Growing up, Danielle Shoots was a straight-A student who kept busy with extracurriculars like the Future Business Leaders of America. When teachers encouraged her to join a basketball team, she knew she wanted to dance, so she started her own dance team, which performed at the elementary basketball games. She continued to dance, putting in roughly 40 hours a week. Shoots was strong-willed with a rebellious spirit.
At 16 years old, she got pregnant with her first child, a son. Determined not to become a statistic, Shoots graduated high school, was considered emancipated from her parents, received additional financial aid, and enrolled at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs in her hometown. After applying for and receiving one of the most prestigious scholarships, the Governor’s Opportunity Scholarship, she moved to Denver with her soon-to-be husband and enrolled at the University of Colorado Denver.
She did what many people thought she couldn’t, and it transformed the trajectory of her life.
“Being 16 and pregnant was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through,” said Shoots, the keynote speaker for CU Denver’s May 15 virtual commencement ceremony. “But I quickly learned that the things you overcome can actually be fuel for success.”
In 2008, Shoots earned a degree in business administration from CU Denver and went on to work as a financial analyst for Denver Health, during which she collaborated closely with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). At the young age of 26, she became the chief financial officer for the CDPHE under a change in administration with the election of then Governor, Hickenlooper. Overnight, her number of direct reports jumped from one to 27.
“It felt like leadership boot camp, and it was terrifying,” Shoots said. But she was a natural. Three years ago, she founded the Daily Boss Up, a digital startup that provides coaching, mentoring, and consulting for leaders at every stage of their professional development. She’s now getting ready to launch an app for her company that will connect life coaches who are women of color to anyone who needs mentoring, whether it’s for a career, fitness, or leadership.
Shoots credits much of her success to her time at CU Denver, which she says was one of the happiest periods of her life. “I loved it there, and I felt like I really fit in,” Shoots said. “I went to school with a lot of adult learners and other working parents. That was such a good fit for my lifestyle.”
She especially remembers the strong support of her economics professor, Laura Argys, PhD. “I thought I wanted to go into PR after school, but Dr. Argys really helped conceptualize economics, which can be a really tough subject for most people to understand,” Shoots said.
Argys, who still teaches economics at CU Denver and serves as an associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, shared a similar sentiment about Shoots. “It’s rewarding to see students who have gone on to be as successful as Danielle and who are making a difference in the community,” Argys said. “I am especially impressed with her prominence as a leader who is helping others achieve successful careers. We are lucky to count her as an alum.”
Hear more about Shoots’ story and her words of advice for 2021 graduates during her virtual keynote speech, starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 15. Check CU Denver’s commencement website that morning for a link to the commencement ceremony.