Erica Nicholson is making a difference at West Charlotte High School.
In her role as a Family School Advocate, she works to get more parents involved and helps educate them about available resources. Nicholson also jumps in to help students wherever she sees a need.
Right now there is a need for winter coats, and she’s looking for volunteers to help with a girls’ etiquette program she started.
Nicholson graduated from West Charlotte in 1999, as a pregnant teenager. After working for several companies, she decided to get a college education. While working a full-time job, a part-time job and being a single mom, Nicholson earned a degree in organizational communication from Pfeiffer University.
“Throughout that entire process I would recite Philippians 4:13: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ ” Nicholson said.
Before joining the staff at West Charlotte, Nicholson would come to speak to students on different occasions. She said, “I always tell students it’s not where you start, but where you end up in life.”
After the loss of her father to a tragic motorcycle accident in 2008, Nicholson wrote a book called “Optimist Addict.”
“It’s about seeing the good in your life so you focus more on the great things in your life versus the negative,” she said.
In the book, she offers a 30-day guide.
“Every day, I encourage people to look for three things to appreciate in life and to do three good deeds for others.”
Nicholson says the book helped allow her to grieve but not to stop there. She shares her passion for life and its possibilities through various speaking engagements and through her interaction with students at West Charlotte.
“I did not have someone in my ear encouraging me to keep going,” she said.
Last year, Nicholson noticed that several students wore T-shirts or light jackets when it was very cold. She created an internal “Coats for our kids” project at the school. Staff and students donated coats and other winter items, including scarves, gloves and socks.
Nicholson also asked staff members to help identify students who could use the donated items. Nicholson invites students to stop by her office and the topic of coats or other items comes up; then she asks students to select items they can use.
Last year, Nicholson solicited coat donations from the West Charlotte Alumni Association. The association is collecting coats again this year: contact Minnie Braxton at 704-548-8267 to donate.
This year, Nicholson contacted the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church consignment store called “Great Things” and partnered with the Cities-in-Schools program to help with the coat drive. She said she also got a few items from Crisis Assistance Ministries to help some students who are parents themselves.
Nicholson said they still need new and gently used coats for boys and girls. Items will be collected throughout February.
If all of the collected items are not distributed, Nicholson plans to donate them to the homeless shelter and Crisis Assistance Ministries.
Her other special project is called the “Leading Ladies Program.” It’s designed to teach female students etiquette, financial literacy, relationship awareness and appropriate dress for interviews. Nicholson needs volunteers and donations for that program, as well.
Nicholson is especially proud of her 13-year-old daughter, who is a voracious reader. She says her daughter plans to become a veterinarian or a marine biologist.
Nicholson was the first in her family to get a college education, and said she looks forward to seeing her daughter – and all students – work toward big dreams in life.
To donate new or gently used coats and winter items, or to help with the Leading Ladies Program, call Erica Nicholson at 980-343-6060, ext. 235.