A graduation story: JSU doctoral candidate Sharita Giles refused to become ‘another statistic’

JSU Commencement Fall 2013-4Sharita Giles, a school administrator, is quick to tell her students she’s not susceptible to sob stories about obstacles thwarting success.

Giles, who has two master’s degrees and recently earned a doctorate from Jackson State University, was a homeless, unwed mother at 15.  By age 19, she was singlehandedly raising three children (one was her younger brother). Well on her way to becoming “just another statistic,” Giles decided to change her course.

“To be honest, it was God. I prayed and God placed people in my life strategically to help me along that path to make sure I was able to finish what I started,” says Giles, who received her doctorate in Educational Administration and Supervision during commencement exercises Dec. 13 at the Lee E. Williams Athletics and Assembly Center.

Giles was determined to defy the odds – and naysayers.

“Really, people didn’t expect me to do anything after I got pregnant at 15. At first, it started off as ‘I’m going to show you.’ I’ve always been smart. I graduated from high school with honors,” Giles says. “But I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. I’m doing it for myself.

Sharita Giles-3

“It had always been a childhood goal of mine. When I was around the age of 8, I would tell my little brother and cousin, ‘You will call me Dr. Giles,’ ” she says. “I would always play teacher with them. How in the world did I know anything about a Ph.D.? People around me didn’t have that degree.”

After she got pregnant, Giles moved in with her Grandma Gracie because she had no other place to go. She later lived with other relatives in the Mississippi Delta.

Giles moved into her own apartment when she was 19. She bought her first house when she was 27.

She enrolled at a community college shortly after high school. She went to work on her undergraduate degree at Delta State University when she was 23.  Still a single mom, Giles pursued master’s degrees in Social Science Education and Educational Leadership at DSU while working to take care of her family.

“It was difficult. I was trying to make sure I was able to provide for my children and yet still give them the emotional support and parental support they needed to thrive and be the best they can be,” says Giles.

Giles taught three years at West Bolivar Middle School in Rosedale and was a principal at Amanda Elzy Elementary in Greenwood. She served as principal at McEvans Elementary in Shaw while earning her doctorate.

“I was traveling the highway three nights a week. I wonder how in the world did I do that, but I realize it was by the grace of God,” she says.

Giles is currently assistant principal at the KIPP Delta Elementary Literacy Academy. She uses her life to teach youth about the value of perseverance.

“I’ll ask them, “When you look at Ms. Giles, you think I grew up with a silver spoon in my mouth, right?’ When I tell them all I had to go through, their mouths drop,” she says.

Giles has been an inspiration to her colleagues, as well. Arthur Holmes, a former assistant principal at West Bolivar who supervised Giles, described her as “a lady with an attitude who is willing to take a calculated risk to improve the quality of life for her and her family.”

Giles has begun a higher education legacy in her clan, becoming the first to earn an advanced degree. Her son, Jermal, attends Alcorn State University. Her daughter, LaKourtney, graduated from Northwest Community College in cosmetology.  She also has a 3-year-old daugher, Adaya. Her brother, Mario, manages a hospice.

Stevenson U. Prescott, J.D., a family friend, says Giles “earned every kudo, honor and accolade that has been bestowed upon her. Her personal drive continues to inspire me. She does not know the definition of the word ‘quit.’ ”

Shelia Byrd


  1. Vanessa Hines-Williams says:

    Congratulations Dr. Giles! This life of yours impelled you to go to the top. I’m very so much imposed of what you have done. You have yet inspired young ladies like myself to never quit. May GOD continue to order your footsteps!

  2. Brittney Bowman says:

    An inspirational story that needs to be shared amongst the world. If anyone who is reading my comment please get me Ms. Giles information; so, that she can speak at my church conference.

  3. Charles and Mary Johnson says:

    We are sooo proud of you Sis.Dr. Sharita Giles! God is so Awesome!
    Pastor Charles and Mary Johnson

  4. Justin J. Mathis says:

    Congratulations! I’m blessed to know a person like you. You have been a inspiration to not only me but to the world. I’m so proud of you. I tell Jermel everyday that you have a great mother.

  5. Carol Lipsey says:

    Congrats Dr. Giles!!! Your story is inspiring……I was also a mother at 15. I just recently received a Masters in Environmental Health at MVSU and the thoughts of pursuing a doctorate has been on my mind recently….still haven’t made up my mind but your story is very encouraging. My daughter is currently pursuing a doctorate at JSU.

  6. Bakari Isler says:

    Congrats Dr. Giles! I am so proud of you. Keep up the good work and keep striving the great things in life.

  7. Juno Leggette Jacobs says:

    Dr. Giles: I was just introduced to you Thursday at graduation practice by Dr. Steven Smith. I just read your story—so inspirational. You made it happen!!!

    Dr. Juno Leggette Jacobs

  8. Dianne D. Everett says:

    I’m sure there is more to come! Congratulations.

  9. Tracey Boddie- Sanders says:

    Congratulations Sharita!!! We are so proud of you. To God be the Glory for all the great things He has done and continue to do in our lives. I really don’t know where to start or finish. You have proven in spite of many obstacles that with God all things are possible. You are definitely a great inspiration and a woman that will make anyone or anything a stepping stone if they try to stop you! In the late Stanley Lee”s voice,”Go Head Dr.Giles”

  10. Brian Anderson says:

    Congratulations Dr. Giles!!!

  11. Kimberly Wheeler says:

    Thank You for using your experiences to empower our youth

  12. Ãûðrêý Jàçkšôñ says:

    Çôñgråtülâtîôñš ¡!¡ Sharita!!! Ÿêš, Hé Κ Thèré Ãll Thê Tîmê!!!… Gôd Ïš ÃWÈŠÓMË… Thãñk Ÿôû Fõr Being A POSITIVE Testimony Tô Single & Unwed Moms…

  13. Amelia says:

    Congrats Sharita

  14. Shonta Short says:


  15. carey l sparks says:

    congratulations rita you know there is a god somewhere.

  16. Nicole Richardson says:

    What a way to represent Cleveland, MS. Anything is possible and you have proven that. Congratulation and thanks for showing our youth and teen moms that with a goal and ambition you can accomplish anything. So proud of you. From one Alumi to another!

  17. Yolonda Pilton Campbell says:

    Congratulations Rita! Well deserved!

  18. Mrs. Valerie A. Purry says:

    Wonderful testament to the perseverance of a women of courage and fortitude. Congratulations on your accomplishments!

  19. Dr. U. Callon says:

    This is so inspirational! I sat in class with “Soon to Be Dr. Giles” for years and never knew her story! She doesn’t wear her “past” on her shoulders! I’m SO proud to see your dream come into fruition! Well deserved!

  20. Steven Smith, Ph.D says:

    Dr. Giles we are sooo proud of you, I along with the members of Cohort 2009 are so happy and proud for you!!!! Keep on keeping ON!!!

  21. MT says:


  22. DPS says:

    WOW!!!! I have no excuse, very inspiring!

  23. BoNita Harris says:

    What a wonderful and amazing story. Congratulations!

  24. Krystal Sanders-Pierce says:

    Congratulations Rita! We’re proud of you!! What an amazing story of inspiration and a true testament that the sky really is the limit. To God be the Glory!!

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