La’Shanda Hawkins’ big dreams fly high.
She is the first African-American female helicopter pilot in the United States Coast Guard. In her 17 years with the Coast Guard, she served as a Law Enforcement and Intelligence Division Head and Aircraft Commander who amassed over 2,000 flight hours conducting search and rescue, counter drug, law enforcement, and Presidential air-intercept missions. In 2015, she was appointed as a White House Fellow by President Barack Obama and later went on to serve as the Special Assistant to the NASA Administrator General Charles F. Bolden and Deputy Liaison to the U.S. Senate.
La’Shanda’s accomplishments—too innumerable to list here—are impressive on their own merits. What makes her truly inspirational is how she got to where she is today.
La’Shanda grew up in the American foster care system. While she didn’t spend a lot of time in foster care, she said that her time in care felt like a lifetime. “I lived with strangers who didn’t want me there. I dragged my clothes and shoes in trash bags because I didn’t have a suitcase. I transitioned from foster homes to a group home and back to foster homes and got kicked out of one home for exposing negligence to my social worker…the list goes on,” La’Shanda said.
In the midst of her struggles, La’Shanda found inner strength in the promise of a better future that could only come from her taking ownership of her life. She responded to her suffering and surroundings by making decisions and taking action to propel her to where she is today. “I used to have a personal mantra, ‘I’ll show you one day, just wait’… I am so proud of that little girl that stuck with it, and kept moving forward.”
La’Shanda has much to be proud of, not only for all that she has achieved, but what she continues to do today. She inspires others through the storytelling of her incredible life’s journey and has advocated, supported, and been a voice for youth in foster care.
La’Shanda recently offered her foster care expertise to the Connect Our Kids trauma-informed video series geared towards youth 14-26. This youth-centric series highlights how trauma affects the brain and development and can be used as a tool to prepare these young people for new and lifelong connections. La’Shanda has contributed to the series’ content and narrated our video on Personal Boundaries so that kids can know how to set boundaries, and learn how to have a healthy and secure relationship with others.
“I feel I owe it to young people and adults affiliated with the foster care system to share my story and contribute in thoughtful and innovative ways,” La’Shanda said.
La’Shanda says she’s a Connect Our Kids contributor because she believes in the leadership and vision of our organization. She will be representing us at the upcoming FamilySearch RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City, Utah on March 2-4th, which is a free global family history event, held virtually, where people of all ages learn to discover, share, and celebrate their family connections across generations using technology.
La’Shanda will be at RootsTech advocating our tools to the public and educating leaders on what children in foster care go through with her personal story. We are proud to know La’Shanda and embrace her as a pivotal part of our Connect Our Kids team.
Thank you, La’Shanda Hawkins for being an inspiration and helping the next generation of youth in foster care.
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