Our Team

Shavonne Sams, CEO and Founder

Established in 2014 by Shavonne, Truly Valued stands as a testament to her steadfast commitment to fostering positive transformation and well-being within her community. The organization prioritizes youth and families, focusing on character development, mentoring, and community engagement, reflecting a comprehensive approach to individual and communal advancement.

Shavonne, a dedicated mother of two with two bonus children and four grandchildren, brings a wealth of personal and professional experience to her role. Holding a master’s in management, a diploma in Christian Ministry, and a Life Coach Minister Certification, she is well-equipped to guide others on their paths to growth and fulfillment.

Beyond her professional pursuits, Shavonne finds joy in reading, exploring new destinations, and cherishing moments with her husband, children, extended family, and friends. Her overarching mission centers on fostering self-love as the cornerstone for spreading love and positivity to others.

In terms of community involvement:

  • Shavonne is an active member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., showcasing her commitment to Scholarship, Sisterhood, Service, and Finer Womanhood.
  • As an active associate member of the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter Teamsters National Black Caucus, she engages in education, labor-related, and social justice issues.
  • Her involvement in the School Advisory Council (SAC) at Booker Middle School underscores her dedication to the education and well-being of local students.
  • Shavonne’s participation in the Community Response Team demonstrates her commitment to community safety and well-being, potentially involving crisis intervention or support.
  • Being part of the Youth Empowerment Services (YES) Team, alongside local Law Enforcement agencies, Truly Valued, Brotherhood of Men, and Teen Court, showcases a holistic approach to supporting and empowering young individuals in the community.
  • Recently appointed to serve on the Board of Christian Education and Formation, Shavonne takes on various responsibilities, including curriculum development, event organization, teacher support, and ensuring alignment with the congregation’s values and beliefs.

Shavonne’s initiative serves as a shining example of the positive impact that individuals can have when driven by a genuine desire to make a difference.

Dr. Leslie Harrell, Community Engagement Manager

After overcoming a lifetime of challenges, including struggles with substance abuse, dropping out of high school, teenage motherhood, and surviving human trafficking, Leslie Harrell now uses her journey to inspire and uplift others.

In 2005, Leslie was ordained as a Minister of the Gospel, marking a significant milestone in her spiritual journey. She has been honored with various awards for her community service, including the Congressional Award for Community Service and the prestigious Inaugural Changemakers Award during her studies at Claremont Lincoln University.

Leslie’s academic achievements are equally impressive, holding a doctorate in Strategic Leadership and a master’s degree in Peace and Social Justice from Regent University. Her aspirations include serving as a leadership coach through Truly Valued and spearheading leadership development initiatives within the African American community.

Furthermore, Leslie is a certified Life Coach through Christian Leaders Institute and a certified facilitator for Truly Valued’s Nurturing Families Program, demonstrating her commitment to guiding and supporting others on their journey to personal growth and empowerment.

Lucia Villalpando, Program Specialist

Lucia was born and raised in Manatee County, immersed in the rich culture and values of her Mexican immigrant parents. From a young age, she developed a deep passion for community service and engagement. After graduating from high school, Lucia moved to Fort Myers, Florida, to pursue her bachelor’s degree. While there, she worked with students and families through the Lee County School District and took on various volunteer roles.

Following her graduation from Florida Gulf Coast University, Lucia returned to Manatee County. She began working with the Manatee County Library, where she developed and conducted programs, classes, and events aimed at enhancing access for all community members. Her work was driven by a keen awareness of the institutional and societal barriers that often hinder access to essential resources and opportunities, especially for underserved populations.

Lucia’s guiding principles revolve around raising awareness and critical consciousness, with a strong belief in the power of community to effect meaningful change. She is deeply committed to empowering families, children, and communities, leveraging her experiences and expertise to develop collaborative solutions that foster love, creativity, and resilience. Lucia is a certified English and Spanish facilitator for Truly Valued’s Nurturing Families Program.

Board of Directors

Gregory Alexandrea, BMO Bank

Charles Whitfield, Centerstone

Captain Brigit Leonard, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

Cameron Parker, Emma E Booker Elementary

Sharon Preston-Folta, Retired

Phyllis Williams-Battie, Retired

Dr. LaShawn Frost, Booker Middle School

Terra Frazier, Booker Middle School