stocksnap_1qw7gwtyff-1After growing up in the projects in Titusville, Florida and dropping out of school in the 11th grade, Kimberly never imagined she could have a better life. “You rarely leave the Projects,” Kimberly said.  Fortunately, Kimberly and her husband did leave. In 2009, the couple uprooted their life in Florida and found a home in the Knoxville community. 

Before moving to Knoxville, Kimberly had not considered continuing her education. It wasn’t until pastors at Kimberly’s church, Overcoming Believers Church in downtown Knoxville, encouraged her to pursue a GED that she began to reconsider. With the support of her church and her husband, Kimberly reached out to United Way’s funded partner, Friends of Literacy.  Friends of Literacy offers an Adult Education program that helps individuals obtain their GED or HiSet, improve their reading skills, and provides free literacy education.  Kimberly worked hard with educators and mentors in the Adult Education program to prepare for the HiSet exam. Within a short time, Kimberly earned her diploma. 

Kimberly decided to continue her education by enrolling in Friends of Literacy’s NEXT STEP workshop. NEXT STEP provided Kimberly with the tools she needed to apply for college and assistance with setting up her financial aid. Within six months of finding Friends of Literacy, Kimberly earned her GED and was accepted into the Health Care Office Administration program at Pellissippi State Community College.  Looking back, Kimberly said she found the NEXT STEP workshops invaluable.  “Even with a diploma, I would have been lost without NEXT STEP,” she said.  

At the age of 45, Kimberly was able to create a better life for herself by furthering her education with Friends of Literacy. When asked about how this experience had changed her, Kimberly admitted, “I had never really liked school before, but here I am, doing all this.”  In spite of a difficult past, “I’m still standing,” she said.  Kimberly hopes that her story and hard work will inspire others by saying, “If I can do it, anyone can. “

United Way of Greater Knoxville is proud to support programs like Friends of Literacy’s Adult Education program and NEXT STEP program that make a difference for people in our community.  At United Way, we fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community because we know that change doesn’t happen alone. To live better, we must LIVE UNITED.

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