They epitomize all that is great about Lynn and — here’s even better news — they are just getting started. Shaneil Nelson attended Lynn Vocational Technical Institute (LVTI) and Ivanna Solano went to Lynn Public Schools before becoming a teacher. Both women have wasted no time forging their characters to make themselves role models for girls.
Solano credits Girls Inc. with helping her overcome the bullying she faced as an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. Nelson lived in a Milford homeless shelter when she started attending LVTI. Last week she was a guest of honor at the annual Friendly Knights of St. Patrick dinner and awards evening.
With Gov. Baker in attendance, Nelson accepted a $20,000 scholarship, exclaiming, “It means I can go to college.” Solano used the mentoring she received at Girls Inc. and her Lynn education to get a job at a school in Boston where she joined forces with two other women to launch their Love Your Magic Conference.
Like Nelson, who refused to let homelessness define her educational experience and restrict her goals, Solano and her friends were not intimidated by debuting an event so small they ended up subsidizing Love Your Magic out of their own pockets.
Starting small didn’t prevent the women from embracing a huge topic encompassed by the book, “Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools” by Monique W. Morris. The book addresses how girls can learn about their cultures and embrace their identities.
Taking Morris’ lessons to heart and building on her Girls Inc. experiences, Solano worked to orient Love Your Magic around lessons on how girls can speak up for themselves.
“Loving your magic means to love who you are,” said Arianna Carias, a student who attended the first Love Your Magic conference.
The second conference scheduled for April 7 at UP Academy Holland in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood will expand on a theme that is very familiar to Nelson.
Already a certified nursing assistant in a Lynn nursing home, Nelson learned at a young age that adversity and opportunity each spell success if they are focused like a laser on a single goal. She is focused on her future. She has been accepted to colleges and, thanks to the Friendly Knights, she is well on her way to achieving her goals.
There are dozens of other young women like Solano and Nelson who call Lynn home or trace their roots to the city. They can clearly see their dreams, but those dreams are always getting bigger. The job she does now could be a springboard for Nelson to become a doctor. The Love Your Magic conference could be the starting point for Solano to become an inspiring author and social thinker.
For Nelson and Solano, the sky is the limit and the great news for Lynn is that both women aren’t likely to forget where they came from as they hurry up the ladder rungs of life.