Mid-South Hero: Helping youth overcome trauma and adversity with ‘UCAN’

Published: Nov. 4, 2022 at 11:09 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Overcoming trauma and adversity, and helping others do the same, October’s Mid-South Hero has a promise that she intends to keep.

“It’s not about me. It’s about me actually helping our youth, it’s about me making a difference for them, it’s about me giving the impact that they need in order to be our future leaders because we definitely need some great future leaders right now,” said Leshundra Robinson.

Robinson always knew she had a passion for helping others.

“Non-profit has always been my dream job, and the reason why is because I love giving back to the community,” she said.

Seeing a need to give our community’s youth guidance, mentorship, and training, she co-founded an organization in Memphis called UCAN.

“UCAN stands for U Can Achieve Now,” said Robinson. “Our mission is to strengthen young adolescents through mentoring, workforce development, and bullying awareness which will bring positive growth in the community.”

“When I created the organization I wanted to really help those individuals who were looking for mentorship, who were looking for guidance, who wanted to have that leadership, who wanted to be able to make the next move for their future, but just need a little help along the way. We see so much violence going on and we see so many students that are acting out, but they really just want that attention that they’re not receiving at home.”

UCAN uses programs, like Blazers and Pearls, to train students in workforce readiness and character development, and give them positive attention.

“Think about this. Every time a gentleman wears a blazer, his demeanor changes, his attitude changes, every time a young lady wears pearls, her attitude changes, her demeanor and her walk changes and we bring in different topics for them that are going to be based upon workforce readiness, or for our middle schoolers, more on character building,” said Robinson. “Sometimes we bring in guest speakers who are people who look like them, people who have been through what they’ve been through, and those individuals - community leaders -  that want to see our youth be more engaging and active in the community.”

Another part of UCAN’s mission is to help our youth overcome traumatic ACES or Adverse Childhood Events.

“Trauma is something that is always brought into our lives, but we have to learn how to overcome those adversities, we have to learn how to overcome those obstacles,” said Robinson.

In 2011, Robinson experienced her own life-changing trauma. She found out that her brother had committed suicide. She later found out, that he was bullied as a child.

Through the heartbreak, she remembered a promise her brother had asked her to keep. A promise that continues to push her forward today.

“I had to remember he left and said, ‘You have to promise me to go and help everybody else. You have to promise me to tell everybody else it’s OK to get help,” said Robinson. “Don’t be like me. Do not take away your life because of something that was rough.”

Realizing what an issue bullying was among the youth, she added a bullying prevention program to UCAN that encourages students to speak up if they’ve been bullied.

“And it’s not just the ones being bullied, it’s the ones doing the act of bullying,” said Robinson. “Let’s talk to them and find out what’s going on…so let’s have that conversation, and we don’t have a problem having that conversation. I don’t consider myself as a hero. I consider myself as being a part of a community that is helping so many youth to achieve their own success. Because just like UCAN says, “U Can Achieve Now,” and I want to make sure that they can achieve exactly what that says.”

Congratulations Leshundra, you are this month’s Mid-South Hero!

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