When college student Shanna McClure suddenly heard a different calling than dental school, her career and technical training enabled her to alter course without major setbacks.
Sometimes you have to take a look around you to figure out where you want to go. For Shanna McClure, it was literally a life-changing moment.
A former SkillsUSA national officer, McClure was sure of her education plans. After graduating from high school, she was going to college and then on to dental school. After all, she had already invested in training as a dental assistant at Eastland Career Center in Groveport, Ohio.
But after she got to Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, her eyes opened to a new purpose in life and her career path took a sudden turn off course.
“I was shocked by the number of factories that surrounded the small town,” McClure explains. “The factories, whether in operation or not, emitted toxins in the air, water and soil on a daily basis.”
“The river was toxic, and you had to avoid swimming in it and fishing from it because of all the pollutants,” she adds.
As far as the student could tell, there was no one willing or able to help the people who were dealing with these toxic conditions. And so, her plans started to shift away from dental school.
“I began to feel a need to help by standing up for stronger laws against these factories who pollute the environment,” McClure says. “I figured the best way to help preserve our environment and lives of people was to become an attorney and take the battle to the courts and work with various environmental agencies to create and enforce new environmental standards.”
The decision was motivated by more than youthful idealism, however. Her crusade is personal. She believes the same kind of pollutants were responsible for her father’s bout with leukemia.
“When I was growing up, my family lived near a farmer’s field. Many of the men who lived within that area of the farm developed some form of cancer; many of the men died,” she says. While it could be a coincidence, McClure is convinced the farm’s use of toxic chemicals were a contributing factor.
Fortunately, her father has been in remission for three years. “Once two more years pass, then we can breathe a sigh of relief,” she adds.
With new goals in sight, McClure transferred to Ohio State University to finish her undergraduate work. Now it’s on to law school just not right away.
“I am taking a year off so I can make a little money before I enter three years of intense schooling,” she explains.
Despite the change in plans, McClure’s investment at the career center will pay off. To earn her way through law school, she’ll be working as a dental assistant.
SkillsUSA Champions | Summer 2005 | Volume 39, No. 4