By Roberta O. Roberts, Esq. of Grace for the Grind™ • October 12, 2019•Law School, Pre-Law, Issues, Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Other Forms of Discrimination, Other Issues, Features, Guest Bloggers and Profiles of Women in the Law
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month,  so this article shares the story of a pre-law student who started her own nonprofit organization for survivors of domestic violence after surviving domestic violence herself. I am honored to share this conversational interview I had with Ronshanda “Nikki” Chaney about how she found purpose from her pain and in turn helps others heal through her novels and organization, Heel My Heart.
Nikki, thank you so much for taking time to answer questions for me as the October member spotlight for Grace for the Grind™ Career Mastermind! Let’s start off with an introductory question; what is your career background and where are you in your education now?
I worked as a paralegal for several years specializing in bankruptcy law but also concentrating in family and criminal law before hanging up my career hat to be an at-home mom full-time. I currently attend Clayton State University in Morrow, GA, majoring in Legal Studies, with a background education (Advanced Paralegal Certification) in Victim Advocacy from University of Georgia. After college, I would like to attend Howard University School of Law and become a federal prosecutor.
That’s amazing that you are attending school after being a stay-at-home mom. What makes you want to attend law school and become a federal prosecutor?
I am a survivor of domestic violence and abuse and law has always been a passion of mine. I, too, share a passion for women who lack the financial means to acquire legal representation for crimes against them. I believe that it takes passion in order to change anything around us. Having passion propels you to great levels of performance. As an attorney, I will strive to be the change that humanity desires.
Heel My Heart (because a woman is unstoppable in heels) was first established as an outlet for me. As a domestic violence survivor, feeling no outside support’s assistance, not including safe havens but just a warm environment of other individuals in my situation that I could vent to and be transparent with, excluding any judgments, was something I desired. In implementing my organization and “heeling,” as I like to use, I knew it was imperative to share this warmth with others. I created a program, similar to the one that I journeyed through, and took the necessary steps to structure a 501c(3) organization.
I love how you really became the change you wished to see in the world, as the quote goes. What programs does Heel My Heart offer?
As an outlet for domestic violence victims and survivors, we provide assistance to individuals based on their needs. This includes but is not limited to assisting with resume and cover letter preparation; supplying appropriate business attire for employment interviews, to include makeup and hair; speaking on their behalf as a reference for employment; assisting with filing temporary protective orders; assisting with divorce proceedings; counseling, and finding immediate shelter for those who are in emergency situations. As a foundation, we also speak at events and donate, on a consistent basis, bedding, clothing, transportation vouchers, and food sources for five different haven homes in the state of Georgia. Although located in Georgia, we do not limit our services to only our area; any woman in need is urged to reach out and we can see what services that we can provide.
My novels are my written testimonies to encourage, educate, and empower victims and survivors. Initially, I wrote as a form of therapeutic release. God eventually revealed to me that writing was a way to speak about my testimony globally. It was my purpose to share my blessings and how God brought me out of those situations in fashion and grace, as only He can do. “Till Death Do Him Part” was the first novel I wrote to share my experiences with domestic violence. “He Ain't Dead Yet” was the continuation of abusive relationships that I endured, and “Strut 2 Success” is a self-help journal that I wrote to inspire victims of abuse to strut forward and realize that there is an abundant life awaiting after such trials and tribulations. I know that my testimony has helped many and for that, I’m grateful and I can imagine that God is pleased. The sales of my novels also fund Heel My Heart.
That is beautiful, Nikki. How did/does your faith in God help you with your experience and endeavors?
Without God, I wouldn’t be able to do anything. I was introduced to Christ as a child. My family is a praying family. Yes, I’ve journeyed down a lot of paths that took me away from God but knowing that He still loved me and protected me and my family, I wouldn’t do anything less than to serve Him forever. He continues to look out for me in times that I only realize later, like yup, that was a “God Thang” there. Excuse my slang, but God is "The Man."
Amen! What tips do you have to share for those who want to start their own nonprofit organization or pro bono project?
If you breathe it, sleep it, think it, then pursue it. Passion is key. God will not birth you with a vision that He doesn’t intend to carry out. Seek first Him. Starting an organization shouldn’t be about money. If that’s your motivation, please don’t initiate this. Yes, it takes money to start and grow, however, there are so many opportunities at your fingertips and many others that will be willing to assist you in getting started. Don’t hesitate to reach out to organizations and businesses that are relative to your cause and even now, social media. There is help for you. Just go for it.
Awesome advice. Before we go, what is the importance of being part of a community like Grace for the Grind Career Mastermind?
I wanted to say that I’m not sure how this came about but again I realized, this was a “God Thang.” I was introduced to this wonderful group by an extended invite from the founder and facilitator, Ms. Roberta, through, you guessed it, social media. God will isolate us many times throughout life when He requires our attention. It will be a period of loneliness and yes, may even feel like depression, but during these times He’s weeding out the old and preparing us for a new harvest. This is what Grace for the Grind Career Mastermind has been for me. My new start. My reaped harvest. I was at a low point with only a decision to go back to school. I didn’t know how I was going to make it through but the support and feeling of inclusion in a circle that I admire, but still somewhat foreign to, was key to my motivation. I’m grateful to be a part of such brilliancy and excellence. I’m eager to see what all the future will unfold.
Thank you so much for sharing this, Nikki. I am eager to see what the future holds as well. How can readers get in contact with you and your organization and check out your books?
My contact information for everything is “Heel My Heart.”
Thank you again for sharing how you are helping others “heel”, Nikki! Women lawyers, law students, and pre-law students are welcome to join Grace for the Grind™ Career Mastermind for FREE to participate in various activities in the mastermind such as discussion forums, group devotionals, monthly leadership Bible studies, Bar exam resources, and more. Join for free here!
 As per the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women (“OVW”), “In an emergency, victims of domestic violence should call 911 or contact state or local law enforcement officials, who can respond to these crimes. Individuals in need of non-emergency assistance can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or visit www.TheHotline.org.” You can visit the OVW at https://www.justice.gov/ovw/domestic-violence.