A life defined by inspiration

By Ed Brock

Tragedies and setbacks do not define Sherri ScottNovoa's life, though she's had as many of those as any other person.

Her life is defined by the inspiration that such negative events bring her, her ability to take what would be bad and transform it into an emotional power that propels her through life. That's a gift she wants to share with others who need it.

"A speaker who motivates the person within," is the motto on the front of ScottNovoa's brochure for her work as a motivational speaker, trainer, consultant, comedian and actress.

"I've been a motivational speaker since I was 17," said ScottNovoa, a 36-year-old native of Ohio who came to Atlanta in 2000 and now lives in College Park.

It was at that age that ScottNovoa was attacked and left for dead by a gang of teens. It was an event that would set her on a mission. She began questioning other gang members, but not because she was seeking revenge.

"I wanted to know why young people were so angry and abusive," ScottNovoa said. "Not one time did I use violence or drugs to cope. I just dealt with reality."

ScottNovoa's inquisition had an interesting result.

"To my surprise a few months later some of the gang members approached me and told me they'd dropped out of the gang and enrolled back in school."

In college ScottNovoa studied criminal justice, but she soon decided she didn't want to be in law enforcement. She's had roles in movies like "Boomerang" and on the television show "A Different World," she has a CD coming out called "Conversations With Sherri" as well as a promotional DVD and she performs a solo show called "Stages of a Butterfly."

And she speaks to people. At schools, at churches, and in prisons, she reaches out, especially to young people, and tries to tell them that they can do anything. She does 30-minute presentations and three-hour seminars.

"I start off with asking how many of you have dreams and goals," ScottNovoa said.

Ylonda Nelson of Riverdale met ScottNovoa about two and a half years ago when they worked together with the Youth Empowerment Project. They still work together in another group, Tomorrow's Hope for Children in which 40-year-old Nelson is a counselor and ScottNovoa is a parent aide.

ScottNovoa spoke at a drug rehabilitation group that Nelson puts on at the DeKalb County jail.

"I think she's very encouraging," Nelson said. "I think she gives some direction to individuals who are struggling with their day to day coping skills."

About five years ago ScottNovoa worked with Tilford Belle, 50, in the training division of the Fulton County government. They give training for county employees and others on preventing discrimination, work place violence, sexual harassment and other topics.

Belle said ScottNovoa was "mis-slotted," always showing the potential to do more than what she was doing at that time.

"She just has a lot of ability to present herself," Belle said. "It's kind of surprising. At the onset she seems kind of quiet but when she steps up she's a whole different person."

ScottNovoa said she knows she has an impact on people because she still hears from people who heard her speak years ago. They tell her that she changed their lives, and they invite her to cookouts and weddings.

"I get people who cry, who laugh," ScottNovoa said. "I hype you on yourself. You walk off realizing ?Wow, I can do this."

ScottNovoa will be performing her "Stages of a Butterfly" show in Detroit in November and in January she hopes to bring the show to the East Point Theatre.

To arrange a presentation by ScottNovoa, call (678) 358-8065.

"Everyday People" is a regular feature of the News Daily that is published every Friday. If you know anybody who would make a good candidate for this feature, contact Assistant Managing Editor Bob Paslay at (770) 478-5753 ext. 257 or at bpaslay@news-daily.com .