Three years ago, Stephanie Love was working in her beauty salon when a man came in. “Y’all need to come to the Frayser Exchange Club,” he said. “They let you know everything that’s going on in Frayser.”
This was three years ago, before she had become actively involved in her church, before she had become a leader in her neighborhood and before she had just recently won a seat on the board for Shelby County Schools, the largest school district in the state, which serves more than 100,000 students.
Love didn’t go to the meetings, but the man, a member of the Frayser Neighborhood Council, came back, week after week, until one Thursday she finally told him she would come.
“So I went,” she said. “And I haven’t stopped going.” She had lived in Frayser for eight years, but until then she didn’t really know her neighborhood, she said.
She became involved in the Frayser Exchange Club and with the Frayser Neighborhood Council, a community development initiative for a handful of underserved areas in the country started by President Barack Obama’s administration.
Before that she had spent much of her life just catching up. She became pregnant in high school and dropped out. When her son started preschool, she realized that she needed an education herself if she was going to support him. So she went back and got her GED and a cosmetology degree.
But her work on the neighborhood council made her believe that she could be a powerful voice in her community. And her pastor had already told her, “Sister Love, you’re going to be in an elected position and you’re going to be taking care of children.”
But, she said, she told him, “No pastor, not me.”
“Sister Love, I’m telling you,” he said. “God has shown it to me.”
So Love said felt like a calling when it was time to declare herself for the school board race at the end of March. Love has four children, two in Shelby County Schools and two that have been taken over by the state, so she said she knows how much work lies ahead.
“The biggest challenge will be making sure Shelby County School remains Shelby County Schools and ASD doesn’t take over anymore schools,” Love said, referring to the state-run Achievement School District, which runs schools that were ranked in the bottom 5 percent in the state of Tennessee. “But I know we’ll get it done.”