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Chanel Hunt - A Woman Who is Still Achieving

Chanel Hunt was born in Bartow, Florida. She remembers her childhood as unstable, unpredictable and often challenging. Her parents both struggled with drug addition, her father served time in prison and her family moved frequently on a whim. At 14, she entered the foster care system, being forced to leave her half-brother and the only family she had known.

“I felt like I had no one,” Chanel said of the time. “I ran away a lot, but my mother just kept turning me back in.” Her teenage years were marked with disappointment and uncertainty. Then, at the young age of 16, she was raped and discovered she was pregnant.

Despite the tragic and violent event, this was a turning point for Chanel. “My son is one of the best things that ever happened to me,” she said. “He changed my life. I realized I had to do what’s right for him. I have to have a stable place so he has a stable place.”

After dropping out of high school at 18, Chanel married at 19 to a much older man. Shortly after they were married, she discovered that her new husband – like her parents – struggled with drug addiction. “I was pregnant with my second child, but I stayed because those are the vows I took,” she said. The couple ended up having two beautiful children.

After a few years, however, her marriage turned violent. “He became abusive and I tried to stay, but at some point, I didn’t want my children to go through what I went through as a child,” she said. “I didn’t want that cycle to go on and be passed down to them, so I walked away from the marriage.”

Despite attempts at a reconciliation, Chanel eventually moved on to another relationship, and she found herself pregnant with her fourth child. Unwilling to assume paternal responsibilities, the baby’s father walked away from the relationship, and Chanel found herself alone, with three children and another on the way.

She had recently completed a certification to become a pharmacy technician but was unable to find work in Florida. “I needed a fresh start where I could try new things and start over,” she said. “I sent out 180 resumes for jobs across seven states – and I received six calls from West Virginia. Terrified, but ambitious, I loaded up my children and we headed to Charleston.”

With nowhere to live, Chanel and her children sought refuge at the YWCA Charleston Sojourner’s Shelter for Homeless Women & Families for about three months. Despite feeling like she was making progress, Chanel missed her family and returned briefly to Florida. The return, however, was not the homecoming she for which she had hoped.

“I said to myself, ‘You’re here with your family and nobody is helping you, so why are you trapping yourself here when you did so well in West Virginia by yourself?’ she said. With her children staying with their father, Chanel made the tough decision to return to West Virginia on her own.

Upon her return, she stayed at the YWCA Alicia McCormick Homes. “It was here that I made every single moment of peace count,” she recalls. “I was devastated because I realized I was doing exactly what my mom did – I had no stability for me or my children. I had an eye opener – I’m going to have to do this for myself and my children.” She began working toward earning her CNA license and focused on building a career and a stable home for her family.

“I’m used to obstacles,” Chanel said. “Nothing is going to stop me. When I make up my mind, I’m going to do it. I’m very aware of myself. I understand who I am and my flaws, as well as what I’m good at and I embrace it because that’s what helps me get through this journey called life.”

Today, Chanel is working as a CNA and is planning to enroll in nursing school. She is tirelessly striving toward her goal of one day owning and operating an assisted living facility. “I love my children and I love my work. I finally bought a car and property for myself and my children.”

Of being named a Woman of Achievement, Chanel is honored but humble. “I don’t feel like I’ve achieved what I’m trying to achieve just yet,” she said. “I have sticky notes all over my house to keep me focused, and I have one that says, ‘Never be amazed by what you’ve achieved,’ and that drives me because if you’re amazed, you limit yourself to just that accomplishment,” Chanel said. “You have to push yourself to do the next thing.”

From breaking damaging generational cycles to overcoming unbelievable adversity to be self-sufficient for herself and her children, Chanel has used her strength and focus to build a life of which she can – and should – be very proud.

Chanel will be honored as the Empowerment Award Winner at this year’s Women of Achievement ceremony on February 24 at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center.

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