Student Profile: Ambassador Sheila is Blessed

Sheila Barnes is easy to spot in the Seeds West classroom. She’s the one in the bedazzled Blessed ball cap. If she hasn’t already welcomed you as a newcomer into the room, it’s only because she’s working with her tutor. Give her a minute or two to look up and she’ll be right over. 

Fifty-four-year-old Sheila is one of the newer Student Ambassadors at Seeds, and she has quite a story.   


The youngest of five, Sheila dropped out of school when she was just 13 to take care of her mom, a chronic alcoholic. “My brothers were in the drug world and I was the one left to care for the house – shopping, cleaning. I dropped out in the 7th grade to parent my mother,” she said.

 Just three months after her mother passed away, Sheila learned she was about to become a mother herself for the first time. She had 8 children between then and 1997, including a set of twins. 

It was the twins father who first introduced her to crack cocaine, sending Sheila on a downward trajectory that spiraled for over a decade. 

To keep her them safe, Sheila gave her children to foster care. “It’s hard to admit, but if I’m being honest, I chose my addiction over them,” she admitted. 

It wasn’t until the early 2000s that Sheila tried to get clean, but it was short-lived. The more she said she wanted to stop, the more her partner brought into the home.

“The longer I was on drugs, the more he was able to control me,” Sheila said. The nightmare continued when he sold their possessions to get more drugs, became more controlling, and abused her even more. 

Sheila finally broke free and has been making positive changes ever since. 

Collage of 3 images - student with a tutor giving thumbs up, a smiling student wearing a baseball hat and glasses, three smiling students in front of map of the United States


After an unsuccessful attempt at another GED program, Sheila saw a flyer for Seeds at her friend’s house and hasn’t looked back. 

“Seeds is the best thing I have done for myself,” she said. “Because it’s for me, for myself. I’m not letting anyone else dictate what I’m doing.” 

On Halloween 2023, Sheila celebrates ten years of hard-earned sobriety. She’s also eight-years cancer- free.

She recently moved into her very first apartment by herself and couldn’t be more excited. “It’s the first place all to myself, sober. And It’s been hard to find a safe place,” she said. “Most places in my price range just weren’t safe.”

She now has a relationship with her children, five of whom were placed in the same household. “The woman who took them in still let me be in their lives. She took excellent care of them.” 

As a Student Ambassador for Seeds, Sheila is in the community, talking to others who have lived hard lives. “If my story can help someone, I’m glad to tell it.”

“Today, I am loving myself and I love my life,” she said, pointing to her ball cap. Blessed. 

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