Boone Returns to Roots to Help Underserved Students
Wednesday, August 24, 2022
Ernestine Boone had high expectations for her daughters. A single mom and nurse, she raised her children on the north side of St. Louis with the knowledge they’d both receive a college education.
She told her girls they had no choice but to earn a degree. Along the way, she instilled a love of learning in her daughters, fostered it and allowed them to find their own paths to a higher education.
LaShanda Boone, the younger of the two sisters, wants everyone who desires an education to have the opportunity to achieve it. Now as the vice president of multicultural student services and chief student affairs officer at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park, that’s her top priority.
“I had this unwavering support, whether within my household or the schools I attended,” Boone said. “It was the support that I find many students don’t have, especially students of color and, of course, first generation students that propelled me to want to excel. It was important to me to be that voice of hope.”
A graduate of a historically black college, Benedict College, Boone fell in love with helping students early on in her career. She received her degree in elementary education and taught third grade. It was during her first year of teaching where she discovered her passion of assisting underserved students.
Prior to STLCC, Boone spent five years at La Salle Charter Schools in north St. Louis, where she served as head of school and chief executive officer. She said she arrived at a critical point in the school’s history – it was underperforming academically. Before accepting her new role at STLCC, she assisted its board of directors in placing the school on a path of continuous growth by achieving charter renewal.
Boone, who anticipates earning her doctorate in the spring, spent 15 years at Harris-Stowe State University in several positions, including vice president of student affairs and enrollment management. There, she helped change the trajectory of the historically black college by leading the effort to build two residence halls, turning it from a commuter school to an institution where students lived on campus.
Boone has spent all but two years of her professional career working directly with students. She finds immense joy in knowing that throughout her career, she offered hundreds of students’ opportunities that they might not otherwise have had if she was not there to shepherd them.
The two years she stepped away from higher education confirmed her desire to get back into it.
During that time, Boone worked for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a student and exchange visitor program stakeholder resource (SEVIS). She was responsible for enhancing national security by ensuring regulatory adherence and SEVIS data integrity for the 228 SEVP-certified schools in her jurisdiction.
It didn’t meet her passion.
“Every time I’d visit a campus or school, I’d sit on the edge of my seat hoping they’d offer me a tour,” Boone said. “It was the pride they exuded in showing off their campus that created a level of excitement in me that was hard to explain. Talking to my mother one day, I said the only part of my job that I’m happy with is when I go on tours, and I missed that more than I realized.”
Her mom pointed out the obvious – Boone was in the wrong job.
“’LaShanda, have you not realized your purpose in life is to serve students consistently on your own campus?’” Boone recalled her mother asking. “’If you haven’t realized that now, you’ll never realize it.’”
Boone went to La Salle but always knew she’d return to higher education. When the position at STLCC opened, she saw it as a sign.
Boone believes the College is a perfect fit.
“I’ve always been intentional about where I submit my resume, and for me it’s about meeting the needs of students who face the most barriers toward success,” she said. “Multicultural student services is a type of educational model that celebrates diversity and equity. It aims to serve all students, especially those historically underrepresented – whether it’s international students, students of color or students with disabilities. They usually face the most barriers toward success.”
Those barriers have helped solidify her life’s work.
“Those students don’t need a handout. They need a hand up,” Boone said. “And it’s my purpose in life to meet student needs. In my role I plan to do just that. I am driven by the purpose of meeting the needs of students who face the most barriers toward their success.”