Black History Month is a time to pause and celebrate the achievements of African Americans. When I sat down to look for a strong, impactful, and inspirational African American woman to spotlight in my blog, the choices were abundant. I found women in technology, medicine, engineering, public policy, and many more who are all breaking down walls and shattering glass ceilings in their industries. It was hard to choose who I wanted to write about, and then I came across Lora Williams, a nurse in the Hays County, Texas, area near Austin.
At just 16 years old, Lora decided to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) so she could move home to Louisiana to help her aging grandparents. “In our culture, taking care of the elderly at home is just something we do,” she said.
Through her experience as a family caregiver, Lora realized her heart wanted to make a career out of helping the aging population. She went on to become an C.N.A. and has spent much of her career training others in her field. Lora says she has truly enjoyed that part of her work — helping others obtain education and knowledge to better their lives and impact the lives of others.
A dream becomes reality
Lora told me that the idea to start her career training school and nonprofit was 10 years in the making. She and her husband, Cedric, who is a HVAC Contractor, have always given back to the underprivileged. They both grew up in poverty and came out on the other side. They made it through and wanted to help others do the same.
In November 2020, right before the onset of the pandemic, they decided to bring their dream to fruition and launch The Williams Career School of Excellence. WCSE’s vision is to equip individuals and their families with the tools and skills that can lift them out of poverty, and ultimately position them to seek out further development opportunities throughout their lives. Lora and Cedric have always had the heart for helping at-risk youth, and fell in love with training and teaching their trades. WCSE puts their passions into action.
Launching a career training school and nonprofit during a pandemic could certainly seem like a risky move, but the timing couldn’t have been better. WCSE was designed to be virtual and flexible from the beginning. The school offers a variety of training programs, including Certified Nursing Assistant, Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning Tech, Phlebotomy Tech, CPR Certification and CNA Instructor. Classes are offered in-person, online or a combination of both. To learn more, visit: https://mywcse.com/.
When I asked Lora how much of the program can be done online, she said, “pretty much all of it. The virtual aspect is what keeps students in the program when life gets in the way.”
When life does get in the way, Lora and Cedric don’t leave their students to fail. They work with them to get back on track and pick up where they left off. In traditional schools, students might miss class due to babysitter issues, sickness, or weather, but at WCSE, they can just reschedule. The school is providing career opportunities for students whose futures are uncertain and while the school is a necessary tool, I am convinced it is Lora and Cedric’s heart for helping others that drives success in their students. It is apparent when speaking to Lora that the reason she began this journey 10 years ago was to help those in need, because she knows too well what it feels like to live in poverty.
Connecting Hays County, Texas
Another reason Lora’s story drew me in is because of the community her nonprofit is serving. While Connected Nation Texas (CN Texas) has been working diligently throughout the Lone Star State to improve broadband access and adoption, one of the team’s current Community Engagement projects will focus on broadband in Hays County.
When I asked Lora about why she thinks reliable internet is important to her students, she said, “because they need it for flexibility. Without reliable internet access, opportunities can be limited.”
Much like Lora, our CN Texas team loves their state and wants to do everything they can to improve the quality of life for those living in it. That means improving internet access, increasing digital literacy, improving school connectivity and so much more.
Our Connected Community Engagements focus on understanding the broadband usage, access, needs, and pain points a community has and then providing them a Technology Action Plan. We survey residents and stakeholders in eight other sectors to learn all that we can about how the community is using the internet, and if they have sufficient access to it. Once we gather the data, in combination with detailed mapping done by our GIS team, we can offer the community a plan to move forward.
Lora is certainly doing her part to move the Hay County community forward, so it was easy to do a spotlight on her. She is smart, kind, generous, passionate, and has the drive to improve life for those who need it most. She believes everyone deserves a chance to succeed, a chance to break the cycle of poverty and excel in a career.
Lora, you are an inspiration, and with Cedric, you are changing the lives, one student at a time. We celebrate you during Black History Month and every other month because like you, we believe everyone deserves the chance to be the best they can be, and everyone belongs in a Connected Nation.
About the author: Ashley Pino is a Marketing Communications Specialist responsible for communications and marketing functions that broadly publicize Connected Nation (CN)’s mission, educate stakeholders on Digital Divide issues, and lead to new programs and projects that expand CN’s social impact.
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