JA Success Story – Tawaila Simmons
Written by: Joseph Cole
For: Junior Achievement Dallas 2016 Annual Report
Looking at her now, you might think Tawaila Simmons is everything a 21st century woman could hope to be. Tawaila is a serial entrepreneur based in Dallas, Texas who made her first million in business early on and is now working on her third business as a grant writer, life coach, and corporate trainer. She, and her high school sweetheart turned husband, have four children, one of which is now pursuing her doctoral studies at Baylor University.
But, it wasn't always this way. In middle school, Tawaila was considered at-risk. Being the oldest of six kids, Tawaila held a lot of responsibility as her parents worked hard to support them. Her father, a truck driver, was gone for long periods at a time. Her mom worked a day job while going to school at night.
By the 8th grade, Tawaila had been in five different schools. With constant moves and an undiagnosed case of dyslexia, Tawaila began to fall behind in her studies and she felt she could never catch up. Overwhelmed, Tawaila never shared her struggles with anyone. She tried to figure everything out herself, but instead was picked on by other kids finding herself in more trouble, turning into a person she didn't want to be.
When Junior Achievement came to Tawaila's school at Foster Middle School in Longview, Texas and made a presentation, Tawaila was riveted. The JA volunteers—successful professionals themselves—introduced concepts to her like financial literacy, budgeting, and personal development.
Tawaila always knew she wanted to be a professional, even with her troubled background. Junior Achievement was her opportunity to learn how to make her dream a reality. "To actually have somebody sit down and talk to me the way my mentor did, that was new to me," Tawaila said. "For an at-risk youth like myself, having a Junior Achievement mentor meant [there was a] person that was speaking into my life now, at that very point in my life."
Throughout high school, Tawaila took Junior Achievement classes which helped her overcome her tendency to bottle everything inside. "It really changed my life dramatically,'" Tawaila shared. "These people that came alongside me to teach me and help me were a lot of the greatest contributing factors to my success today."
"In 4th grade, I learned about being an entrepreneur. I now own my own vending machine company, which helped me earn money to help buy our family dog."
"I learned that companies are looking for candidates who show they are ready to work hard and have a solid résumé."
"When the business people come in and work with our students, it gives students a real life application and how it relates to their future."
"Starting with elementary school Junior Achievement I remember it being one of the best parts of the year. I got to have someone new come in and share about their life and how my future could be successful too!"
"That experience impacted the trajectory of my career. Today, I owned a 13 year old marketing consulting and coaching firm. Thank you JA for exposing me to my destiny."
"We not only make their lives better, but we potentially enrich all of our own lives."