Ask Operations Specialist Sharonda Ball what it’s like being a single mother of four boys (Julian, 18; Jamie, 18; Jordan, 16; and Jaylen, 14), and she’ll laugh.
“It wasn’t easy,” she admits. “It’s not easy. I could have taken a different route. But if you don’t work, you don’t eat.”
Sharonda is the strong center in the lives of her sons, two of whom have recently attracted the attention of the Sacramento-area media for their success on a local basketball team. Her twin sons Jamie and Julian, seniors at San Juan High School in Sacramento, lead a team – the San Juan Spartans – that currently leads its league, and is headed into the playoffs. Two weeks ago, the Sacramento Bee ran a story on Jamie and his girlfriend ; and last week, The Sacramento Union named the brothers the team’s “Twin Towers”.
Jamie’s girlfriend Amara is the top scorer on the Spartans women’s team. Also a senior, Amara has been Jamie’s girlfriend since middle school – but the two have been friends since grade school.
“I like Amara,” says Sharonda. “The focus these days is on having an ‘adult relationship’, but these two just focus on being kids. They exchanged promise rings; they’re best friends. And in my home, they know they’re safe. My kids know how to behave,” she laughs.
High Standards As a Family Tradition
The recent media interest in Sharonda’s sons seems to be about more than their athletic ability. It’s also about relationships, hard work and achievement. The twins continue to set and reach progressively higher goals, on the court, at work and at school.
Jamie is a true academic success: he raised his grades from D’s in middle school to a current 3.8 average, thanks to the combined inspirations of basketball, a supportive girlfriend, a varsity coach who’s been in his life since the fourth grade – and his positive, loving mom.
At least one of the newspapers that ran the story on Sharonda’s sons credits her with their success, on and off the court. The Union mentions her “strong character” and her very high standards for her sons.
“She just will not have anything but a strong effort in school,” the twins’ varsity coach, who has known them since elementary school, says of Sharonda. She’s raised the boys to “have respect for elders and authority, and it shows.”
Her sons agree. “My mom, she’s my everything,” says Jamie.
“She’s done it all by herself,” adds Julian.
Sharonda sees things a little differently. “Jamie challenged himself,” she says. “He could have taken an easier way to the higher grades, but he took on AP classes.”
She’ll agree that the boys have learned a few things from her. “They’ve noticed my work ethic. If you want something, you have to work for it.”
Sharonda at Blue Shield: the Heart of the Work Ethic
“I’ve been at Blue Shield since before the boys’ high school days,” Sharonda says. Starting at the bottom, she was soon promoted to lead the team she’d once worked on as a temp.
Now in Direct Sales, Sharonda enjoys a range of responsibilities: designing workflows, performing training on Individual and Family Plans and Medicare Products, maintaining public and private web pages. She occasionally has to travel within California for work. She may have to miss one of her sons’ basketball games due to an upcoming trip next month, she added.
“I try to make it to all of their games,” says Sharonda – who lives right across the street from the high school that all four of her boys attend. Living there is less convenient for her work, but much more comfortable for her sons. “Everything’s always more convenient for them!” laughs the devoted mother.
Now, with the twins applying for scholarships and weighing college offers, Sharonda knows that she is ready for the next stage of her life. Her two oldest sons will soon leave for college. “I had a day earlier on when the sadness hit me,” she admits. “But now I’m ready. I’m ready to move on, to what’s next for them and for me.”
Sharonda knows that she has done a lot of things right, but she’s also realistic.
“I’m raising four boys. I have to be a good role model,” she says. “I have to work hard, to show them what it means to make your way. And I’m very thankful to be in a department with supervisors who are so people-friendly.”
“I like this company,” Sharonda adds. “My team is a big part of my family’s life. We do the Heart Walk together every year, all six of us: Amara, the boys and I. Last year we even brought some friends.”
Though she seems a little surprised by the recent media attention, Sharonda is pleased. She knows how hard her family has worked – and the work doesn’t end here. There are many more goals for the five of them to achieve together.
“I think it’s a good thing,” she says with a laugh.