TSU grad sees success wipe away memories of heartache, tears, pain

Chantell Copeland

Chantell Copeland

Award-winning journalist Chantell Copeland is a very busy woman. As a correspondent and producer at Nashville’s WTN Tribune Radio, a program editor for Sirius Satellite Radio, and news and sports anchor at TSU TV News 98, to name a few, does the single mother of a four-year-old have time for anything else?

And now add to the list proprietor and operator of a brand new non-hazardous and non-refrigerated material shipping company.

“People who are successful and influential didn’t get that way by doing one thing. Believe me, they stay busy on multiple fronts,” said Copeland.

But come Saturday, May 9, the Atlanta native plans to break her own rule and focus on one thing only: graduate from college, a journey she began more than 10 years ago.

She is among 1,312 undergraduate and graduate students who will receive degrees in various disciplines, when Tennessee State University holds its Spring 2015 commencement ceremonies. Copeland will receive a bachelor’s degree in ‘mass communications and journalism.’ She has already applied to the MBA program in the College of Business at TSU for the following school year.

“I want my business to grow,” said Copeland about her single-van shipping company, which went into operation April 16. “To do that I have to obtain the general education and know-how of business to help me become successful.”

From all indications, it seems Copeland is on her way somewhere great, and she very well is, but the picture has not always been so rosy. In fact, some serious bumps in the road including bad companies, personal choices involving brushes with the law, bad associations and friends, made hope all but a dream for the honor student.

“I made some bad choices, hung out with some bad people and got myself involved in things that I had no business in,” Copeland said. “With three felonies on my record including weapons possession and aggravated assault, I am thankful to God I didn’t go to jail.”

Copeland, 29, moved to Nashville in 2003 to attend TSU, with a dream of developing a promising journalism career. Two years into her education, she dropped out of college, got a job working for T-Mobile as a call-center associate. Life was good, so she thought.

“I was making my own money, independent, and had what I thought were great friends and associates, I didn’t see the need to rush back to school,” she said.

But having these “great friends and associates” would turn out to be the cause of Copeland’s near fall from grace. She started dating a guy who turned out to be a reputed gang leader. Although she soon found out that her boyfriend had a questionable background with a long rap sheet, she continued the relationship only to realize later that she was being used, and that he was involved with multiple other women.

“Things started happening including arrests for crimes I was not involved in but because of my association with this person, I faced charges,” Copeland said. “He did not protect me when one of his girlfriends got into a fist fight with me. After I clearly whipped her, she came after me with a gun while I was trying to drive off. I reversed the car into her, and was charged with aggravated assault.”

Following that relationship, during which she also faced weapons possession charges, Copeland met and got involved with another person who later walked away. Just then, she met the man “who showed me real love.”
“He was kind, loved me for who I was and loved my child like his own,” she said. Although he too had problems with the law, for which he is currently incarcerated, Copeland credits him for being thoughtful, kind-hearted and business savvy.

“He showed interest in my well-being and taught me a lot about business. The idea about the shipping business came from him. He is a good person and I promise to be here for him until he is free,” she said, sobbing. Her company, Howard E Shipping LLC, is named after him, she said.

In all of her ‘adventures,’ Copeland said, education was never very far from her mind. The wakeup call came when she had her child. Every time she looked at him she was reminded about the need to improve herself. In 2012, after the child’s birth, Copeland returned to TSU to pursue her degree, and she has not looked back.

Since returning, she has remained on the Dean’s List, and serves as a mentor and an encouragement to her younger classmates. She is a staff reporter and social media director for the student newspaper The Meter, as well as anchor, producer, videographer and editor for the online newscast, Meter Minute. She has either won or ranked very high in every Tennessee Associated Press, and the South East Journalism Conference awards category.

She is thankful to many who have been an encouragement and motivation, and have been personally involved in ensuring that she stays on track and succeed.