Local Folks: Going Strong – Disability can't slow mother, daughter pair

TUPELO – Every morning when Serita Shumpert wakes up her daughter, Sanitra, she is reminded her child heads to college in May.
It’s not just any college and it’s not just any mom facing an empty nest.
Sanitra graduates from Verona Elementary School with the Class of 2011 and will head to Rolling Hills Developmental Center in Starkville. There the 21-year-old will reunite with her three best friends. She will have the opportunity to spend more time with her boyfriend and will live on her own for the first time in her life.
Her mom, back in Tupelo, will continue being a mother to her two daughters, a provider for her family members and will reestablish her career in special education with the school system.
Serita has spent the past 21 years doing everything for Sanitra – dressing, bathing, feeding her and more. The past 10 years she’s been doing it as a single mother, and both mother and daughter have not let Sanitra’s cerebal palsy stop them from anything.
“She’s always involved. She’s never left out of anything,” Serita said. “She’s a very outgoing person. She loves to do things – watch movies, shopping, church, singing in the choir, racing. She’s all for it.
“I’ve been a single parent for more than 10 years and I didn’t let that take anything from her.”
The mother and daughter are involved in their church, Inspirational Community Baptist, and the church choir is a passion for both.
One area where the two ladies differ is with sports. Sanitra knows the ins and outs of football and can teach her mom a thing or two while watching her team, the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
“She loves football – pro, college,” Serita said. “She keeps up with the news and knows more about football than I do. She explains the calls to me.”
Serita has helped Sanitra embrace her love of sports, even though it means waking up some Saturdays at 5:30 a.m. to continue Sanitra’s involvement in the Chad Payne Foundation.
Through the foundation, Sanitra can add marathons to her list of hobbies and continue adding to her wall of trophies and medals in her room. She suits up and gets to race in a specially made wheelchair that is pushed by Saltillo resident David Neilsen.
“Serita is my hero because of what she does for her daughter,” Neilsen said. “Sanitra is a real trooper and just is always involved. She has missed one race in three years and that was because of an ear infection. I just admire both of them.”
The next races on their calendar are the Children’s Mansion and Gum Tree, both in Tupelo. Watch for their smiling faces and be sure to give an extra cheer for both ladies.

Contact Stephanie Rebman at (662) 678-1585 or stephanie.rebman@journalinc.com.

Stephanie Rebman/NEMS Daily Journal