GRADUATION 2022: Albemarle High — Shammah Charles

Entrepreneur. Volunteer firefighter. The so-called go-to guy for many students at the school, who refer to him as “Big CEO.”

Albemarle High School senior Shammah Charles has gone by many titles during his high school career, but he’s most excited about the one recently conferred upon him: graduate. It is especially meaningful for Charles, considering his backstory.

As a young kid who struggled at times academically, he was told by some of his teachers that he would never finish high school; he used that as motivation to prove them and anyone else who doubted him wrong.

“I’m glad to be a student here,” he said about his time at AHS.

And the school has certainly appreciated him.

“Shammah is a young man who exhibits strong leadership, positivity and a willingness to be of service to others,” said principal Tanya Crisco. “His work ethic, integrity and leadership is what makes me so proud of him and is going to serve him well as embarks on his new journey.”

As someone who has already achieved so much at such a young age, Charles, 17, is one of the elder statesmen of the school, often mentoring younger students still trying to figure out their path in life.

Successful entrepreneur

Charles remembers he was 10 when he first broached the topic with his mother. He told her he tried his luck at sports, but quickly learned being an athlete was not “his thing.” He wanted instead to become a business owner.

It was around this time that Charles started his first venture, Taking It To The Next Level, which helps young people and is part of the Team No Sleep, a nonprofit organization run by his family which in the past has helped with back-to-school events at the E.E. Waddell Community Center. In 2019, for example, several students involved with Team No Sleep, including Charles, passed out book bags, notebooks and pencils to students and their parents.

During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Charles opened his second business selling T-shirts. With the help of a mentor from Charlotte, who connected him with business conferences on Zoom where he advertised his products, Charles estimates he has sold around 7,000 shirts to people all across the country.

“Some days I pick up the phone and I have people calling me from Oklahoma and Chicago and California wanting me to make them shirts,” he said.

His success has led him to a lofty goal. Charles wants to become a self-made millionaire. As a fashion enthusiast, he plans to open a third business, his own clothing brand, Millennium, later this year.

‘Make my hometown proud’

As someone who initially struggled to make friends growing up, Charles has really blossomed during his high school career. He uses his drive and resourcefulness to help as many people as possible — whether they’re looking to start their own business or just want someone to listen to them.

“If they need anything or if they need someone that they can talk to, a lot of them come to me,” he said.

As if running multiple businesses is not enough, Charles is also incredibly well-rounded, as he is the senior class president, has been a volunteer with East Side Volunteer Fire Department since January and was deeply involved within the school’s theater arts program as a stage manager.

“I learned how to basically work every piece of sound equipment in the school,” he said, noting he leads a “great stage crew” each semester.

Theater teacher Chuck Carte said he’s watched Charles “grow into a remarkable leader” and an “inspiration to those around him” during his tenure at Albemarle.

“If I ever have had a success story as a teacher, it has been Shammah,” Carte added. “Words do not do justice how proud I am of him.”

Much of Charles’ confidence and optimism about his future comes from the fact that he continually bets on himself and trusts his instincts. And no matter what he achieves once he leaves Albemarle’s hallowed halls, one things for certain — Charles won’t forget where he came from.

“I pray that whatever I do in my future…I will make my hometown proud,” he said.