Here comes the sun
The tenacity of Shantell McLaggan, 17, may have been born of a hardship, but it’s a legacy that memorializes her mother.
Dorna McLaggan, mother of this year’s winner of the Martin Luther King Social Action Committee’s oratorical contest held Jan. 19, died when her daughter was merely in the second grade. This journey inspipred Shantell to write the winning entry, “Here Comes the Sun.”
“Before she was gone, she did a lot of things for me, such as dress me, do my hair, or walk me to the bus stop, which I now had to do on my own,” said Shantell McLaggan. “The death of my mother made me become more independent and gave me the responsibility of helping my father look after my two younger siblings.”
McLaggan attends Davidson Early College High School. She’s one of seven children.
“I was born in Brampton, Ontario, and lived for five years in Brampton and Toronto, Ontario in Canada. My parents were born and raised in Jamaica. When we settled in North Carolina, I started school at Hasty Elementary.”
She has always been a straight A student — an ambitious student.
“While I have known I wanted to become an OB/GYN since I was 4, the steps, along with the drive to do it, became clearer to me with age,” she said.
Her desire to achieve goes beyond academics.
She attends Real Life Church of the Triad, where she volunteers in children’s programs, and plays and sings in the praise band.
“I consider the people at my church like family to me,” she said. “The congregation is small, so I feel as though we are closely connected. I was raised in church and my faith is a big part of who I am.”
She rounds out her activities with reading, writing stories, poems, music, exercising and playing her bass guitar and clarinet. She loves to cook and bake.
After high school graduation, she plans to attend the University of Miami or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She wants to major in French, possibly in women’s studies and attend medical school. After gaining experience in a hospital, she wants to join Doctors Without Borders and open a hospital in her parents’ home country of Jamaica.
“She is very conscientious and very diligent in whatever she does,” said Clifford McLaggan, Shantell’s father. “I’m proud of her achievements.”
The Rev. Dr. George Jackson, founder and director of the MLK Social Action committee, was proud of all the contestants for being able to capture the essence of the oration theme, “Clear Skies After Rain.”
“The most renowned speech given by Dr. King was the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. It talks about overcoming adversity and embracing a promising tomorrow,” Jackson said. “All 12 of the contestants were profound in being able to articulate how we as a nation and as people have dealt with adversity, but always overcome it, like coming out of a storm.”
McLaggan finds gratification in all her achievements and the voice of her mother still rings strong.
“My mother is the reason behind my success,” she said. “I live my life the way that she would want me to live, and that is my greatest joy.”
Clifford McLaggan envisions Shantell’s mother, Dorna, looking down and saying, “There goes my girl and I’m proud of her.”
Community News Editor Kathy Stuart may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-3590.
Here is Shantell's oration:
Martin Luther King, Jr. Social Action Committee, Reverend Clergy, distinguished elected officials, educators, family, and friends, my name is Shantell McLaggan.
I am a senior at Davidson Early College High School and it is my esteemed pleasure to present to you today my oration, “Here Comes the Sun.”
During certain times in our lives, we feel as though we are dealt more cards than we could possibly afford to play. We feel as though we are stuck in the deepest and darkest pit and that failure is inevitable, God is unreliable and our loved ones are undependable. Situations arise in which we try to fight and run, but even our best attempts won't suffice.
Sometimes, we may even feel that our own lives are not worth putting the effort forth necessary for us to continue to live. However, I assure you, whatever trial, struggle, or hardship your life is battling is only temporary.
The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes chapter three that everything has its season, both the good and the bad. While there is a time to weep, there will also always be a time to laugh not far behind it. And I can promise that in the season of laughter and rejoicing, the joy that we will feel will be so much sweeter after a long season of weeping.
I can remember the day like it was yesterday, May 5, 2003. It was on this shocking day that my mother's life had ended. I was a mere child, barely 8 years old, with two siblings even younger than I. My father, as shocked and devastated as any father and husband would be, was left alone with three small children to nurture and love all by himself. We had nothing and without her, we were nothing. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and eventually those months into years, but the turmoil and utter sadness that we all felt did not seem to subside.
Later on in my life, however, I know that God had heard my cries because He blessed me with the joy of His spirit. I knew that the mourning and weeping time in my life had come to a close, and that a vivacious and uplifting season had begun. I knew that I had a reason to smile, a reason to live and a purpose to serve. The stormy and opaque weather was no more and sunshine had graced me with its light and beauty.
As I take moments to ponder my situation and how I overcame it, I am often reminded of the Hebrew people during the books of Genesis and Exodus. You see, for generations, the Israelites were slaves of the Egyptian people. They worked day in and day out, faced starvation, cruel deaths; the spectrum of their suffering is a broad one. To say that they went through a tough time would be a major understatement.
But after many years, God answered the cries of his people. He ended their season of suffering and freed them from the bondage of the Egyptians. He ended their life-long heartache and prepared a way for them to live better lives. Yes, God definitely saw the storm, raining down upon the poor Israelites. But He knew something that the children of Israel didn't know, and that is that it takes a season of rain to nourish the flowers. Without the hardships they faced, finally leaving Egypt would not have seemed as precious as it was. They would not know what it meant to have a better life had they not been in bondage throughout the centuries.
All of the tears wept, all of the hearts broken, all of the relationships destroyed, the time wasted, the suffering, these things are all a part of the storm. These are all a part of the darkness and chaos that we think we cannot make it through. However, I encourage you to look to the east and know that the sun is coming. The famous song by The Beatles, “Here Comes the Sun,” says it best when they say this: “Little darling, it's been a long, cold, lonely winter. Little darling, I feel the ice is slowly melting. It feels like years since it's been clear. Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say, 'It's alright. It's alright.' ”
Take heed of the words in this song. Look and see that the winter is gone away and the sun is coming again to bring its warmth and serenity. Look and see that the cold, lonely, dark periods of life are never permanent. Look and see that after the disarray subsides that life becomes clear. Look and see that the problems of this life are slowly melting, the rain is gone, and the sun prevails. Look and always rest assured that it's alright. It's alright.
In closing, it has been an honor to compete for this prestigious scholarship award. I want to thank the Martin Luther King, Jr. Social Action Committee for this opportunity.
Again, I am Shantell McLaggan. Thank you for listening to my oration, “Here Comes the Sun.”