San Diego, California
Shannon Thompson had it all. A high school leader, soccer player, and yearbook staffer headed to UCLA, she had told her mom she planned to be the first female president. But her plans changed abruptly and dramatically when substance abuse and an eating disorder sent her to rehab. She recovered but was stricken by how low the bar was set afterward—it was suggested that she might be able to swing high school graduation with a General Equivalency Diploma. “I was treated as if I had been damaged beyond repair,” she recalls, “as if I no longer had dreams, ambition, and talent.”
Ever since, she has focused on empowering other women. Shakti Rising, which she founded in 1999, is the culmination of those efforts. Shakti is the Sanskrit word for female energy. Her agency harnesses the power of women’s empathy, creativity, and community-building through Transformational Recovery (achieving wellness after substance abuse or trauma), Educational and Community Wellness (cultivating healthy, purposeful living), and Transformation Through Service (developing leadership skills). It also provides a home for women in recovery. Shannon’s holistic approach incorporates art and massage therapy, meditation, and yoga into Shakti Rising’s healing repertoire. The organization changes the lives of more than 1,500 women and children a year, employing 10 staffers and relying on more than 300 volunteers to help 10 women in residence and 300 off-site.
“Fail forward” is Shannon’s slogan. “When we get people together and unleash our leadership,” she says, “I am astounded by what we are collectively capable of.”