Esteemed music executive Shane Tarleton works closely with some of the biggest names in country music, however, it was a young boy in Honduras named Luis who changed his entire outlook on life and sparked his passion for service six years ago. In 2013, Tarleton traveled to El Progreso, Honduras for a video and documentary shoot when he visited an orphanage and saw the devastating needs of the impoverished children in the community. In an interview with the Tennessean, Shane recalled of his first time meeting Luis, “I’m like, ‘This just can’t be.’ I knew his story, that he didn’t have a family and he had been there since he was one. The next morning, I was talking to Rhonda, the lady who founded Hearts2Honduras. I said to her, ‘I don’t know what to do, but this has touched me, and I have to be involved. I have to help.’” It was this eye-opening experience that ignited a lifelong connection for Shane to Luis and the children in need of El Progreso, and he then made it his mission to do all that he could to help them.
This December, Shane partnered with Hearts2Honduras nonprofit founded by Rhonda Wicks to put his goals for the children in El Progreso into action and launched The Shane Tarleton Scholarship Fund. His goal is to provide education and basic needs for children who otherwise would not have access. In the past five years, Tarleton has provided education for over 50 children, improving the orphanage, building school rooms, supplying uniforms and school supplies and hiring tutors for students. We had a chance to sit down with Tarleton to learn about his passion for service and his work with the Hearts2Honduras group to start The Shane Tarleton Scholarship Fund.
What inspired you to start The Shane Tarleton Scholarship Fund?
I was inspired to get involved six years ago after my first visit to the orphanage there in El Progreso. I couldn’t sleep the night after we spent the afternoon meeting the kids – I couldn’t settle on how exactly I could help these kids. I knew that an education is something they deserved, like every other kid in the world, so I laser focused on that. We started small five years ago with one simple class room and one teacher.
What has been the most impactful or meaningful story you’ve heard since partnering with Hearts2Honduras?
There have been so many incredible moments since launching the class room there. The very best part of this is that I don’t have to hear it secondhand; I travel down every three or four months and site visit myself. I know the kids and can see the difference not just by communicating with the kids, but I can see the pride and joy in their faces as they talk to me. I fight back tears watching my teacher conjugate verbs with the kids, and they get it! I’m standing back there thinking I should probably pull up a chair and get a refresher course myself!
Dream bigger than your circumstances but work harder than is required.— Shane Tarleton
How can others get involved with Hearts2Honduras and The Shane Tarleton Scholarship fund to help kids like Luis?
I’d invite the readers to please check out the site, and read about what we’re doing. It’s impossible to see the photos and not imagine the rich possibility that these kids now have a chance at achieving. You can almost see the hope in their faces. Of course I’m in the aggressive fund raising phase and would love donations, but I honestly hope this passion of mine strikes a chord in someone to find something bigger than themselves to dive in to.
What are three things the community and/or society can do to help?
I love being a part of a community, I always have. My Nashville music industry community is like a second family to me. It’s so heartwarming to watch everyone contribute in their own ways. My office has always been an open door for books and paper and such, and my coworkers and even our competitors always show up with supplies. So many folks in town travel for a living, so I have an unending supply of hotel soaps and shampoos – 100% of these go to families in need in El Progreso. The first three or four trips to this landlocked region of Honduras was hard for me; I had never been in direct connection with such poverty and desperate need. Lastly, I have been inspired time and time again watching folks help me fundraise simply by using the power of social media. When a community comes together, we see the power of the collective and I see all the good in so many people! An initiative I’d love to see in the corporate workplace is an allotment of comp days that staff could use at their discretion to travel and do charity work, to fund raise, to build up their community. At Warner, we spent an entire day this summer divided between 5 different charities… putting in sweat equity. Good begets good.
How does it feel to have provided such a lasting impact for children in need?
Witnessing this dream become a reality is daunting, quite frankly. My heart is full of gratitude, but with this opportunity comes great responsibility. I don’t want to let anyone down, mostly the kids who are so very excited about the chance to get to go to school. I do believe, I know, that an education can end the cycle of poverty. It’s that simple.
What are your dream goals for the children and education program in El Progreso?
Chief amongst my dreams for this scholarship fund in El Progreso is that these innocent, sweet children understand their value not only in their community, but in the world. It’s hard for them to dream beyond their circumstances. So many times they ask me why I can’t just live there with them. I always explain that I have a job that I love and for that, I need to live in Nashville. I have to work to make money so that we can create opportunities. They understand this as best they can. But, I want them to know that with a lot of hard work, they too will get to ride on an airplane one day. And that they can have a house, a career, hobbies and they too can follow their passion one day to help others.
Do you have any words of advice that you’d like to share?
Dream bigger than your circumstances but work harder than is required. This is the only way I made it to the chair I’m in today from a very tiny, rural country town in North Carolina. I loved that town, but I knew I had to launch out of there to chase my dreams. I am not unique, nothing special about me that makes me any different from any of these children I’ve grown to know and love. Finally, surround yourself with people who challenge you and who can bring something to the table – that’s what the folks at Hearts2Honduras have done. They’ve allowed me to create The Shane Tarleton Scholarship Fund and for that, I am grateful.
To learn more about The Shane Tarleton Scholarship Fund and the Hearts2Honduras organization, readers can visit www.hearts2honduras.org/outreach/the-shane-tarleton.