Higher Learning CEO/Founder, Shennette Sheffield Sparkes, was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Sparkes grew up as a multi-talented athlete, attending St. Thomas Aquinas High School. In high school she ran track and played volleyball, but it was her skills and passion for basketball that set her apart. Shennette was named an honorable mention All-District selection for her final three years of high school and MVP for her team during her final season. She was also nominated McDonald's All-American in 2006. Sparkes went on to play for the Lady Ospreys basketball team at the University of North Florida, with high recognition in the Atlantic Sun Conference for several seasons. While playing basketball in college, Sparkes was diagnosed with two types of Lupus (a chronic illness that over 1.5 million people are suffering). Never letting the disease stop her from accomplishing her goals, she completed her four years at UNF and went on to play semi-professional basketball for the Orlando Extreme.
Through the years, Sparkes' love for basketball has propelled her in to coaching. She has coached several successful basketball teams, such as being the head coach for North Florida Lady Predators Elite AAU and the assistant basketball coach for Mandarin High School. Her most recent job was as the head coach for San Jose Catholic Grade School. She’s previously been the head coach for the North Florida Spartans AAU, assistant basketball coach at Ridgeview High School, and the student coach for the University of North Florida. Sparkes has also worked as the Director of Basketball Operations in 2012 through 2013 for the three-time winning ABA Champions Jacksonville Giants. Coaching has given Sparkes the opportunity to share her talents with the world. She loves the ability to help young athletes accomplish their goals in life.
Sparkes believes that all great coaches should strive to motivate, inspire and inform each athlete they come in contact with. Sparkes feels “that as coaches they have a great responsibility as role models and leaders. By informing athletes, coaches will help equip athletes with the tools necessary to get the job done. The coach's motivation is the ability to help fuel an athlete’s purpose when things are good or bad. Inspire players to be great. Greatness is just simply, in every situation, giving it your all." These are all tools she believes a child can use for the rest of their life. Living life as an athlete has given Sparkes all the tools necessary to battle lupus every day.
Shennette Sparkes currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of North Florida. She is a proud wife, mother, daughter of Dr. Rosalind Osgood and sister to five brothers and three sisters.