Business Alum Shane Watson Manages Program Focused on Empowering Youth of Lake County

In 2014, Shane Watson was a Crossroads to Freedom video producer/editor and one of the Rhodes College students who traveled to Lake County, TN (74 miles north of Memphis) to interview community members about the various aspects of their lives and the county’s assets. Watson and other Rhodes team members worked with Team 4 Success, a non-profit organization made up of current and former Lake County residents, including Rhodes Board Chair Bill Michaelcheck ’69, and as a result created a documentary about Lake County.

Watson, who also graduated in 2014 with a B.A. in business, is a Community Development Fellow for Rhodes/Director of Team 4 Success and has been managing the Lake County Summer Enrichment Program designed for sixth through ninth grade students. Held in Tiptonville from June 1 to July 9, the program was hosted by Team 4 Success, whose aim is to empower the students of Lake County. Students participated in activities dealing with character building, college planning, goal setting, career exploration, and money management.

“Our day-long Life Simulation started with the students selecting a career from a set of envelopes of careers that fell within the category they wanted,” explains Watson. “We chose to do this because when students attend college, they don’t always get the exact job they set out for, but usually get a job within the same category (medical, law, etc.). Once students selected an envelope, they would find listed a job title, job description, educational requirements, and the salary for an experienced, average, and entry level position.”

To prepare for the Life Simulation, Watson says each student was given a pretend paycheck every two weeks throughout the summer program. The check could be deposited into and withdrawn from Team 4 Success’ make-believe bank (excel document on computer). “Then the students chose which type of housing they wanted—a house, an apartment, or a downtown apartment based on prices listed and in which city they wanted to live in.”

Students also had to make decisions about insurance, transportation, and utilities as well as expenses for entertainment, student loans, phone, cable, internet, etc.

“Throughout the simulation, the students had to keep track of their expenses and do the math by hand so that they could practice their math skills,” says Watson. “At the end, we found that some students were in debt while others had plenty of money left over. The program was a great success and would not have been without our partnership with Mr. Craig Clay and the St. John Missionary Baptist Church #3 feeding program, our volunteers, the F.O.C.U.S.S students, and my co-worker Mr. Greg Ross.”

The summer program also included field trips to Downtown Memphis/the National Civil Rights Museum, Discovery Park of America, Union University, and a movie theatre. As part of Team 4 Success’ F.O.C.U.S.S program, a group of older students also produced a film titled “The Tale of Two Cities: Tiptonville & Ridgely” that was shown to the public.

Also as the director of Team 4 Success, Watson collaborated with community members to repurpose an abandoned building as an academic and community center for teenagers, and he was a school volunteer.

As a student, Watson made a film titled “Untold Stories” that was selected for the 17th Annual Indie Memphis Film Festival. He has been accepted to film school (California College of the Arts) in San Francisco.

“At Rhodes College, I was able to explore my variety of interests,” he says. “My Topics in Performance class taught by Professor Julia Ewing (Cookie) and film course taught by Professor Liz Daggett definitely helped me realize my passion for visual motion art. Working with Crossroads to Freedom allowed me to the unique opportunity to work with community members to produce a documentary. I also have to thank Ms. Dorothy Cox, Dee Birnbaum—my professor and academic advisor, and Career Services for helping me out this past year.”