Stricken by a Stroke, Maywood Grad Finds Her Voice in Faith

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Shantal Cole during her May 7 graduation from Dominican University in River Forest. | Below, Cole performing her poem at the college’s traditional Candle & Rose ceremony held May 6. || Photos provided 

Shantal Cole photo II.jpgTuesday, May 23, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

On May 6, a day before she graduated from Dominican University in River Forest, Shantal Cole, 26, walked to the podium during the college’s annual Candle and Rose ceremony and recited a poem she’d written for the occasion.

The poem included the line, “We are often broken, but never shattered.”

It’s sort of the story of her life.

Between the ages of 7 and 12 years old, Cole said in a recent interview, she was molested and constantly bullied by relatives on her father’s side — trauma that she spent much of her youth attempting to suppress and hide.

“It wasn’t until I made it to high school that I didn’t allow the molestation to mess with my mind,” Cole, a resident of Maywood, added in a follow-up email.

And while attending Triton College several years ago, Cole — a passionate dancer who had been pursuing a liberal arts degree at the junior college — suffered a debilitating stroke that left her temporarily paralyzed and with a speech impediment. The physical ailments would open her up to even more humiliation and harassment.

“It was a very emotional time for me,” she said. “I used to cry and I wanted to harm myself. I was like, ‘Why am I here?’ I wanted to commit suicide because it hurt. I wanted to be normal so bad.”

The compounded trauma would lead Cole to seek sanctuary through her faith. She calls her gradual recovery from her stroke, which she said happened roughly five years ago, a miracle because she eventually re-learned how to walk and speak without the aid of physical therapy or medical procedures, such as Botox, she said.

Cole, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theology and aspires to become a minister someday, said that her spirituality helped her to own her suffering and to use her trauma to help others heal.

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Dominican University students during the college’s annual Candle and Rose ceremony, a long-standing tradition that dates back to 1928. | Photo provided 

Cole, who attends Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood, said she drew spiritual insight from the sermons of her pastor, Rev. Marvin E. Wiley, and also got critical support from her three siblings (Cole is the youngest) and her mother, Edna Harvey.

“I tried to be a father and a mother to her and her sisters,” Harvey, a single parent, said. “We try to be there for one another and help one another and hang in there for one another when we need help.”

While at Dominican, Cole threw herself into her theology studies and forged her own presence on campus.

“Shantal really seized her voice through her involvement in University Ministry,” said John DeConstanza, the director of Dominican’s University Ministry. “She provided important leadership in prayer and praise, and exercised her gifts and talents in preaching and embodying an important characteristic of the Dominican Order.”

Amy Omi, Dominican’s coordinator of liturgy and music ministry, said that Cole “took her passion for ministry and the arts and merged them with a theology internship this year.”

Cole said that her college experience may have ended, but she’s only starting her ministry, the central premise of which was encapsulated in another line of the poem she delivered during the May 6 ceremony, which dates back to 1928.

“During the ceremony, seniors and their chosen partners fill the Quad in a pageant of candle light — seniors process across the top of our Cloister Walk and assemble in the Quad where they meet individuals who have been important to them during their college experience,” said Jessica Mackinnon, Dominican’s public information director.

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Shantal Cole, far right, with her fellow Dominican University graduates. | Photo provided

“We are often wounded, but never damaged,” Cole said, reciting her poem as a crowd of onlookers basked in candlelight. “Every wound has given us the strength to keep fighting.”

“You don’t know what someone is going through,” Cole said during an interview a few days after she’d graduated.

“We need to accept people as they are and embrace them, because we don’t what their story is,” she said. “We all have a testimony and we all have struggles, but those struggles make us who we are. Without those struggles we wouldn’t be able to find our strength through God and our own faith.” VFP

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Shantal Cole’s Candle and Rose poem 

Seniors class of 2017

We are One

We are Strong

We are Leaders

We are Powerful

We are often broken but, never shattered

We are often wounded but, never damaged

Every wound has given us the strength to keep fighting

Despites the No’s,

Despite the laughter,

Despite people not seeing what we see

We are strong enough to beat the odds

We are strong enough to win the battle

We are strong enough to conquer the enemy

We are strong enough to push through pain and suffering

We are One !

One is unity that can never be broken

One is you and me

One is togetherness

One does not separate the races, the genders, and those of different sexual orientations,

but combines them all into one unity

Because we are graduating seniors that can never be divided.

We are One

We are Strong

We are Leaders

We are Powerful

        CLASS OF 2017 WE MADE IT!!!!!!!!!

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