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Gaylis Shakir

Photo of Gaylis Shakir In a 33-year career as a CLC counselor, Gaylis Shakir has helped thousands of students clarify educational goals, decide on a career and handle emotional concerns.

Guiding others to improve their lives through education has been more than a career for Shakir; it’s been a life passion. “I know from personal experience how education can enrich and improve your life,” Shakir said. “I want that for others.” 

Growing up in a working-class Detroit neighborhood, Shakir is the only one in her family to receive a college education. Her father worked in a wheel factory and her mother did housekeeping in homes and a local seminary, but both parents encouraged Shakir to attend college as a means to attain a fulfilling career. Having admired teachers in her own life, Shakir decided that teaching would be her career choice.

Following high school, she enrolled at Michigan State University with high hopes. But in her first semester she took a biology class and received her first-ever F a grade in a class. “I was devastated, because I passed my science classes in high school,” she recalled. “The experience was eye-opening, and I questioned whether college was for me. But I decided that the F grade would not be the end of my college career.”

Shakir asked her biology professor for help. He was helpful, patient and emphasized Shakir’s strengths. “I consulted with my academic advisor and selected a different science course for the following semester.,” she said.

Outside of class, Shakir made friends by joining clubs, including the Black Student Union and committees that planned activities in her residence hall. She appreciated the university’s efforts to add more programming for African-American students, such as dances with popular rhythm and blues music rather than mainstream rock.

 “I felt like I had a home at the university,” Shakir recalled. “I didn’t feel segregated.” 

After graduating from Michigan State with a B.A. in elementary and special education, Shakir taught for three years at a Detroit middle school. Working with students who had emotional issues, she held weekly group discussions with them , to learn about their  lives outside of school. “More important, the students learned that I cared about them as people, not just students,” she said. “That experience inspired me to become a counselor.”

She continued to teach at the middle school as she earned an M.A. in counseling from Wayne State University. Later, she moved to Illinois and began her three decades at CLC.

Shakir enjoys teaching students how to develop academic and career goals and, more fundamentally, to think critically. “What I find rewarding about counseling is helping students reframe their thinking and develop skills and behaviors to cope with difficult situations,” she said.