My Dreams Are Windows To My Freedom
A Letter From The Editor
There Are No If, Ands, Or Buts About It!
I am a self-proclaimed dreamer. Many of the things I possess or may be involved with, at some point, I probably dreamed about it. Being physically fit, I dreamed about losing all the weight I was carrying around while stuffing my face with food. Singing in the church choir, I dreamed about it, while practicing in my car over one of WOW Greatest Gospel productions.
A Letter from the Editor
What if tomorrow didn’t arrive? All of your plans, hopes and dreams wouldn’t have a street to park on. What if everything that you decided to put off until tomorrow never happened? There would be no reason to save for a rainy day, and you could spare someone the trouble of making promises. What if your last opportunity seemingly expired today? What would you do?
In short words, I will typically act on something if I dare to dream about it. I have used the gift to dream while sinking in some of my lowest moments. I wanted more, and dreaming of something better made it almost feel like I was there. I learned that there is power in what we dream about.
In that same breath, my dreams have been filled with thoughts of hope and sometimes regret. If I could turn back the hands of time, I would. If I could reverse some of the experiences of my life, I would. If I had the ability to reach back into my past and open some of the doors that were shut and close some that I walked through, I would. One might ask me why, and my response is quite direct; I would if I could.
Now, it’s not my intent to sound as if I do not appreciate the life God has blessed me with. My message is quite the opposite. I love my life and all that has helped to make it what it is. Still, I wish I could have avoided some unnecessary experiences. However, I am wise enough to know that everything has been necessary. It is all part of God’s plan for me.
I’ve been told that I often seem like I do too much. Honestly, I feel like I am not doing enough and I’m a firm believer in knowing that God wouldn’t put anything on me that I couldn’t handle. I sometimes wonder how life would be if I chose to sit idle and accept what it presented to me. I have found that to be very boring. In my opinion, opportunity is a blessing that isn’t afforded to everyone. A challenge to me is an adventure. What is the worst that can happen? If I do nothing, I fail, and if I try I don’t, but instead learn something new about myself. Relinquish your pride and in return acquire life.
The best advice ever given to me happened when someone told me to make my tomorrow happen today. In doing so I have pressed my way through doors with a key that only hope provided. I have also learned the difference between what God blesses me with and what life can burden me with as well. I compare it to knowing when to be confident and when to be quiet, because someone may get it confused with being arrogant.
Acknowledging and accepting where and how my life began instills a sense of reality into my heart. Dreaming of places where I wish I could be also encourages me to keep striving for that which is greater.
My message is simple. Life is but a whisper, and I refuse to get lost in the chaos and confusion. There is way too much for me to do, and if I never achieve all that I dream of, I will remain enthusiastic about what tomorrow promises. Tomorrow, if it comes, is provided by God. And when God blesses me with another day to live, He also blesses me with another day to dream and get to work.
Make you tomorrow happen today, but most importantly make it count. Life is but a whisper and we must put ourselves in a position to hear what it is telling us.
Terry L. WatsonTerry L. Watson Editor/Founder
Terry L. Watson Publisher
Terry L. Watson Writer
Dorjea’ McClammey Writer Joy Rogers Writer Monica Montgomery Writer
Cazualtee Photographer Still Shots Photography Photographer
Editor In Chief Terry L. Watson Alana Allen - Deputy Editor Writers Tonya Dixon Terry L. Watson Alana Allen Jeuron Dove
Photographers Perfect Lenz Photography Shaw Photography Group Still Shots Photography
Todd Youngblood Photography
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firstname.lastname@example.org (336) 340-7844 On The Cover
Her focus is to unite communities using language as the connecting tool. Learn more about her company. Little Rock, AR
This young engineer is making waves at NASA and in his community as an entrepreneur.
She is committed to helping others in her community. Learn more about how this career business woman. Louisville, KYJay & Jah Films LLC
Jay & Jah Films LLCBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Ithiell Yisrael & Shawn Yabui
The easiest way to reach someone at their level is to know what it’s like to be there.
Pensacola, FL, native and resident Jermaine J. Williams is a man full of culture, experience, and determination. He is also someone who has clawed his way from the pits of despair and found a new footing in life by way of helping and serving others.
Jermaine is a Documentary Filmmaker, Author, Executive Producer, and advocate for positive mental health and social change. He owns Jay & Jah Films LLC, a production company producing substance-filled television and film content. His company is currently in talks with a few television networks for Rescue Addiction. This production follows Jermaine as he and his team enter crises to save those faced with addiction. It also works to educate their family/friends to help provide a breakthrough moment for all parties involved. “Our production company’s first project, the documentary “I Had To Change: The Story Of Jermaine J. Williams,” paved the way for Rescue Addiction by winning four awards worldwide in various film festivals,” he says.
In addition to managing his production company, Jermaine works as a Certified Recovery Peer Specialist with the State of Florida. This commitment pulls at Jermaine’s heartstrings because he can relate to the challenges of those he serves. He shares his testimony in an effort to help others understand his purpose.
“It was a Sunday morning, on November 29, 2015. I’ll never forget that date or day. I was on the heels of an all-night binge of cocaine and alcohol. After failed rehab stints years earlier, I had grown tired of having no control over something that had controlled me. I thought of a plan to die by suicide and was ready to execute it. But my only concern was my family finding my lifeless body in my room. So I regrouped my thoughts and exercised my faith in God. Even under the influence of substances, God began to show me that He had had enough of the punishment with which I had afflicted myself. I made it downstairs just in time to catch my family before they departed for church. I told them I had had enough, and I was done. I joined hands with my aunt, mother, and grandmother and
began to pray in complete surrender. I had been invited by a friend to church the Friday before, and I then called and told him I would like to take him up on the invitation. During praise and worship, I sat and sulked, while the rest of the congregation was standing and singing. At that time, I heard a faint but mighty voice say, “If you want to be done with this forever, you have to praise me like you never did before. I jumped to my feet during three consecutive songs and began to lift my hands in complete surrender. I was crying, foaming at the mouth, speaking in tongues with no regard for who was watching me. That was big for me because up until that moment, I had been concerned with how I was perceived. I struggled with a cocaine and alcohol addiction for thirteen years. It was the most challenging fight of my life. That day was seven years ago, and I’ve had no desire for drugs and alcohol and have enjoyed sobriety ever since,” Jermaine shared.
After reaching sobriety, Jermaine realized he had a unique story, and I wanted to tell that story to inspire others. He says from a teenager to early adulthood, he produced music. Along the way, he became a community activist who built a rapport in the political arena with an uncanny ability to speak out for those in his community. He has done this by coordinating campaigns, rallies, and more. Jermaine also wrote a religious thriller, “My Brother, The Devil, & Me.” He has also produced the documentary “I Had To Change: The Story Of Jermaine J. Williams”.
Various life experiences have inspired Jermaine. His father died when he was six years old. A drunk driver took Jermaine says, took his father away from me. Shortly after that, his aunt introduced him to the lifes’ work of Malcolm X, and Malcolm X, Jermaine says, became a father from the grave to him.
Jermaine shares he believes it is essential to help others because everyone will need help with something at one point or another. “I must pay it forward because I know what it feels like to receive support or go without it. It’s a matter of what feeling we want to leave with others. I hope it’s not the latter,” he says.
Jermaine’s work as a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist with Here Tomorrow, a nonprofit based in Jacksonville, FL, is what he loves most about what he does. “At Here Tomorrow, I take calls for 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and serve as a peer counselor to individuals who suffer from addiction and mental diagnoses. I also facilitate support groups,” he says.
As he looks towards the future, Jermaine says his goal is to engage in transition talks with television networks and finalize contracts for Rescue Addiction. “We are very, very close to that. The pilot episode is completed and receiving rave reviews from industry insiders,” Jermaine says. In addition to the novel he is working on, which includes a feature film segment, Jermaine has four other completed scripts in line. He also plans to lobby the DCF managing entity of his home county of Escambia, to advocate for mental health funding for Pensacola and surrounding areas. Something he will never cease doing is working to break the stigma surrounding mental health in the African American community.
My Brother, The Devil, & Me (Novel) is available on Amazon.
I Had To Change: The Story Of Jermaine J. Williams is available on YouTube.
Timothy Fowler Boys to Men FoundationBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Todd Youngblood
Timothy Fowler of Charlotte, NC, is the founder of Boys To Men Foundation. His organization provides thousands of boys, ages (9-17) who are referred through partnerships with local school districts and juvenile court systems) with positive alternatives and a robust support network. The mentoring program presents opportunities for enrichment, exposure, support, and guidance through group mentoring sessions led by trained volunteers and mentors. They also connect young men with consistent, positive male role models who foster effective relationships, community involvement, interactive teaching, and open communication in a loving and nurturing environment.
Timothy was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He grew up in a household with seven kids and says his father took care of them and ensured they always had a roof over their heads. Today, Timothy is a father of a teenage son, and he has a daughter who attends Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. Timothy graduated from Medgar Evers College with a BA in Elementary Education in 1995. He has worked as a Pre-K teacher for nearly 30 years. His first teaching position happened at P.S.190 in Brooklyn, and upon moving to Charlotte in 2005, Timothy worked as a Pre-K teacher at Morehead Stem Academy. Currently, he works as a Pre-K teacher at Highland Renaissance Academy.
Upon graduating from Medgar Evers College, Timothy began a career in education and has served as a role model for young people ever since. In 2008, he founded the Boys to Men Foundation. BTM’s workforce development benefits two groups: It builds character for mentees as they acquire knowledge, skills, and aptitude for gainful employment. It also benefits employers who participate in the apprenticeship program by providing an effective means of communication with a familiar candidate pool, helping to meet their demand for stellar employees.
Timothy’s desire to serve started a long time ago. He shares, “Back in my hometown of Brooklyn, I first noticed the nonexistent presence of positive male role models in underprivileged communities. Out of this need, I started my quest to counsel young teens through programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. I was a Big Brother for over five years and worked at the YMCA, and I continue to be active today. As a young male, I would always strive to bring people of all walks of life together. While attending Medgar Evers, I started a program called the Black and Latino Male Initiative. The initiative’s goal was to bring males together to discuss common issues affecting society at that time. When I moved to Charlotte, I continued that initiative by starting the Boys to Men Foundation.”
Timothy understands that he must care about others who need help outside his immediate family. “It’s a selfless act to fight for someone who is virtually a stranger until that relationship unravels. Ninety percent of our boys come from single-parent households. For these young men to have someone they can trust enough and be vulnerable with to reach out when they need help is invaluable,” he says.
Timothy says his life was greatly impacted by his grandmother, who lived in Wilmington, NC. As a young boy, he would travel there every summer to visit her. He witnessed her give back to her community and how she poured into anyone, regardless if they were members of her family. This explains why he loves giving people new experiences and watching them grow. “Every day is different. I always tell my mentees they help me grow just as much as we help them,” he shares.
For BTM, Timothy says operational funding is always tough. “There are a lot of non-profits that all need funding, so it’s a competitive environment. Fortunately, we have cultivated some great relationships with local businesses. Finding good people to help me carry out this organization’s vision and mission has also been a challenge. Yet, we are moving ahead and always looking for good people to help us,” he says.
Timothy says BTM’s goal for the upcoming year is to form more partnerships with local businesses and corporations to aid in their effort to empower young men. h
Project Community CenterBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Monnai McDowell
With a population of nearly 630,000, Louisville, KY, is regarded as the biggest city in the bluegrass state. Of that number, African Americans make up 28%, invoking a presence full of culture, history, and promise. One of Louisville’s prominent residents has made it their lifes’ journey to give back and create opportunities for others.
Quintina Monnai McDowell is the founder of Project Community Center Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring urban projects from the West End and the East End of Louisville together using an intergenerational approach to become the center of success for everyone. To accomplish this, the organization uses the following principles; Creative and Performing Arts, Health and Wellness, Education and Leadership, and Services for families and Military Veterans.
Monnai was born and raised in Louisville, KY. She’s a mother of four children and a two-time business owner. She has a passion for children and health and wellness. Additionally, she has two degrees, one in Business Administration and one in Human Resources. Monnai enjoys meeting new people, spending time with family, and connecting with others.
Another thing Monnai enjoys is sharing her testimony of how she began her traditional lifestyle journey. “I’ve had some challenges along my journey, but I’ve overcome many of them. I’ve been married and divorced. I’ve been at my lowest, and I’ve mentally quit on myself. I felt like I lost just to only realize that it was a test of my faith, and that I had to lose to win. One thing I am proud of is that I never physically gave up. I’ve always been a fighter at heart and I love hard. I’d rather blame myself than blame anyone else. I don’t have any regrets in my life. Everything happened according to God’s will, not mine. I thank God everyday for what He has already done, what He’s doing now, what He’s about to do.”
Some of the services offered by the Project Community Center are Business Entrepreneurship, Financial Literacy Mentoring, Belize Cultural Dance, and Health & Wellness. “We have implemented a health and wellness program through our nonprofit. It helps to educate children about health and wellness and how to build a healthy immune system. We also provide a transitional lifestyle program that prepares them as they mature and make lifestyle decisions and choices,” Monnai says.
One other business Monnai has produced is Sea Moss by J. Cortez. Like her nonprofit, this brand came to life in 2020. She says, “For three years I kept running from the dream that kept chasing me. I finally prayed to God and I ask “what is your dream for me?” Then it was revealed. One day, I was talking to my brother on the phone, telling him I want to start my own nonprofit. Not realizing that I was manifesting my vision. Then I wrote it down. Thereafter, I started it with three children. Soon I had 63 children. The next year came and I had 150 children. All these blessings without a permanent location to call our own. While we still don’t have a permanent location to call our own, we plan on having 300 plus children during our free summer camp this year. We’re excited and can’t wait to see what God does,” she says.
It is evident that Monnai is walking in her calling, and while walking purposefully, she has acquired a greater appreciation of love for others. “I love engaging and educating everyone about health and wellness and connecting with others spiritually. I am a huge giver and love to see everyone become successful. I love all my children, and my passion involves them. I’ve always believed that if I could help or change one person, I could change or help many,” she shares.
Like most business owners, Monnai has faced some challenge along the way. She says, “One challenge I’ve faced in business is “trust”. It’s hard for me to trust anyone. I had to learn how to overcome that obstacle in my life, especially in business. I was listening to a motivational clip from DMX and he explained trust. “Trust a person to be who they show you they are. Trust a snake to bite you, trust a thief to steal from you, and trust a liar to lie to you”. I wanted trust, but I had to also show that I could be trustworthy. I’m a very loyal person, so when trust is betrayed, it’s hard to trust again. In business, I had to learn how to trust without implementing emotion. What I mean by that is, removing my feelings from my business by separating the two. Business is business, it’s not personal. This could be a challenge for givers because you’ll always have to watch out for the takers.”
As life continues for Monnai, she plans to continue serving the Louisville community with great products and services via her brands. She also plans to continue to be a blessing to others and expand her organization in other states. “My passion is worldwide. I’m not saved to sit. I am saved to serve. Therefore, whatever path God has for me, that’s the path I’m taking,” she says.
visit their websites to learn more about the Project Community Center and Sea Moss by J. Cortez.
For three years I kept running from the dream that kept chasing me. I finally prayed to God and I ask “what is your dream for me?” Then it was revealed.”
The Dixon GroupBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Ryan Dixon
It’s been said that it takes two to make a thing go right. In the case of Ryan and Cherri Dixon, that assertion couldn’t be more accurate. Together, they make up the Dixon Group, which operates under the RE/MAX Champions Realty The Dixon Group Greensboro, NC. This full-service realty brand provides professional real estate services for purchasing or selling Commercial, Residential, and Investment Properties throughout North Carolina.
Ryan is a father, grandfather, and husband to Cherri. He is also a Greensboro native and James B. Dudley High School graduate. He is a proud U.S. Air Force veteran who served for 20 years. Some of his deployed locations were Iraq, Kuwait, Cuba, and Australia. He shares he met Cherri at his first military duty assignment at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina.
Cherri is a native of the Bronx, NY, and moved to Charleston, SC, during her grade school years. She is a devoted mother, grandmother, and wife to Ryan and says she loves traveling with Ryan, meeting new people, and giving back to the communities they are a part of. In addition to the brand she is building with Ryan, she works as a Human Resources Specialist for the United Postal Service. She pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Workforce Education Development and one in Human Resource Management from Southern Illinois University. Together, Cherri and Ryan have six children, and two grandchildren.
Ryan and Cherri say they love witnessing a family’s happiness when buying their firsttime home or a forever home. “We both were inspired to pursue Real Estate mainly because many of our close family and friends have succeeded in this field. We also love being business owners and helping people achieve their dream of home ownership. We love seeing entrepreneurs’ dreams come when they purchase an investment or commercial property. Most of all, we love working as a husband-and-wife team and building a foundation for our family and a business for future generations.”
Looking forward, Ryan and Cherri plan to expand. They hope to accomplish this with their children joining their business and also venturing out to other states. “Our goals for 2023 is to get more face-to-face contact with potential clients, network, and promote our business. We also want to increase our sales and see more smiling faces, knowing that we helped someone buy or sell a home,” they said. To learn more about The Dixon Group, please contact them directly.
Helping Communities Thrive Through Mental Health EducationBy Monica Montgomery Photos Provided by Katrena Wize Artography
Before the 2020-21 pandemic, the stigmas around mental health were alive and well. As the world was becoming increasingly aware of the realities of mental health, it was still easier to put those who suffered into neat categories that could be explained away. As the global community adjusts to life post-pandemic, we find that the truth about mental health issues is that anyone can suffer from them. Add to it the stress and anxiety brought on when the world was paused for a year, and we see a new level of “woke.” But now that our eyes are open, what do we do? Reketta Brown, a North Carolina Licensed Professional Counselor with over twenty years of experience and her new initiative, is here to help answer that question.
Thrive Foundation is a Guilford County-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that educates children, families, and the community on the importance of mental health awareness. This next level in servicing our communities wasn’t something that just happened. “I’ve been sitting on this nonprofit for about three years,” Reketta explained. “Where Wrights Care Services focuses on treatment and care for individual clients and their families, the Thrive Foundation focuses on training professionals in the community, the schools, and different organizations on the importance of mental health awareness.”
Reketta is the founding director of Wrights Care Services. “Wrights Care Services is a privately-owned, full-service behavioral healthcare agency. We are committed to providing clients with a personalized approach to behavioral health and substance abuse services.” As a mental health care provider, Reketta says that she always knew that she would be in the service of helping others.
“I grew up in the church as a PK (pastor’s kid),” Reketta explains. “Watching my parents serve in the church and the community inspired me. I knew that when I grew up, I would be in a profession that focused on helping others.”
Reketta’s love for people shined long before she understood the qualities she possessed that would make her a success as a counselor. “Even as a kid, I had a heart for people. I was that “listening ear” for my friends. I was the one in the group that everyone knew they could lean on.”
A compassionate heart and empathetic spirit are essential when helping people with mental health issues. Ignited with the understanding that serving others was her destiny, Reketta set her sights on nursing. After testing the waters as a C.N.A., she felt like her calling was taking her in a different direction. Reketta attended Winston-Salem State University. “I majored in Occupational Therapy at Winston-Salem State, but oddly enough, when I took the comprehensive exam, I didn’t pass the mental health portion. Go figure!” Reketta said with a laugh.
Although having to choose another field of study was a slight setback, it didn’t stop Reketta. It positioned her to find the program meant for her. “I transferred to the Rehabilitations Studies program and flourished. From that point on, I never looked back. I knew I was where I needed to be.” After earning a Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Studies from Winston Salem State in 2005, Reketta let her passion guide her.
Finding her niche, Reketta continued to push forward by attending North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and receiving her Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling. Her first business was a joint venture between her and two friends she met while earning her master’s degree.
Behavioral Health & Wellness Care Services was launched in 2006. Then in 2009, Reketta and a partner started Wright’s Care Services. “As a licensed clinical mental health counselor, I’ve been able to help and support so many families and individuals, specifically Black women,” Reketta shared.
“I’m drawn to women and the issues we face. I work to support women who are going through traumatic changes and transitions. Helping these women is fulfilling and as a woman who has experienced divorce and is now raising a son as a single parent, I can identify with women trying to find balance in a completely off-balance world. It’s hard.”
People talk about passion and what drives them, but when you can explain your why it helps keep you grounded. “As I explained, I’ve always wanted to help people. I tried a few avenues before I focused on counseling. What convinced me… my why is that mental health doesn’t discriminate.
It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or how much money you make. All people experience different issues in life. That was my sweet spot when I could go into unfamiliar places, see the individual, and feel compelled to help them. I knew beyond a doubt that helping people with mental health issues was what I was born to do.”
For the last thirteen years, Wright’s Care Services clinicians have been servicing the North Carolina, Triad, and surrounding areas in emotional restoration and recovery. But Reketta saw that there was more to be done. “In this post-pandemic climate, we see more and more people experiencing mental health issues or symptoms exacerbated by the stresses of pandemic life. This exposed gaps in care and the availability of information,” Reketta explained. “As we worked with our clients, we received questions from healthcare providers, parents of students, and leaders of professional and religious organizations. A lot of these questions can’t be answered in counseling. This was an opportunity for education and awareness.” From this understanding, the Thrive Foundation was born.
“I’m drawn to women and the issues we face. I work to support women who are going through traumatic changes and transitions. Helping these women is fulfilling and as a woman who has experienced divorce and is now raising a son as a single parent, I can identify with women trying to find balance in a completely offbalance world. It’s hard.”
The Thrive Foundation focuses on training and empowering patients and their families. “By filling the gaps in information and education surrounding mental health, we are giving individuals and communities the ability to thrive,” Reketta says with excitement.
Because Wright’s Care Services has an established reputation in the community, Reketta was approached by school administrators, parents, and religious organizations. “This confirmed the need for a centralized location for vital mental health information,” Reketta explained. “At the Thrive Foundation, we foster hope and resiliency in the communities we serve. This is done by providing programs and resources that help empower, educate, and evolving communities. Our trained team of mental health advocates is committed to building emotionally healthy communities.”
The educational gap that Thrive is helping to fill is between the people dealing with mental health issues and those who live, work and support them. “There are so many different layers and issues that people experience. Being able to identify the signs and symptoms, as well as how to provide support for those individuals, is crucial.” Reketta shared. Wright’s Care Services provides counseling services to two school districts, so it was a natural progression for the foundation to provide educational support for those teachers and parents. “We have become a leader in mental health support in those areas because we have the privilege to service fifteen schools within two districts.”
As Reketta’s vision continues to expand, she is continuously developing tools to help and support families. “Because of our work with children and their families, we have been able to identify specific needs and develop tools that can be used in the home. For example, I have recently launched a product called Affirm. Affirm is a collection of thirty affirmation cards for children ages five to ten. The goal is to help foster confidence early in life, helping combat adolescent insecurities.”
One of the driving forces behind the Thrive Foundation is Reketta wants to make sure there is no room for misinformation. It’s not uncommon for people in the African American community to avoid professional help because of the stigma attached to it by their community. Thrive can get the information to the people who need it most by going to the heart of these communities.
“The church and other religious entities are an intricate part of community life in the African American community. By providing sound mental health education to these organizations, we have a better chance of helping more people,” Reketta insists. “It’s one thing for a friend to suggest counseling, but if a pastor or religious leader encourages parishioners to seek out information or professional mental health support if needed. Those people are more likely to be open to it.” This openness to mental health education is key to helping strengthen individuals, families, and communities.
Moving forward, Reketta’s goal for Thrive Foundation is to continue laying the groundwork and building relationships between the public and mental health professionals. “The relationship between mental health professionals and their clients isn’t always easily won. It takes time and trust. I hope that as Wright’s Care Services works in concert with the Thrive Foundation, we can build happier and healthier communities one by one.”
For organizations and individuals who are interested in acquiring training on mental health awareness and education, please reachout to Thrive Foundation.
Reketta Brown Thrive Foundation
523 Simpson Street - Greensboro, NC 2740 www.thrive-wellness.org email@example.com 336-816-2389
Tasha Teaches SpanishBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Rolando Ochoa of Integro Photography
For Arkansas native LaTasha Moore, those words are a foundation on which she stands. She is a wife, mother, striving entrepreneur, and countrywoman at heart, hailing from the small southwestern town of Falcon.
LaTasha is a woman full of wisdom and credits being born to elderly parents giving her the advantage of seeing life differently at an early age. She believes that titles and accolades don’t mean anything if one’s character is not exemplary. She is also someone who has accomplished a great deal in life. Some things include closing in obtaining her Master of Arts in Spanish degree from the University of Central Arkansas. That feat complements her Masters in Public Health she acquired from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Arkansas State University. LaTasha has also lived and worked in Spain as an assistant English teacher through the North American Language and Culture Assistant program.
Currently, LaTasha is the face and founder of Tasha Teaches Spanish. Her company’s focus is to unite communities through language. “We know that learning the Spanish language shouldn’t be limited to school and college classrooms. People need Spanish education in a variety of settings for a variety of reasons, and we exist to meet that need,” she says.
LaTasha shares her company began on a God-fixed plan. “In 2018, I had just been laid off after only one year of teaching Spanish at an area charter school. Pregnant with my first child, I needed a source of income even though my thenpartner (now husband) had offered to handle the bulk of the finances. One day I received the divine thought to make a post on my personal Facebook page stating that I would teach and tutor Spanish lessons. By the end of the day, my post had over 100 likes and 40 shares. This made me realize there was a market and a need for my talents.”
Four years later, LaTasha’s business is running better than ever. She’s contracted six teachers, obtained an office space, and carries out various services and programs to serve her students and community. Some of her achievements since opening the doors of LaTasha Teaches Spanish are being the Winner of the 2020 BIG Pitch competition, Winner of the 2020 Entrepreneurs Unlimited pitch competition, Winner of the 2020 Little Rock Regional Emerging Minority Business of the Year Award, 2022 Little Rock Regional Minority Business of the Year finalist, and acceptance into the 3rd Cohort of the WEM Hub program sponsored by the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas. She is also the 2022 recipient of the Small Business Growth Fund grant.
“We know that learning the Spanish language shouldn’t be limited to school and college classrooms. People need Spanish education in a variety of settings for a variety of reasons, and we exist to meet that need.”
Besides helping others become the best version of themselves, LaTasha loves her life’s calling. “I thoroughly enjoy helping people remove self-imposed barriers and fears when learning Spanish. I enjoy helping them realize that they don’t have to be worried about perfection when beginning their language-learning journey. I encourage my students to be serious about learning, study often, and be committed to reaching a high level of fluency. I am happy when they can connect with Spanish speakers in their communities, churches, at local festivals, etc.,” she says.
LaTasha says s he is inspired by the possibility of a more lingually diverse state. “The Pew Research Center puts Arkansas in the bottom five states for Spanish education. My brand, Tasha Teaches Spanish, exists to change that,” she shares. “When we think of new programs and services to offer, we keep in mind that we want to contribute to improving the Spanish language learning all over the state, not only in our area. This year we will begin to host our annual Spanish camp in different regions, and our long-term goal is to bring a Spanish language immersion school to Arkansas.”
Like many entrepreneurs, there was a time in business when LaTasha only made money through it. She shares that she did not work another job and had to rely on others for her financial wellbeing. “Humans are shaky. They are committed today and gone tomorrow. The high and low seasons of business often resulted in me being in financial binds,” she says. That was challenging for her, but she persevered.
While the journey has been unique and even challenging at times, LaTasha says there aren’t many things she would change about the way things have happened. “I would change our initial hiring practices and staff training. I was the only teacher from 2018-2020, and in 2021 we began contracting teachers to work for us. However, my hiring process was not thorough, and we ended up acquiring a few teachers that were not good fits for the role. Additionally, I failed to see the importance of frequent staff training throughout the year, and I wish I had started that sooner as well,” she says.
The future is looking bright and promising for Tasha Teaches Spanish. This year, there are plans to expand their Spanish summer camp to different regions in Arkansas. They also host community events such as trivia and movie nights, and in December 2023, they will carry out a Spanish Christmas children’s choir. Their long-term goal is to open a Spanish immersion school. Please visit their website to learn more about Tasha Teaches Spanish.
Darrell Woodard Woodard Decking & FencingBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Darrell Woodard
Darrell Woodard of Huntsville, Alabama, is a gogetter. At just 33 years of age, he has accomplished a great deal. He is a father and an impressive businessman.
Darrell graduated from Alabama A&M University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. While in college, he was accepted into the Pathways Program at NASA. A semester before his graduation date, NASA had already offered Darrell an entry-level engineering position that he graciously accepted. He has worked as an electrical designer for NASA at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville for over ten years. He has been involved with various projects at the International Space Station.
Darrell’s two-year-old daughter Layla, he says, is the light of his life. “She melts my heart, and everything I do is to secure a better life for her.” He grew up in a stable home with both parents, Victoria and Darrell, two brothers, Darion and Charles, and one sister Beonka. “I watched my dad work his way up from being a janitor to becoming an operating room technician at Huntsville Hospital. My dad has always inspired me to understand and trust the process of anything in life. I believe I obtained my work ethic from my mom. She was self-employed and ran a home cleaning business while working as the store manager at Bruster’s Real Ice-cream. My parents have always stressed the importance of helping others, and I think that played a major role in helping shape the man I am today.”
In addition to his commitment to NASA, Darrell is also the owner of Woodard Decking & Fencing. Launched in 2018, his company specializes in building top-quality privacy fences at affordable prices. They also can construct decks of any style and recently started offering rod iron, aluminum, chain link, and vinyl fencing. Darrell’s services are offered at the commercial and residential levels.
Woodard Decking & Fencing’s motto is “WE TREAT YOUR YARD AS IF IT WERE OUR OWN”. Darrell says he had no real intentions of starting a business; it just happened. I bought my first home in August 2017 and became interested in adding a privacy fence allowing my dog to roam freely in the backyard. I called a few companies and obtained a few quotes
for comparison purposes. The quotes intrigued me, mainly because I saw the bulk of the cost was labor on most of the quotes. I started watching YouTube videos on how to build a fence and soon realized that this was something I could do. I built the fence with the assistance of my dad and brother, and it wasn’t perfect by a long shot, but I was satisfied. I learned some do’s and don’ts that I had missed in the videos. Occasionally, I do ride by my old home to see that fence, and it serves as a reminder where it all started. As of today, my company has built over 150 fences in the north Alabama area and as far as Nolensville, TX.”
The experience that Darrell’s company offers is a personable one, and he says it separates him from others in the industry. “As the owner, I prioritize communicating with every customer who decides to go with my company. I personally lay eyes on every project my staff builds, ensuring that it is built to my standards. I take much pride in doing great work consistently. It brings me joy to see the smiling faces of my customers as we are doing the final walk-through to verify they are pleased with the job completed, and that’s what I love most,” he says.
God placed some very impactful people in Darrell’s life, and he is appreciative of that. While growing up, he had two neighbors who were both engineers, Charles Gamble and Lawanna Harris, both of whom were well respected at Marshall Space Flight Center. Darrell credits them with guiding him on a career path early into his childhood. He also credits his uncle James White for introducing him to electronics. His uncle taught him how to install car audio systems at age 13. He also acknowledges several teachers and coaches he encountered while growing up for having a positive impact on his life and future.
Darrell says, “The future truly inspires me. Watching my beautiful daughter grow up daily, and watching my business grow, inspires me to keep going, keep pushing, and keep striving to defy the odds. Creating generational wealth is what inspires me.” If he could rewrite his business journey, Darrell says he would have started his business much sooner. Yet, he believes in God’s timing, and I understand that without purchasing his first home, the interest wouldn’t have ever occurred.
Darrell advises other aspiring entrepreneurs to be patient, study, and diligently work on their craft. He also advises surrounding yourself with good people and always treat others how you would like to be treated. “Surround yourself with people who see your vision, surround yourself with people who support your vision, and always remember the people who helped you along the way, and never stop believing in yourself.”
Looking towards the future, Darrell says his goal is to continue building his brand according to God’s plan. To learn more about Woodard Decking & Fencing, please contact him directly.
It’s All About Her Love For KidsBy Dorjae’ McClammey Photos Provided by Shaunielle Foster
Who has a bigger heart than Shaunielle Foster? She is the founder and CEO of Footsteps to Follow, a non-profit organization based in Guilford County, NC, that focuses on special needs children and the inclusion of the buddy system for standard children.
A native of New York, Shaun, as she prefers to be acknowledged, has cemented her “footstep” in the modeling industry and is highly sought after for her creative expertise and fashion savvy.
Modeling is something that Shaun grasped at the young age of three. Soon she was appearing in commercials and print ads. Living in a city that never sleeps offered her opportunities at every corner. However, these opportunities did not focus on just modeling but allowed her to branch out and explore different arts, such as dancing and performing arts. Growing up in multiple industries, she felt the need for modeling would let you express who you are regardless of what the person is wearing. And the rest is history.
“It all began in 2009 with a simple conversation. My friend and I were discussing their child who had special needs. While talking, they realized there were no opportunities available for the young person to participate in the fashion and model world without being stigmatized. At that moment, the idea for Footsteps to Follow came to life,” Shaun says.
For Shaun, it is all about loving her kids. The open platform that Footsteps To Follow have gives children ages with special needs between the ages of two to 18, a sense of inclusiveness in the fashion world. With bi-annual fashion shows during April and October, they can forget their disabilities and enjoy themselves. Shaun’s mentoring program, “The Buddy System,” allows them to be matched and create life-long friendships with other children who don’t have the same setbacks or illnesses.
Another project Shaun has her hands in is a workshop called ‘Stytches.’ It allows the kids to create their own garments and showcase them during the fashion show that Footsteps To Follow produces. She has also created various partnerships with her community members to ensure the kids in her program and her community are receiving everything they need. One partnership is with the local HBCU, North Carolina A&T State University. Together, they pair each of her kids with a mentor from other local non-profits. Another program called ‘Wrapped Up In Music’ serves kids who are patients in local hospitals.
Shaun’s love doesn’t end there. She has been a foster parent for seven and a half years and has fostered over 290 children. “I felt like it was necessary to be able to be more than just a bridge gap for so many children,” she says. She has also found a way to get her family involved with her programs. Her son Kingzton, a young KidPreneur and model, has created an all-natural self-care line called “Kingz Korner.” He has all-natural lip therapy, bath bombs, awareness suds, and more. The colors of his logo are dedicated to his mother and represent all she has done for kids in the foster system. “Green is for missing children, blue is for adoption, and yellow is for unconditional love.” Shaun also has launched ‘Fatz15’, a clothing line dedicated to her daughter Daisha who she calls Fatz because she barely weighed five pounds at birth.
Although there have been challenges along the way, Shaun says she is unphased about them. “I always find the silver lining. It’s not about the challenge; it’s about finding the solution,” she says. As for the future, she is working on acquiring a brick-and-mortar location for her programs.
For anyone looking to follow in Shaun’s remarkable footsteps, her advice is to be authentically you; there is only one. “Follow your hopes, dreams, and heart, and be passionate about what you do. Doing so will not feel like work.”
To learn more about Shaunielle Foster and Footsteps to Follow, please contact them directly. h