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DJJ’s Shaunta Pelham Inducted into FAMU Sports Hall of Fame

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Tallahassee, Fla. -- Shaunta Pelham walks around the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) headquarters and seems normal enough.

No one would think this sweet, friendly young woman could all but fly, if she wanted.

Pelham is one of six honorees to be inducted today into the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Sports Hall of Fame for her feats as a runner – a sprinter, to be precise. The honorees are participating in a host of festivities this weekend coinciding with the season opening football game.

Pelham's accomplishments race off her tongue with a lilting giggle, bashful when asked about her record. Among her achievements: 13 Mid-eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) titles; twice named NCAA All-American; qualified for the 2000 and 2004 Olympics semi-finals and served as an alternate runner in 2004 for the Olympic 4x100 meter relay. She ran for Nike at events all over the world, sometimes going to track meets straight off the airplane. But you would be surprised at what makes her beam with pride. "And I still hold the Florida record for 200 meters."

A graduate of Tallahassee's Lincoln High School, Pelham has worked at DJJ two years, recent enough that she remembers interviewing twice for different positions before winning a job as an administrative assistant. She will soon start working on special projects in DJJ's Office of Prevention and Victim Services.

Pelham doesn't have time this year to volunteer as a track coach at her old high school, as she did last year. She has a two-year old son to run after, but she still manages to officiate at track meets. "I like to give back," she said. "We didn't have too many female coaches." She is the only woman among the athletes being inducted today.

When asked if there was anything that she might say to troubled youth, Pelham was clear. "When I was young I was skinny and I used to walk with my head down because I didn't like the way I looked," she recalls. "I had arguments with my mom, and I even wanted to run away once. I used to get picked on a lot. Girls were mean. Without doing those sports, I would have been in the streets, or worse. I would tell kids it's ok to be different. You can be your own individual. What is ordinary? You are your own normal. Push aside what people say and love yourself."

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