Dream Path Education Advocacy Coordinator
Muriel Shackleford is an ardent believer in the resilience of the human spirit and value of education in helping others realize their inherent potential. She has known director Sheila Burton since 1993 when the two worked together at Land of Lincoln Legal Aid. As colleagues for over 20 years, Sheila witnessed Muriel’s many talents in legal, health and educational advocacy matters, making her the perfect fit to advance the mission at Join Hands. She started working alongside Sheila on various Join Hands initiatives while at Land of Lincoln, often meeting in the homes of those she served. When Join Hands secured a facility in 2016, the Ubuntu Center for Peace, Muriel went full-time as Sheila’s right hand, helping to grow programs and advocacy services.
Her calming and welcoming presence radiates a positive energy, expressing the love and peace she conveys to all who meet her. As Muriel says, “We do sweet advocacy around here. We stay calm and cool under all circumstances.” Her day-to-day responsibilities vary as she supports the entire team at Join Hands, overseeing multiple projects. Some days she is advocating on behalf of children and teens, other days, she is supporting parents who want to complete a high school degree or beyond. She is very proud of a new Join Hands program for parents and grandparents who want to attain a high school diploma. But the most important objective for Muriel in her daily work is letting those she serves know they have value and dignity. “I want the men, women and children I see every day to know there is light at the end of the tunnel,” she says. “I have been through the fire and you don’t come out burned. You come out golden.” Muriel also says that success at Join Hands is euphoric. With the organization’s loving and non-judgmental approach, “things just happen!”
In addition to her official responsibilities, Muriel is very much like the grandmother at Join Hands. She has known several East St. Louis families for multiple generations and feels so blessed to be part of an organization she considers family. The team at Join Hands feels the same way; Muriel has been instrumental in making Join Hands a beacon of hope in East St. Louis. On a personal note, Muriel’s son is her biggest achievement. “I am so proud of the man he has become, and I realize all the credit goes to my faith in our creator.” Time with her son, daughter-in-law and grandson is her greatest joy, and she also enjoys reading, playing piano, and volunteering at her church. Muriel is a graduate of Southern Illinois University.