In the early 90's Shirley Peterson came to Northwest Arkansas with her husband Coleman. She'd already had a successful career of her own finishing her masters degree, and working with various corporations including a special assignment with the Pentagon.
In Bentonville as Cole began his career at Walmart and she began a 12 year career at Bentonville Public Schools.
Peterson says, "I saw students that had so much potential that were so bright. Something they didn't have the enthusiasm about, the future, an I thought I was called to work with those students and to help them see the possibilities."
The call came perhaps from her understanding. As Peterson explains, "It was a blue collar family. My parents worked and they did not understand even back then the college and scholarship process and so I missed the boat on a lot of things not because I wasn't prepared or bright enough, it's just that my parents didn't know."
Shirley, known to family and friends as Peaches, grew up in the inner-city of Chicago. She says, "In my neighborhood where i was raised it was a working class poor neighborhood it was called a ghetto but I Didn't know it was a ghetto."
And she says it was there, at a young age, she learned about mentors and how they can come in all shapes and sizes including a man her parents didn't know she'd developing a friendship with.
She describes him as, " he was a bum. This was the first person that made a difference in my life."
She passed that man on her way to school daily but one afternoon he saw Peaches with three of her friends. She say he gave her A warning, "He saw us going into a store and he said to me 'Come here. Come here girl.' Really gruff. And so I walked over to him and he said "Those little girls are not good for you. So you be careful when you go in that store.' And sure enough he was right."
It was a lesson she never forgot about, people and how mentors come in all shapes and sizes
According Peaches who is often a mentor herself "Sometimes it's not always pleasant when you mentor people. Sometimes you have to tell people things they don't want to hear for their benefit but in the end if they learn those lessons or thinK about what you've said it's all worth it"
Peaches remains very involved in Northwest Arkansas and takes great pride in working with local organizations including The Northwest Arkansas Woman's Shelter.
Peaches life philosophy includes this thought "A life without volunteering, without giving back is not a life well spent."