LaShawnda Moore’s grandmother believed so much in the power of education that she did something remarkable to get her children into a better school district.
“My family lived in Grand Prairie, Texas right along the border of Arlington,” explains Moore. “My grandmother bought a house and moved across the street and a quarter mile down just to get her kids in a better school district. My mother and aunts and myself all went to the same school because of this decision.”
The simple act was enough to improve the family’s school options, while also serving as a lifelong reminder that sometimes sacrifice is worth the rewards. As a student in school, Moore was heavily involved in sports including volleyball, basketball, and track. As a senior, she had the chance to receive a college scholarship in track, however, the opportunity came with disappointing news.
“I had an opportunity to get a scholarship. I got letters and still have them to this day,” she says. “Some great colleges wanted to meet with me to talk about joining their teams, but when I got my SAT and ACT test scores back, they told me I did not meet the minimum qualifications to play NCAA at a Division 1 school. They told me to try Division 2 or a Junior College and look into taking remedial courses.”
Moore was devastated to realize that she had several potential college options just out of reach because her grades were not good enough. Especially when being a first-generation college student meant so much to her family.
“Something that I didn’t know that I wish I had known then was to start preparing for college early,” she says. “It was too late to think about it senior year. I should have been on track for college since 8th or 9th grade. I was in the top twenty percent of my class, but it didn’t matter because I did not qualify with the testing.”
Moore ultimately decided to attend Tyler Junior College after graduation in 1997 and focused on succeeding when it came to academics. As a first-generation college students, Moore had heard about what college was like, but had no idea what to expect.
“People can tell you what college is like, but it’s nothing like going to school and experiencing it for yourself,” she says. “It’s a totally different ballgame doing homework on your own. I can guarantee you that the first year that I was there, I was in the library for almost seven days every week because I didn’t know how to study or what methods to use in order to pass, so I had to study double what other people were doing.”
Through the help of her volleyball coach, friends, and an organization called Women of the World (WOW), Moore was able to learn the skills she needed to successfully navigate her classes and graduate with an Associate of Arts degree in General Studies in 1999.
After a stint at South Carolina State University for one semester on an athletic scholarship, Moore returned home and began attending the University of Texas at Arlington. Sadly, it was then that her grandmother passed away and she ultimately left school.
It would be twelve years after Moore married and became a mother to twins Areyanna and Frederick, and son Marquis before she would set foot on a college campus as a student. Moore says she finally returned to school because she was looking for a promotion at work and realized she needed to improve her skills and knowledge.
Moore says she could also hear her grandmother’s words of encouragement, as she always stressed the importance of a good education.
“My grandmother always used to tell me as a kid, ‘no one’s going to going to give you anything. If you want it, you’ve to go for it if you want to better your life,’” she recalls. “She said that meant you have to apply yourself with a level of education that people are going to respect and trust that you can do what you’re supposed to do.”
Moore’s sister was also a huge proponent of her completing her education and would often tell her that she could become the first person in their family to get a bachelor’s degree and urged her to continue her education with graduate school. Moore’s own motivation coupled with the support of her family pushed her to succeed in receiving a bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration and Management from Grand Canyon University in 2012.
Shortly after, as Moore began planning her return to school for a master’s degree, her sister was tragically murdered in 2013.
“When she was killed, everything just stopped in its tracks,” she says. “Even though my sister was pushing me to go for it and get my masters before she passed away, I lost my motivation.”
With her plans for a master’s degree on hold, Moore focused on her children. She had obtained an alternative teaching certificate and was homeschooling all three when she saw a commercial for IDEA Public Schools on TV and learned about its mission of college for all.
“College for all really struck me because of my own education as a child,” she says. “Here was this school that says regardless of capabilities or where you come from, all children are going to get to college.”
Moore laughs and admits that she decided to do her own investigating at IDEA to see if all of the claims really did hold up and served as a substitute teacher at IDEA Eastside in several instances.
“I saw something in that classroom that just blew my mind,” she recalls. “There was a special education student who was in a regular classroom, and it was completely inclusive, and I saw him read a whole passage! I had to check myself for thinking he couldn’t do it because at IDEA, he was doing what other people wouldn’t think was possible. That’s when I decided my kids needed to be in this school no matter what.”
Moore applied to the student lottery for the twins’ third grade year, but they were not chosen. She tried again for their fourth-grade year with the same result. She was undeterred and as her son Marquis readied to begin kindergarten, she was able to secure a spot for him at IDEA Walzem in 2015, with the twins joining Walzem in 2016 as fifth graders.
“What happened to me when I was in high school was very hard and crushed me, so for my kids, that will never happen. They should be able to attend any school they want,” she says. “I love that IDEA start talking about college early. My youngest son came home one day and told me he wanted to go to Dartmouth College and I literally had to look up where it is!”
Moore’s says her daughter Areyanna also hit a milestone achievement at Walzem with the help of Special Education RISE teacher Tina Kazak.
“They must want to make me cry tears of joy because Ms. Kazak got my daughter to read,” she says gratefully. “I could get her to read, but not consistently, and Ms. Kazak put together a plan and worked with my daughter and got her to read, count, and to pass the STAAR test for the first time in the fifth grade.”
With the twins now enjoying sixth grade at Walzem and little Marquis in second, Moore says she has a future Walzem wolf at home with four-year-old Janeé and is currently working on her own education as well. She is working full-time, working on her Master’s in Business Administration, and hopes to own her own business someday.
When it comes to her status as a proof point, Moore says she can show her kids that an education is possible no matter what, if one is willing to do whatever it takes and put in the work.
“I have the ability to tell my children there is no excuse. You will have battles, you will have setbacks and things happen to you, but if my husband and I can work over 60 hours a week and take care of three children and I still managed to get my education, they can do anything,” she says.
“As a parent, I want to be able to say I did everything I could to guide my child to get to where they need to go with the right school and the right opportunities,” she continues. “A lot of people say an education is too hard or too much work, but I always think back to what my grandmother used to say: nothing worth it ever comes easy.”