If you can find one person who has not experienced hard times and difficult situations, he or she is truly one in a million. Everyone faces hardships that create opportunities for growth and maturity.
Life comes at you fast, and for Meco Shoulders, the reality of him living what he thought was an “ideal life” hit rock bottom when he experienced an early glimpse of freedom in the real world.
However, just as his life choices come with real consequences, Shoulders is a living witness to the idea that starting over in life is possible.
“I truly value God and my family,” said Shoulders. “There are people that have given up on life and lost their minds dealing with things similar to mine. I thank God for choosing me and aiding me through my life journey.”
Shoulders, 25, grew up in Jackson, Miss., with his brother, JaQavious, and his sister, JaVonn.
As the oldest of three children in a single parent home with his mother, Debra Davis, Shoulders said his mother served as a backbone for him and his siblings. More importantly, Shoulders’ mother kept him out of trouble and would be one of the few who never gave up on him.
“She was the real MVP. Growing up in Jackson, it was easy to get caught up in the wrong thing because my peers would be doing it and I wanted to fit in,” Shoulders said. “I gravitated to certain things due to my circumstances and misunderstandings. However, my mother guided me and never gave up on me when I lost my way.”
Getting in trouble was not an unfamiliar feeling for Shoulders. At Peeples Middle School, Shoulders spent a good amount of his time in the principal’s office, not because he was not smart, but because he was disrespectful to his teachers.
“My behavior was absolutely unacceptable. I was a smart kid but I talked to my teachers with no respect. I fought like a maniac every year in school,” Shoulders said. “I wanted to be accepted by my peers but that was not the way to go.”
Looking for a way to be respected by his peers but staying out of trouble in the process, Shoulders became a member in the band program at Peeples, where he played the snare drum.
Little did Shoulders know, playing in the band would become a lifelong passion for him through all of his anger, problems and setbacks.
However, at Jim Hill High School, it took more than playing in the band to keep Shoulders on the right path.
Instead of fighting to fit in with his peers, Shoulders became caught up in the lifestyle of being popular, chasing women and playing in the band and on the baseball team.
“I was one of the top students my freshman year, but I I fell off after that. My focus became blurry. Women and drums were the only things on my mind,” Shoulders said. “I was one of the best snare drummers in the city and state, a member of Jackson Alumni’s Kappa Leadership and Development League and I played on the baseball team. My education was a secondary thing for me.”
Shoulders recalled a moment in high school where he was failing really bad in a class.
“My instructor, Mr. Scriber, had to call my mom. The two of them had a meeting and my mom ended up taking my phone. When this happened, I completed every missed assignment and finished the course with a B,” Shoulders said. “After that incident, I eased up and treated him with respect. I never picked on Mr. Scriber again.”
During the rest of his time at Jim Hill, Shoulders respected his teachers and did just enough to play in the band and play baseball before graduating in 2009.
While it looked as if Shoulders turned over a new leaf on his life, his journey of facing obstacles was just really unfolding.
After graduating from Jim Hill, Shoulders moved to Houston, Texas to attend Texas Southern University on a marching band scholarship and majored in computer science.
But for Shoulders, things took a turn for the worse.
“I went off to TSU and lost myself. I was homesick the entire time. I fell in love with the city of Houston and was not focused on school. I had no clue as to what I wanted to be in life,” Shoulders said. “I went from majoring in computer science to going undecided. My grades were horrible.”
Despite the lack of maturity and a time that was filled with multiple hardships and pain for Shoulders, this life experience would serve as a ‘blessing in disguise’ for him.
But as the good church folks would say, God doesn’t come when you want him but he comes right on time.
Before things got better, they got worse. This time, Shoulders lost the opportunity to do the one thing that kept him level headed throughout middle school: playing in the band.
“After doing bad at TSU, I decided to come back to Jackson to march in the Sonic Boom at Jackson State but that did not go as planned. I ended up getting kicked out of the band at JSU,” Shoulders said. “Not to mention, I was slightly hated because I went to TSU over JSU and every little thing I did was made out to be extreme.”
After leaving TSU and getting kicked out the band at JSU, what would be the next move for Shoulders?
“I had no chance of going back to TSU because my mother saw the terrible habits that I started. ‘You aren’t going back’ were her exact words when she picked me up from school after my first year at TSU,” Shoulders said.
There were times, according to Shoulders, where he simply wanted to give up on school and life in general, despite getting a second chance to fix his prior mistakes in life.
Often referred to as “Jesus Sticks” because of his stellar talent as a percussionist, Shoulders started over at JSU in 2010.
However, he often doubted his abilities and wondered would he ever finish school.
“I was very disappointed because the one thing that kept me going was no longer a part of me, drums. In 2012, I simply gave up because I had so many things going on and I could not handle it all,” Shoulders said. “I had thoughts of just working a job in hopes to come up after putting in some years at that job.”
In the midst of him giving up and living life in disappointment, Shoulders took this time to get closer to God instead. He began to go to church with his girlfriend at the time and attended church on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
Shoulders said he began to notice how his life was changing right before his eyes.
“It seemed as though God was talking directly to me each time. The word was just so sharp and it was cutting me,” Shoulders said. I cannot say that I was perfect but I began to change how I did things. I started to reach out to people who were lost. I began to affect the lives of others because of the light that shined through me.”
Building on his relationship with God, Shoulders found a new sense of courage, hope and motivation.
One day, during the time when Shoulders was giving up on life, his little sister came home after school and asked him, “Bro, are you still in school?”
For Shoulders, at that moment, he knew that he had to finish school and could not give up because he wanted his brother and sister to see him finish. He wanted them to know that they could achieve anything they put their minds to.
With God at the head of his life, Shoulders enrolled in the entrepreneurship program at Jackson State after receiving a prophecy during a church crusade.
“The prophet told me that he saw me having my own consulting firm. Before he told me this, I wondered what God had for me to do,” Shoulders said. “After the service, I googled the type of degrees’ consultants had. Entrepreneurship popped up and amazingly, JSU had an entrepreneurship department.”
Not only did Shoulders become a student again, he got involved on campus, becoming a member of the Society for Entrepreneurs and the Accounting Society.
From there, Shoulders was one of eight men who worked for Integrated Management Services that helped start Trensek, a black-owned trending technology company based in Jackson. At the time, Shoulder’s worked as the company’s chief of marketing strategies.
“We wanted to show people that there’s no limit to success,” Shoulders said. “Clearly a tech company based in Jackson that was started by black men is enough evidence that anything is possible.”
After roughly six years of mistakes, hardships and difficult times, Shoulders future became bright. In December 2015, the boy who fought for acceptance from his peers in middle school walked across the stage as a man and college graduate from JSU.
“It was so surreal. I didn’t know how to feel. Reflecting back on all I went through, God literally drug me through until I could walk on my own,” Shoulders said. “Today, I could tell any young person to never give up on themselves.”
With any success in life, there are always people to help you along the way. Shoulders said he had quite a few mentors who changed his life.
“Dr. Mary White, the chair of the JSU entrepreneurship department, inspired and pushed me to be great. Dr. Causey taught me everything I needed to know with finances and real estate. Dr. Mercidee Curry allowed me to be one of the founders of the Society of Entrepreneurs,” Shoulders said.
“Dr. John Calhoun helped me change my major to entrepreneurship and taught me in some of my classes. He later gave me a job opportunity that led me to help start Trensek. Ms. Spires, she changed my life. Dr. Crump made me think outside the box and is an absolute genius. Dr. McClain would just give me a look and would no longer fuss at me. That was all I needed to see to get myself together.”
Following graduation, Shoulders worked for Trensek for roughly six more months before deciding to venture into other career aspirations. Shoulders is now in the process of starting a business with his best friends, Christopher Maddox and DeArko Griffin.
“We have a blueprint but we are finalizing things before we take this leap of faith,” Shoulders said.
When Shoulders is not finalizing the finished product of his business, he puts on snare drum clinics for young snare drummers, plays the drum set at his church and mentors young kids and percussionists at Jim Hill, giving back to the place that gave him the opportunity to do something that he loves.
“When I dealt with the rough patches of my life, drums and helping kids served as a portion of my sanity. A lot of the things I play often express how I feel,” Shoulders said. I’d like to help more kids and drummers as well because they need a light to follow. I can be that for them.”
While Shoulders is only 25 years old, he knows that there will be many more hurdles to overcome and burdens to bear in the future.
However, he said that is truly grateful for his experiences and would encourage everyone to follow their dreams in life.
“I’ve grown so much and I am still growing. There’s much more that I have to figure out and I am enjoying the process,” Shoulders said. “Keep pushing. There’s greatness in you and you must find your why. If there is no why, there is no ambition. There’s no drive. Never settle. Be yourself at all times and do what is right. Stay true to yourself and remember, to whom much is given, much is required.”