BY JONATHAN YOUNG
A recent Osseo Senior High graduate had hoped a song she wrote to raise awareness of teen dating violence would win her the opportunity to record with Grammy-winning artists Carlos and Salvador Santana.
Shannell McCoy of Brooklyn Park was one of seven artists or groups nationwide competing as part of the PAVE the Way Project, a teen dating-violence awareness campaign.
Public voting ended June 12, and results were announced a few days later. McCoy didn’t win. Michigan teen Dymond Harding claimed the top spot and the prize.
Naturally McCoy felt disappointed, but she said by the end of the competition, winning was no longer the most important part.
"It kind of got to the point for me where it was less about the competition and more about the awareness," McCoy said.
She admits she didn’t always feel that way.
During the competition, she gave many interviews and appeared on all the major television news channels in the Twin Cities. She also used the Internet to encourage the public to vote for her.
Once when she posted online asking people to vote, a reader accused her of participating only for fame and a chance to record with Santana, claiming she didn’t really care about the issue.
McCoy said the comment offended her because she said cared a lot about the issue, as evidenced by her volunteer work with the nonprofit "youthrive" and her efforts to create her own nonprofit, Lady Brigade.
But she also realized the reader had a point.
"I think that was a wakeup call for me," she said. "I was promoting voting more than the awareness piece of it."
The reader’s comment caused McCoy to revisit her priorities.
"The whole reason I got involved was to create awareness … for teen dating violence," she said. After that, she tried to focus more on the issue.
The incident also taught her something else, she said – how to deal with negativity.
"That’s a lesson as an artist … because not everybody is going to support you," she said, no matter how noble the cause.
Even though she didn’t win, McCoy feels proud of her accomplishment.
"I think the experience overall was something I could look back on and be proud of," she said. And she believes she left a "lasting legacy as far me advocating or something I strongly believed in."
Her song, "Breathe," which describes an unhealthy relationship from the girl’s point of view, can still be heard online.
McCoy plans to continue singing and songwriting, as she had done since she wrote her first song at age 5. She still dreams of being a professional singer and songwriter, and she’s working to record her first album.
In the meantime, she is continuing her involvement with nonprofits. This summer she is the arts coordination intern for the nonprofit Youthprise. That position allows her to work with artists across the state to create arts opportunities for youth.
She’s also working to register her Lady Brigade as an official nonprofit to support young girls.
In the fall, McCoy plans to attend North Hennepin Community College to start a degree in marketing, in case her singing career doesn’t pan out.
To learn more about the PAVE the Way Project and hear McCoy’s song, go to pavethewayproject.com.