Tawanda Brown’s career path has taken a zig here and a zag there, but she landed exactly where she belongs. The wife and mother of four owns and operates a family child care center from her Crestview home. In addition to everything else going on in her life, she is also devoting time toward earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education at Northwest Florida State College.
Tawanda spent much of her work life in Human Resources, but a life-altering event, not only for her, but for every American, came on September 11, 2001 and completely changed her mind-set and career choice. “As a child, I was the one who was always ‘mothering’ the other kids. I would clean them up, give them drinks and snacks, read to them and play games with them. After 9-11, I didn’t want to be away from my own children. I wanted to pull them close and began to think of something I could do from my home.” She had often heard women talk about the need for dependable child care to enable them to work without concern for the welfare of their children. That’s when the career path took a sharp turn and she began to provide the necessary paperwork and documentation to open a child care center in her home. All of those habits from her childhood took hold and she became the woman, care-giver and business owner she was always meant to be.
Tawanda became involved in the Early Learning Coalition and heard NWF State College’s Director of the Early Childhood Education Center, Bev Sandlin, (now retired) speak about the advanced training and education needed to earn the necessary certifications, so she followed Sandlin’s advice and enrolled at NWFSC. “From the moment I stepped onto the campus, I received wonderful assistance. From the Financial Aid Office and through the enrollment process, everything just seemed to click. Originally, I began my classes simply to receive certification, but Ms. Sandlin once again entered the picture.”
Bev Sandlin explained to Tawanda that she was just a few hours short of her Associate of Arts degree, so Tawanda kept going. Then Sandlin recommended that she pursue a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Early Childhood Education, and, once again, she took her mentor’s advice, began those classes and is scheduled to receive her degree in May, 2017. While an NWFSC student, she admired, Laura Herman, who led her through the minefield of mathematics at the Bob Sikes Center in Crestview; she also praises Dr. ????? Wolf and Lynn Stevens as instructors who, not only taught effectively, but who inspired her to continue with her education.
This past year, Tawanda was encouraged to enter the Skills USA competition which highlights technical education programs. Her entering was a good thing because she won the college competition, the regional competition in Pensacola, the state competition in Lakeland and was honored as NWFSC’s first Gold Medal recipient at the national competition in Louisville, KY. The Skills USA competition entailed a resume, written examination, lesson preparation and presentation, personal appearance, book reading, and a panel interview. The competition was rigorous, but her gold medal is a testament to her hard work and perseverance. Her next trip will be to Orlando where she has been invited to receive an award from the Florida Association for the Education of Young Children.
All of this would not have been possible without encouragement and support. Tawanda is quick to praise her husband and children, as well as the parents of children in her care. But her appreciation really comes out when she speaks about the NWFSC Foundation and the scholarship support she has received. “Receiving the Yolanda Thomas Scholarship and the Childcare Services Scholarship has meant the world to me. Childcare workers don’t do what they do to get rich, so the financial support was a huge blessing to me and my family. I am really grateful to the donors who make these benefits possible and for helping me live out my dream.”
Because of the mentorship and encouragement she has received from others, Tawanda would like to pay it back by doing the same for other young women. After what she has accomplished, no one should doubt that she will see another goal achieved.