Dr. Gardner’s personal purpose statement is “to empower the next generation of leaders to see a different perspective to overcome adversity and reach their full potential.” Shawn’s passion is fueled by his purpose. His purpose is driven by his personal and professional experiences and his desire to help the developmental growth in others.
Dr. Gardner’s personal experience as a child is a culmination of disappointments, lack of guidance, and bad decisions. He struggled with life after the passing of his mother at an early age, no father, or siblings and limited adult guidance. Dr. Gardner enjoyed school but was expelled from the schools he attended. His behavior as a teenager led him to become a juvenile delinquent and a frequent visitor at the youth correctional center. These frequent visits at the youth center as a teenager continued into his young adult life.
It is these experiences that Dr. Gardner uses to engage with young people in similar situations. His overall experience as a resilient youth is what resonates with all youth. What he has learned from the journey as an adult that allowed him to turn his life around is what resonates with adults.
When Dr. Gardner started his collegiate journey he envisioned living in a dorm which would provide him shelter from living on the streets. During his collegiate journey, he struggled as student. As many young black males, he thought he could play sports so walked onto the football team but never made it past scout team. In college, he was an English major with the hopes of teaching middle school but when he learned his past trouble with the law would keep him from teaching he dropped out of school.
Around the time Dr. Gardner dropped out of college his first daughter was born. Because Dr. Gardner had a criminal record it was a challenge for him to find a good job. Dr. Gardner in an attempt to provide for his family started a lawn care business that was limited because of bonding issues. He took an accelerated computer networking certification course but struggled to get employed because his background. He found other ways to pay bills until 2001 when he was offered a job as a “talent recruiter.” A talent recruiter was a position with a nonprofit that worked with young people at risk of not graduating high school or going to college. Shawn’s job was to encourage youth to join the program. He left that organization and worked briefly for a national non-profit to find alternative placement for homeless youth. Both of these positions tapped into the personal experiences of Shawn.
During the time Dr. Gardner was working his job with the youth organizations he began to give back to the community. He used the computer skills he learned to teach single mothers how to use the computer to increase their employability. He started to work with young black boys to inspire them to make good decisions. Around the city, he was hosting conversations about tough issues that people enjoyed because it gave them an opportunity to speak openly in a safe environment.
Later in Dr. Gardner’s career, he was able to join a team that organized the community around issues important to the residents. It was during that time Dr. Gardner realized it was important to work with fathers. He held a discussion group in 2005 that lead to the inception of the nonprofit he founded to work with fathers and their families. 2NOT1 Fatherhood & Families, Inc. was his effort to strengthening families by finding ways to remove barriers for fathers and families. (click here to learn about 2NOT1).
Dr. Gardner returned to college and after his initial enrollment in 1996, dropping out of college and returning, he earned his undergraduate degree in 2008. He used the momentum from earning his BA to earn his graduate degree the following year. The quest to teach that never left him led him to his Ph.D. that he will receive in December 2018. The second greatest achievement in his life to being a father is going from GED to Ph.D., and to some of the people that know him when he was younger, they refer to him as OG to Ph.D.
This is why Dr. Gardner’s personal purpose statement is a major part of his life. He intertwines his personal experience with professional knowledge and helps people see a different perspective. He has never stopped. He believes in hard work and self-reflection. In 2008 Dr. Gardner started teaching karate with the hope of helping teenagers manage their anger, find their confidence, and channel their aggression. In 2009 Dr. Gardner begin working in the school system to work with youth in middle and high school. He created theBLUEPRINTtm (click here to learn more) a personal development program with a conflict management foundation. Later he combined theBLUEPRINTtm philosophy to his karate class to further develop young minds.
In 2010, Dr. Gardner released his memoir “Me vs Me, vol.1 – The Struggle Within (click here to learn more)” to share his experiences growing up. He believes that by sharing his experience it will provide insight to adults that work with youth. Dr. Gardner believes this insight is especially enlightening for those that work with youth who are experiencing struggle and are considered a challenge to work with.
Dr. Gardner’s success includes engaging residents in neighborhoods around health equity to promoting responsible fatherhood through awareness, programming, and advocacy. He is recognized for his work both professionally and personally. In 2008, Today’s Family Magazine, he was featured in a story entitled “Father Knows Best,” and in 2009 Leo magazine recognized Shawn as the “Louisvillian of the Year,” for his efforts to change the community. In 2012 his youth development work was recognized by the NAACP Youth Council. Dr. Gardner believes in leadership and as a Leadership Louisville Bingham Fellow (class of 2012), he along with other community leaders focused on “Student Achievement.” His work with fatherhood awarded him a spot as a Practioner’s Leadership Institute fellowship with Center for Urban Families (date). In 2017, his resiliency and leadership as a formerly incarcerated person he was selected as a Leading with Conviction Fellow. In 2018 Dr. Gardner created “Never Stop” a business that allows him to help others reach their full potential. His personal mantra is “life is a learning experience, take advantage!”