children and other children to be influenced by the innovations of tomorrow. In the book, I highlight how even though externally we may go through changes, what is inside us never will, and that we are all able to be connected through positive actions to promote prosperous change.
I am currently working on “Renewable Energy for kiddos! Parents can learn, too!” It will be an illustrative and informative book that explores the mechanics of renewable energy technology and how it impacts the daily lives of people. It will be out January 2020.