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LaToya’s Story: From Scholarship Recipient To Recent Graduate

Words by Abbie Dyer on Aug 31, 2021 9:32:43 AM

When each of us has power, we all have power. To pursue our dreams. And inspire others to follow their dreams too. LaToya W., a 2019 Lake Trust Foundation scholarship recipient, found her power as a teacher. In her position as a tutor and educator for preschool students, she lives her passion each day by giving back to students in her West Michigan community. But her journey to inspire others started with an inspiring journey of her own.

LaToya’s path to obtaining her graduate degree started in 2019 when her aunt, a Lake Trust member, encouraged her to apply for a Michigan Impact Scholarship through the Lake Trust Foundation. This scholarship was established in 2018 to encourage entrepreneurship and economic growth within Michigan. The full-tuition scholarship to Cleary University can be applied to any graduate or undergraduate degree program, either in-person or online.

Taking A Chance

LaToya decided to follow her aunt’s advice and apply for the scholarship. Weeks later, she received a life-changing phone call. She had just been selected as a Michigan Impact Scholarship recipient, which meant she’d receive a full-tuition scholarship to complete her master’s degree at Cleary University. She almost dropped the phone in shock.

“I just couldn’t believe it. You really don’t know what people will see in you until you share your story,” said LaToya.

Sadly, LaToya’s aunt suddenly passed away before the scholarship recipients were named. So, accepting the scholarship was a bittersweet moment for LaToya. But she knew that her aunt would be proud. Continuing her education felt like a great way to honor and commemorate this influential woman in LaToya’s life.

LaToya's aunt inspired her to apply for the Michigan Impact Scholarship through the Lake Trust Foundation.

Graduation Day

After two years of hard work, LaToya is celebrating another milestone. She recently graduated with honors from Cleary University with her master’s degree in Culture, Change, and Leadership. Graduation day was a surreal experience. She couldn’t believe that the occasion finally arrived, and she felt a sense of triumph when it was her turn to walk across the stage.

“After all that we [the students in her program] had been through in the past year, we still got to have a graduation,” she reflected.

Knowing that she never gave up through the challenges of going to school during a pandemic added to her sense of accomplishment. Pushing through each tough assignment was worth it to wear her cap and gown on graduation day.

LaToya's hard work paid off and she recently graduated with her master's degree from Cleary University.

Setting Her Sights On The Future

Right now, LaToya is individually tutoring three students, helping them with their assignments and building their confidence in the process. Switching to virtual learning over the last year was hard on many students, and she’s happy to see the progress her kids are making. One of her students was struggling to keep up on schoolwork and often missed assignments. After working with LaToya over the past year, her student’s grades have improved. The young lady is now excelling in school, and her confidence has soared. Seeing this transformation and watching kids grow and feel more confident is the most rewarding part of LaToya’s position.

One day, LaToya hopes to open a daycare and own her own business. She pictures her school as a safe space where she could focus on teaching students based on their individual learning styles. She feels that this would be a valuable way for her to give back to her community. It would also allow her to help local youth and show them that: “If somebody believes in you, and you believe in yourself, you can do it”. This is also the mantra she told herself to push through the tough times in school, as she knew her aunt really believed in her.

In addition to opening a daycare, LaToya also plans to continue her schooling. She hopes to pursue her Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education with a minor in Special Education.

By tutoring students, LaToya helps kids build their confidence.

The Gift Of Grace

Now that LaToya is done with this chapter of her education, she has some simple advice for others who are in school or considering going back: Take a chance on yourself and be fully committed to pursuing your dreams. It’s easy to get discouraged when life gets tough, but it’s important to remember the goal that you’re working toward.

“There are going to be times when you’re going to want to quit. But you’ve got to give yourself grace,” LaToya eloquently explains. “Never tell yourself that you can’t do it. That’s not even an option … When you reach the end and walk across that stage, you’re going to look back and realize it was all worth it.”

That’s the power of a dream.


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