Inspiring Story: LIFT student survives, thrives after devastating loss of husband

The unexpected death of her husband made Gwendolyn a widow at 50-years-old and created an overwhelming challenge:  finding a way to earn an income and support her two children with limited literacy skills.  When Gwendolyn was younger, schools were totally different than they are now.  Students who did not “catch on” were laughed at and judged by the other students, and sometimes even the teachers.  Students were also pushed through to the next grade level even if they didn’t know how to read.

At LIFT, Gwendolyn found a much different learning environment than what she experienced in high school.  The teachers offered to stay after class or meet one-on-one if a student wasn’t understanding the material.  They also provided Gwendolyn and the other adult learners with their email addresses and phone numbers in case they had questions about the material after they got home. 

 “The teachers at LIFT take their time and give you extra help.  They stay after class with you and give you their contact information if you have questions,” she explained.  “No question is dumb.  They don’t make you feel like you are dumb.  Even though you have been told that your whole life, you know it’s not true.”

Importantly, there was no judgement or ridicule at LIFT.

“When I first came to LIFT, I was afraid because people judge other people who don’t know something,” explained Gwendolyn. “But the teachers didn’t judge me.  They could see that I was trying and told me that the learning wouldn’t all happen overnight.”

Gwendolyn is now in LIFT’s High School Equivalency (HSE) Prep program and thinking about her educational plans post-LIFT.  Her daughter and son are both in high school, and both A-Honor role students enrolled in AP classes.  Her kids tell her they are proud of her and want to take care of her when she is older. Gwendolyn has other plans. 

“I see all the commercials about people going to college and graduating, and I want that,” she said.  “My kids say they will take care of me, but I don’t want that.  I want to take care of myself.”

Since 1961, LIFT has provided thousands of adults like Gwendolyn with the supportive classroom environment and extra help they need to achieve their educational goals.  With your support, we can transform thousands of more lives.  Here is how you can help:

  • Make a donation to our 2018 Annual Fund Campaign before December 31, 2018.  Our goal is $25,000. Your donation of any amount will help provide LIFT’s adult learners with the support, programming and inspiration they need to achieve their educational goals and improve their lives. Click here to donate.
  • Spread the word.  If circumstances do not currently allow you to participate in our campaign through a donation, you can still help by spreading the word about LIFT.  Forward this email to your friends.  Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, and share our Annual Fund Campaign posts with your social media network.

HSE Prep grad learned to enjoy school and believe in himself at LIFT

Xavier is enjoying a successful dual-career as a construction manager for Habitat for Humanity during the day and a Customer Availability Program (CAP) Team Manager for Wal-Mart in the evenings.  He receives mentoring from a real estate professional and can easily envision a number of potential career opportunities for himself: real estate investor, developer or the owner of an HVAC repair business. Although he has always had a lot of confidence, energy, smarts, and people skills, his future was not always so hopeful or bright.

As a high school freshman, Xavier found himself bored during class and struggled to stay interested in school. Over the next two years, he became a father and then dropped out of high school. After getting into some legal trouble, Xavier entered the Second Chance Community Improvement Program (SCCIP), an initiative that provides young offenders with a way to expunge their records through goal setting, counseling, community service, and education. 

SCCIP connected Xavier with LIFT so he could enroll in LIFT’s High School Equivalency (GED) Prep program and prepare for the GED. Xavier was initially wary of coming to LIFT given his negative experience in high school.

“I thought it was going to be like high school all over again,” he explained.  “I wasn’t challenged in high school because everything was so basic.  I took algebra in middle school, so once I got to high school, algebra was something new to other students, but not to me.”

Xavier’s attitude towards school started to shift after he received a “most likely to pass” score on the LIFT GED practice test, an event that both humbled and changed him.

“I was upset and felt like a failure, but then, I knew I was where I needed to be,” he explained. “Then something just kicked in, and I decided that I needed to go home and study.  I went home and practiced and practiced.”

Not long after he started classes at LIFT, SCCIP helped Xavier obtain a job at Habitat for Humanity.  While at Habitat, Xavier developed an interest in real estate and construction, and quickly moved into a construction manager position. LIFT worked with Xavier to accommodate his new daytime obligations and moved him into evening GED Prep classes. 

Xavier said he was inspired to work hard at LIFT for two main reasons: his new-found enjoyment of learning and having volunteer teachers who believed in him.

“At first, I came to school because I had to,” he said.  “And then, I started liking it and you showed you had faith in me; then, I didn’t want to let you down, and then I didn’t want to let myself down.” 

Xavier also liked the camaraderie, classroom participation, and opportunities for leadership in the LIFT classroom.  He enjoyed showing his LIFT teachers and classmates how to do computations in their heads, without using a calculator. 

“The teachers believed in me and were open minded,” he said.  “They teach in a way they know, and I might have my own opinion, and they would listen to me.”

After nine months in LIFT’s HSE Prep program, Xavier took the GED and passed.  He was now able to access more job opportunities, and obtained a evening job as a CAP Team Manager with Wal-Mart. 

(Pictured above) Xavier and HSE Prep Program Director Karen Medlock on the day Xavier passed the GED.


One year after reluctantly walking through LIFT’s front doors, Xavier is a changed man.  He realizes that he likes learning and is good at it.  He has his GED and is thinking about college.  He has more career opportunities, and his career has momentum.  He has expanded his group of supporters and wants to give back to the community. 

“My future is bright now,” he said.  “I am going to figure out what I want to do and become financially stable for college.  I might start with online classes, something I can do after work, or take night classes.  Maybe I’ll pursue a trade I’m interested in like the central air business.”

Your gift to LIFT will change a life and improve the future of our adult literacy students, their families, and our community right here in North Texas.  Donate today: