Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Career Readiness

In this blog, while I’ll be talking about high school students trying to attend college, and community-college students trying to attend four-year colleges and universities, I’ll be talking to their parents. As a mother of a 17-year-old who’s considering college, by becoming familiar with the college-application process and aware of its all-important deadlines, I’ll be able to ensure my son does what he needs to do. When he needs to do it.    

Career readiness, as it pertains to your child, means preparing them for their career, and it requires that they answer some important questions. What kind of work do I want to do? Where do I want to go to school? Career readiness also requires that they attend a (two-year) community college, four-year college, or university.

More Tests

The 2018-2019 college year begins in late August (of 2018). If your child will be attending a four-year college or university, they’ll probably be required to take the ACT (American College Test) or SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). These tests determine how strong your child is in math, reading, and writing (for the ACT) or in English, math, reading, and science (for the SAT).

It’s a good idea for your child to take the ACT or SAT more than once because while they’re nervous before taking it the first time, knowing what to expect, they’re relaxed the second time and often perform better. In addition, while some schools require students to include all of their ACT and SAT scores in their college applications, most schools only require students to include their highest scores.


There’s a simple way for your child to perform better on the ACT or SAT—take practice tests. There are books with practice tests in them, and there are free online practice tests. Remember: The school your child wants to attend will receive thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of applications from students around the world. Your child will be competing with these kids. If you want to increase the likelihood your child gets accepted, make sure they prepare for the test.   

One Isn’t Enough

Imagine your child has had their heart set on becoming a Volunteer since middle school—what happens if their college application is rejected! Since the University of Tennessee (UT) is a public university, if they live in Tennessee, this probably won’t happen. But if your child wants to attend college out-of-state, or if they want to attend a private school (e.g., Vanderbilt), they’ll face tougher competition, and you’ll have a higher bill.  

UT accepts 76% of enrollment applications; Vanderbilt accepts 11%. UT’s in-state tuition is about $12,000 per year, and its out-of-state tuition is almost $31,000; Vanderbilt’s tuition (in-state and out-of-state) is almost $45,000 per year. My point? Have your child apply to more than one school, especially if they want to attend a private school.

How Will You Pay for It?

Your child has decided where they want to attend college, and they’ve scheduled the ACT or SAT (or both)—now you have to figure out how you’re going to pay for college. If you’re like most parents, you and your spouse can’t foot the entire bill. Fortunately, you don’t have to.

There’s lots of money available to pay for college: grants, scholarships, and student loans.
Grants place more weight on need, and scholarships place more weight on academic performance. Some scholarships, though, are reserved for specific groups. The Tennessee Society of CPA Scholarship, for example, is only awarded to students who are Tennessee residents majoring in accounting. Students often assume they need lofty grade-point-averages to qualify for scholarships. They don’t. So make sure your child researches them.

The financial aid packet is critical, and it should be completed as early as possible because most schools award aid on a first-come-first-served basis. The earlier your child applies, the better their chance of getting money and the better their chance of getting more money. Also, by applying for financial aid early, if your child has left some important information out or has made a mistake, they’ll have time to submit the correct information before deadline.

Clock is Ticking …

The financial-aid application period began on October 1st (2017), so if your child will need aid for the 2018-2019 school year, which will begin in August of 2018, have them begin applying now.

What’s great about the process beginning on October 1st is, you can include your 2016 tax return in the application. Since you probably earned more in 2016 than you did in 2015, and will earn more next year than you will this year, by using your 2016 return, you’ll have less income (than you’ll have next year) to report. As a result, your child will have greater financial need and will probably receive more aid. 

On-the-Job Training

Companies are desperate for talent, and in their scramble to attract high-achieving students, they’re offering yet another way to help your child pay for college. Work-versed learning programs like apprenticeships and internships are more popular than ever, allowing students to earn money while getting valuable work experience. This experience looks great on a resume, but more importantly, it gives the student an opportunity to decide if this is the kind of work they want to do for the rest of their life.


You don’t have to be rich for your child to attend college. There’s plenty of money out there to pay for college, but to get it, your child has to take the initiative and do the work. I’ve attached two links that will help., which is Michelle Obama's program, helps students prepare for college. has information about everything your child will need to know as they prepare for college, and it’ll make the process easier by sending text messages to notify you both about upcoming deadlines.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Reforming Good Works

October 31st, 2017, was the 500th anniversary of Reformation Day, a movement that brought greater religious freedom and greater freedom of expression. The Reformation decreed that we are saved by grace alone, and our faith—not our works—is evidence of our belief. In light of this, I felt compelled to begin communicating again to explain what’s happening with LATROBE and show how our journey has evolved.

For the last two years I have worked with the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce on an initiative to connect people to educational opportunities and employment opportunities in Memphis and throughout the Mid-South. The project focuses on career education and technical education through our two-year community college and short-term certification training.

This project provided insight into what Memphis needs, and it made us rethink LATROBE’s role in the community. We’ve expanded our services and now specialize in three areas: career readiness (workforce development for hard-to-place individuals), commercial readiness (business development for individuals who need help starting their own businesses), and, our newest specialty, campus readiness, which is safety and security development for organizations and institutions.

I have over 25 years’ experience in engineering, manufacturing, and workforce, and James, my vice president and husband, has over 25 years’ experience in education, safety, and security. His education and experience is invaluable, though, because it has taught him how to get hard-to-place people (i.e. people with backgrounds) back to work.

LATROBE isn’t alone in providing training and job-placement—the Arkansas Workforce Center, Tennessee Workforce Development Center, and local non-profit organizations provide similar services and training—but our advice to anyone we meet is this: Find an organization that provides case management. Why? Because you need someone to help you navigate the process. If you’re returning to the workforce but don’t have a qualified, skilled, experienced professional helping with your job search and serving as your advocate, you likely won’t find a job. 

We use assessment tools to determine unique interests and skills, and knowing that it takes more than training to land a job, we also hold your hand and walk with you every step of the way. LATROBE isn’t a staffing company. It’s part of the community.  We use technology, proven practices, and community relationships to help you get the job you want. Stay tuned for future posts on how we use technology to find solutions for job seekers through our Career Readiness portfolio.

Most parents would love for their child to be able to attend an elite college or university. Our son has the grades to attend any school in America, and we can afford to send him. But, he might tell us that instead of going to college, he wants to get his certification. We are okay with that because James and I know getting a college degree isn’t for everyone. In fact, in today’s job market, you don’t need a degree to jumpstart your career.

Earning a college degree is a great way to start your career, but as a community, we need to get back to being entrepreneurial and find ways to start our own businesses. Sometimes, learning a hands-on skill (i.e. a trade) teaches what you need to know to start your own business. LATROBE’s Commercial Readiness program can help you with this very thing.

I’m from Stuttgart, in the Arkansas Delta. James and I moved to the Memphis area when he, an associate warden at the federal prison in Forrest City, was transferred to the region. We relocated near Memphis because it put us squarely in the middle of everything: what’s happening in eastern Arkansas, and what’s happening in western Tennessee.

Memphis is our home—we’re going to retire here—so we’ve decided to get more involved in community affairs. LATROBE allows us to do that. By training job seekers, introducing them to employers, and helping individuals launch their own businesses, not only are we helping make the Memphis economy stronger and more diverse, we’re doing the same for the entire Mid-South economy! And, we’re helping reform our community. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Doers of Good Works

Be doers and act on what you hear
(James 1:22)

We are raising an amazing son. We take great pride in exercising our parental bragging rights. Here’s the backstory:  Yesterday was the first mentoring session of #CodeRoadClub, so my husband and son attended with me in support. While the program targets young women, as a mom, I saw it as great opportunity for Q to gain exposure to careers in technology. To learn more about women in Memphis, Nairobi, Nashville, and Toronto meeting weekly in a live classroom for educational, cultural, and social exchanges, visit
or follow us as I live tweet on Saturdays from @LTR_Latrobe_Mfg to @CodeRoadClub.

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry…life happened and we began the day with a few minor technical difficulties that were quickly overcome by a remarkable support team from all four locations. I privately joke that I live with #ProblemSolver #1 and #2, so in their true nature, their immediate response was to jump in to fix the technology fails. While the girls from different parts of the world took turns introducing themselves and learning valuable information about the importance of networking and demonstrating abilities, my son was purposely listening and looking for opportunities for improvement. When the program ended, he quietly sent me a text that he had “a few ideas to help this work a little better.” Then he proceeded to network by starting a conversation with one of the coders/presenters who recommended building solutions that solve problems.

I woke up this morning to find a professional email from my fifteen year old son that laid out his suggestions for improving the technical production of future sessions. With no edits, I forwarded his email to Mary Hayes, CEO of Engage Learning Systems, and the braintrust behind #CodeRoadClub. She responded with a prompt thank you note to Q, with an offer for him to attend next week’s session as a part of the tech support team, lol! Of course, he accepted!!!

When I wrote about #CSforall in last week’s blog post, I knew that I would begin mentoring with the #CodeRoadClub as my contribution for exposing local young women to this aspect of STEM education. What I did not anticipate was how this act might impact or benefit my own son.  Nor did I expect his level of engagement or participation or excitement about a Saturday morning project.  As a parent, I am most proud that instead of criticizing imperfections in a process, he took professional actions to offer solutions to make something good better. He’s a doer. How are you incorporating technology into your educational, cultural, or service projects? Let us know by commenting or sending an email to If you like this post and want to catch up on some of my previous discussions, please visit the full Purposed Work blog at

Sunday, January 31, 2016

BASIC Good Works

In the beginning was the Word…
(John 1:1)

January 30, 2016 for me will be one those days committed to memory: Where we you when you heard the announcement from the White House on a specific initiative to prepare the next generation of technology leaders? In his weekly address, the President announced plans for a $4 billion investment, stating: We have to make sure all our kids are equipped for the jobs of the future. (To view the full statement about Computer Science for All, #CSforAll, visit

The meaning and application of computer science has transformed since my first introduction in the 80s. When I signed up for my first computer class, I did not fully understand what that meant. Keep in mind; this was prior to the days of the majority of families in our community having a home computer. I do not remember touching a computer until I was in high school, so I thought the course I signed up for was to teach me the basic skills of using a computer. I had no idea that BASIC was a programming language that I was expected to learn to solve problems.

Through high school and college, I managed to push through languages foreign to me like BASIC, FORTRAN, COBOL, and TURBO C because they were required courses for my engineering major. I refer to them as foreign languages because although I mastered writing IF/THEN/ELSE statements (with and without syntax errors), the problems we were solving had no real life application in my real world experiences. After gaining work experience, I began to understand the relationship and dependence on foundational computer science programming:

Hierarchy of Programming Languages

In my current workforce readiness initiatives, I often get pushback from parents and elders for suggesting that kids enroll in manufacturing or industrial programs of study. For them, manufacturing has a connotation of being a laborer, without regard for the technology required for process or product improvement. What I have found is a lack of awareness of the computer science basics necessary throughout the value chain of machining or automation or robotics, etc.  Just as in the beginning was the Word, the beginning of value creation rests on equipping our next generation of technology leaders to solve problems using computer science. How will your community participate in #CSforall?  Let us know by commenting or sending an email to If you like this post and want to catch up on some of my previous discussions, please visit the full Purposed Work blog at

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Speaking of Good Works

…speak those things which are not, as though they were…
(Romans 4:17)

I am a firm believer that when you speak your desires into the universe, if they align with God Will, He begins to move things around in your favor. Two years ago, I challenged our son to participate in a 5k event with me and reminded him of the purpose of the races, to train to endure and complete. (For the entire blog post, read Fast forward to now:  not only has every Saturday of this month been consumed with charity races, he currently runs for his high school cross country team. In fact, he’s at a midweek race in Batesville as I type this.

The words that resonate for me are to train to endure and complete. That’s how I am feeling these days about the workforce preparedness efforts in this region. Getting to the desired outcome is a marathon and not a sprint. If the work were easy, the problem would have been solved years ago. The more I learn, the more I see the degrees of systemic institutional and generational layers that must be penetrated.

The funny thing for me is that I find myself stepping out of my comfort zone of operating as process driven and leaning on my relational skills. For a self-proclaimed non-people person, no one could have ever impressed upon me that one day, I would be consumed by community relation activities and that my motivation could be summed up by this meme: I am not in this work for the income. I do this work for the OUTCOME…changing lives. The marathon analogy (to train to endure and complete) holds true if we have any hope of changing the systems and processes most impacting our desired outcomes of our workforce development efforts.

I wondered how I got to this place and started to examine my actions. I believe in the power of I AM. It is no coincidence that about two years ago, I began a morning routine of reciting a list decrees that I speak over my life. One of them is that I decree that I AM a community servant. In ways that I never imagined, I am witnessing God move some things around and open so many doors that I never knew existed.  What are you speaking over your life and your purposed work? What is your expected outcome? Feel free to comment or send me an email to If you like this post and want to catch up on some of my previous discussions, please visit the full Purposed Work blog at

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Access to Good Works

…for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit…
(Ephesians 2:18)

I am learning the hard way to choose my words carefully: People hear what they want to hear. I made the mistake of making a general statement, that when heard by someone who did not want to receive the message, applied one broad statement to a whole population. My takeaway is that people often forget that they benefit and have access to opportunities simply because they were born or live under what society has normalized.

The word privilege sometimes has a negative connotation. The reality is that some groups do have certain advantages from membership in a specific social class. Personally, if I remove the most well-known thoughts of privilege (sex and race), in America, I benefit because I am

Right handed vs. left handed
Married vs. single / divorced
Christian vs. all other religions
Heterosexual vs. LBGPQA
Children vs. childless
Formally educated vs. informal
English speaking vs. other languages
Employed vs. unemployed
Aged +18<65 vs. under 18 or over 65
Full able body vs. differently-able body
To learn more, visit

Workforce is a new skill for me. My experience in job training was derived from internal employer sponsored programs. I am gaining a crash course in diversity and perspectives on how people gain access to alternative training programs available to the general job-seeking public. From the crowd who does not realize how privilege grants them access, I often hear spiteful comments about people looking for “free stuff.” The reality is that prospects looking to re-tool or re-train are not looking for a “handout, but a hand up,” to the same opportunities available to the privileged class.

I tend to view processes from my perspective and personal experiences, without thinking of access from the perspective of those who do not share the same privileges that I have. I am looking for a paradigm shift in how to help more people gain access to available training. In an attempt to produce better outcomes from our programs, I challenged myself to consider how to overcome some process obstacles from the perspective of my non-privileged status. For example, how could I find out about training opportunities if I did not have home Wi-Fi, or access to the internet, or a computer? Or how could I apply for a job if the applications (paper or electronic) are available in English only? Or how would I perform on a mechanical agility test if I were left handed?

My personal learning in workforce development has become a humbling experiment in not projecting my experiences onto anyone else. As hard or different as I thought my journey has been, I never realized how much access and privilege I have had simply because of membership into specific social classes. How are you improving access to training and job opportunities for the diverse populations in your community? Feel free to comment or send me an email to If you like this post and want to catch up on some of my previous discussions, please visit the full Purposed Work blog at