Lauren has come far. Twenty four years ago she was one of our precious Head Start toddlers in Miss Norman’s class, and today she is a successful Federal Writer/Editor at the U.S. Department of Agriculture outside Washington, D.C.! In between she was part of our Project Discovery program where she participated in college visits, which, as she says, “open your mind to so many possibilities – I had no idea at the time”. Lauren was involved in Community Action Agency activities year round: in the summers she was part of our Green Team, where Coach Mel Jones taught her to lay bricks, prime and paint homes and do landscaping. She went on to attend Virginia State University in Petersburg where she earned a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a minor in Mass Communications, and she continued studying to earn an M.A. in English. “The CAA is an amazing organization – it has been around for so long and helped so many people like myself.” Just ask Miss Norman – she is still teaching at our Head Start program and even has one of Lauren’s baby cousins in her class this year!
For Iyanla, Project Discovery opened doors to the future. She joined the program as an eighth grader and quickly began to learn about career options and gain skills for college applications. Then came the college visits. “VCU was the first college trip I took with Project Discovery and the first college I had ever been to. We split up by major to tour the school and the day was really fun because there was a pep rally going on. Ever since then I knew I wanted to go to VCU. I knew I was going to go to VCU if I got accepted.” And she did! Iyanla also applied for dozens of scholarships using college essay skills honed in Project Discovery, and she won four, including $1,000 from the NAACP and $500 from the Community Action Agency!
More doors opened for Iyanla through Project Discovery: “Miss Linda definitely makes you get involved and volunteer and it opens up a lot of opportunities to become involved.” Iyanla and her younger brother Novian volunteered with the local chapter of the Youth NAACP, becoming Secretary and President respectively. They also volunteered with the James City County Rec Connect program for three years, and this turned into their first paying job!
Project Discovery and its partnership with the Youth Aeronautics Educational Foundation (YAEF) has transformed Iyanla’s brother Novian’s life as well. “That definitely helped put together a lot of career options and helped set up what I wanted to do,” he says. Novian is in the youth pilot program and plans to become a Coast Guard pilot and officer. Meanwhile, Iyanla has just completed her first semester at VCU, where she’s majoring is Mass Communications and Public Relations, and plans to become a Program Director of a radio station.
You might just find Iyanla and her three siblings volunteering at a program or event you attend – they are now highly involved in the community. As Iyanla says, “if it wasn’t for Project Discovery, we wouldn’t have had that effect on the community.”