College 

Shashan Deyoung: Juggling Life and Learning

By Tom Harton

For a college student, there may be no more daunting a challenge than going to school while raising a family. Throw in a job and the juggling act can seem unmanageable.

The good news is, it’s not. Take it from Shashan Deyoung, who completed undergraduate, masters and law degrees while raising two small children and working full time.

Raised in rural Mississippi by her grandmother and great aunt, Deyoung didn’t have any college role models in her family, but she knew the value of hard work. Her grandmother worked in the potato fields. “She did what she had to do,” said Deyoung, who is 35 and finished her law degree in the spring of 2019.

Deyoung drew on her desire to escape poverty and her grandmother’s can-do spirit to excel in school and at work all while raising twins, who recently started high school.

“The hardest thing is always yourself,” Deyoung said. “Imposter complex is real.” That’s the phenomenon of doubting your accomplishments are real and being afraid you’ll be exposed as a fraud.

The twins, a boy and a girl, were born in 2005 when Deyoung was about halfway through her undergraduate studies in criminal justice at IUPUI. With a history of twins in her family, she wasn’t shocked that she was pregnant with twins. But the timing was less than ideal. Though the challenge was real, she met it head on. “Realistically, I thought, here is a stumbling block. Let me step over it instead of tripping on it.”

At the time, she was taking a full course load and working full time for AutoZone. Once the twins were born, she arranged her school schedule so that her classes were confined to two days a week. On those days, she would go to school all day, work at night and pick up the kids after work from
an in-home daycare she found out about through a co-worker.

“I remember typing papers with one of them in my lap and one of them in a carrier,” she said. And instead of bedtime stories, it wasn’t unusual for Deyoung to read to her children from a criminology textbook.

As the twins grew, the demands changed but didn’t go away. Now they’re involved in after-school activities. Deyoung wants to be there to support them as much as possible. Sometimes that requires multi-tasking, like her recent experience of studying for the bar exam at her son’s soccer game.

“The hardest thing is always yourself,” Deyoung said. “Imposter complex is real.” That’s the phenomenon of doubting your accomplishments are real and being afraid you’ll be exposed as a fraud.

“You have to give yourself a pep talk,” she said, recalling standing in front of the mirror more than once telling herself “you can do this, you deserve to be here.”
Staying afloat while juggling multiple roles wouldn’t be possible without help from others, she said.

“No matter how great you might think you are, you always need help,” she said, recalling how she’d always been reluctant to ask for help before her kids were born.

That changed out of necessity, and the help has come from many people. When the children were small and she was working at AutoZone, the twins’ godparents often stepped in to help. By the time the kids reached middle school, Deyoung had left her retail job and become a Marion County probation officer. It was best friends and neighbors who helped out then. “I’ve had a really good support network,” she said.

As the kids got older, her options for keeping them occupied while she was in school changed—and bordered on unconventional. When Deyoung was in law school at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law, she sometimes took the twins to class with her.

“The lesson is, leave no stone unturned when figuring out how to juggle a heavy load.”

Deyoung appreciated that McKinney faculty and staff never seemed bothered when her children showed up in class or at an event.

“I’d have them take notes to keep them busy,” she said. The twins would sometimes have questions about what they heard in class. If their mother thought the question was a good one, she’d let them ask it in class.

The lesson is, leave no stone unturned when figuring out how to juggle a heavy load.

And the kids have undoubtedly benefitted from their mother’s success. They’re probably the only kids in their high school who’ve been to law school classes.

But it doesn’t end there. When Deyoung did a four-week study abroad program in Beijing, the twins went along—and sat through lectures about the difference between the Chinese and American legal systems. It didn’t matter that the trip slightly overlapped with the twins’ school calendar. Their teachers agreed that the experience of going to Beijing would be more beneficial than sitting in class one more week.

Now that Deyoung has graduated and taken the bar exam, she’s hoping to get a job as a public defender.

Drawing on the confidence and accomplishments she’s accumulated on her journey, Deyoung will undoubtedly face the next challenge like she’s handled all previous ones. “I look at certain things and think … well why can’t I do that? What do I have to lose?”

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