Bedford Public Schools Black Excellence Series: Sharla Nicholas BHS ’07

This is a portion of the weekly Superintendent’s Update by Cliff Chuang mailed to Bedford Public School community on Friday, Jan. 19. Please find this week’s full issue of Superintendent’s Update and back issues at bedfordps.org.

Note: This is part of an ongoing series of features sharing the stories of BPS alums, taking us into and out of Black History Month in February, highlighted on this BPS Black Excellence Site put together by Lisa Morrison, JGMS STEM teacher.

Sharla Nicholas – Class of 2007

Growing up in Roxbury when I attended Boston Public Schools, I always felt “smarter” or more “proper” than my classmates and friends. My parents enrolled me into METCO where I started middle school at JGMS. There, I really began to feel out of place. I was a young African-American lady from Roxbury riding a school bus 45 minutes out of Boston to go to a predominately white school.

It was extremely different and scary at the beginning, but as time went on, I loved it. Now, I admit, I wasn’t the best student academically. I grew up in a very abusive environment and it was extremely hard for me to focus on my education when home life really began taking a toll on me. The school became an outlet, an escape, and a place to hang out and feel free. With that mindset, I struggled to graduate high school! I was suffering, with my mental health from the trauma at home, and college definitely was not on my radar.

At the end of my junior year of high school and all through senior year, I was homeless. While the most exciting times was looking forward to celebrating our achievements and closing out school with our friends, I was worried about finding a place to sleep every night, and going days without eating.

After graduating high school in 2007, I went straight to work. I had to get on my feet, get a roof over my head, and gain stability. My first job was at Dunkin'[ Donuts and that started the chain of work.

I worked many retail jobs, making minimum wage for about six years post-high school, still suffering from homelessness, and never really having any type of stability. Life was NOT EASY!

It wasn’t until 2013 that I decided to go to school to try to find a career for myself. While taking prerequisites, I learned of a surgical tech program that looked interesting and decided to enroll.

I graduated in 2016 with a 3.5 GPA and began working for one of the top trauma centers in Boston. I was their lead surgical tech and grew rapidly in my career. This experience was the first time I ever felt like I was doing life correctly. I rented my first apartment and finally, at age 27, had a home for myself.

With my career, I was able to travel around the country and work and live in many different states and cities! It was exciting and one of the best experiences I’ve ever had to this day.

In 2020, the pandemic hit. Healthcare took a drastic turn and was no longer a good fit, so I stepped away from the medical field. In 2022, I started my first business. At 33 years old in 2023, I am now the CEO of a very successful jewelry business and getting ready to launch my second business, a lifestyle brand for self-love.

The moral of the story is, no matter where you come from, or what your background is, we all have an opportunity. Your success depends on you and setting a goal for what you want to achieve in life. Success isn’t determined by your color, gender, or upbringing. It’s determined by you!

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