Twenty-five years ago, Arne Duncan was an “I Have a Dream” Foundation mentor at a Chicago elementary school. The outgoing education secretary reunited with Lawanda Crayton, when she was interviewed for NPR’s StoryCorps interview project.
The foundation helps low-income children with “tutoring in early elementary school all the way through help with college tuition,” reports NPR.
Crayton’s mother was “an abusive alcoholic,” she told Duncan in the intrerview. “I remember being put in the hospital, I had a broken bone in my leg, had cuts on my face — all from my mother.”
I was a very angry young woman . . . But you and I had a very dynamic relationship, because I spent a number of days being tutored by you in math, and it became one of my favorite subjects.
Crayton was motivated by the program’s rewards. “And for us it was like, hey, if we do well on this test we can go on a trip … anything that was going to get us out of the war zone that we were in. I wanted as much homework as I could get in order not to go home.”
Every year I embraced everybody a little bit more and I accepted that they wanted to be a part of my life. They knew I had a future, I had a life, and I had a purpose, because I never thought that I had that, and it took these blessings to put that in my life. If I didn’t have that support, I wouldn’t be here.
The foundation paid for Crayton to attend a Catholic school, then go on to college.
She had no family at her college graduation. But she’d called Duncan. “You were there. You came. You were just as proud of me as I was of myself.”
Crayton now works in information technology as a project manager and mentors children.