Written by Taylor Sayers
Lawanda White first came to the Kalamazoo Literacy Council in October of 2014. She came with goals of post-secondary education, employment, and supporting her child’s education. Although Lawanda completed high school, she will be the first to tell you that she felt as though they passed her along even though she needed more help due to learning disabilities. To this day, she explains that contacting the KLC was one of the hardest things she’s done because she was so low on self confidence due to her reading and writing skills.
Perseverance pays off
Now, 6 years later, she continues to be a consistent class attendee but is in a much different place. Lawanda was working a deli job with dreams of one day attending post-secondary education and starting her own business. Today, Lawanda has her own catering business and works at the KVCC Culinary Lab. She also is in the process of enrolling in KVCC, she only has one placement test left to do which will be accomplished in November!
Motivation and support
Lawanda’s most impressive gains come in her unwavering advocacy for other parents like her, and her children. She has a child with a physical disability that impacts him in school. When I first called Lawanda to invite her into our Parent Literacy Together program, she screamed. She mentioned that life had been tough and things kept trying to knock her down, but “This is a sign that I need to keep going”. She has quickly become a strong voice in the program and is an amazing peer to the parents that enter the program. She is quick to talk to them parent-to-parent and get them feeling comfortable. She encourages them to share, pushes them to become involved, and supports them when they need advice. When Lawanda first came to us, she mentioned that she would love to be an inspirational speaker. Now, she has been identified as a vocal advocate and is a huge drive behind why we are developing a parent coalition. Lawanda is a recipient of a laptop through our Laptop Loaning Program and she has taken this opportunity and ran with it. She has attended Parent Literacy, Health Literacy, and the JOBS program. Not only this, but she has worked independently in her workbooks as well as on her individual goals that pertain to her business and post-secondary education.
Positivity is key
Lawanda’s positive outlook on life is refreshing – she is determined, thoughtful, and strategic. Through our services and her own hard work, Lawanda has gone from self-conscious and nervous to a fearless leader and empowered advocate. It is a pleasure to speak with her and have her in class. She is the perfect candidate for the Mard Little Award because through any adverse circumstances, she has persevered for her and her children’s’ future and the person she knows she can be.