Texarkana native Jenny Walker started her job as executive director of the Literacy Council of Bowie & Miller Counties this summer, putting her background into the work.
As someone who — though her parents worked hard — grew up without a whole lot in life, Jenny can identify with the people the Literacy Council serves.
"I was the first person in my family to go to college, and I really owe that to some really awesome teachers that I had when I was growing up. My teachers really saw something in me. They were very inspiring to me and very much made sure I had what I needed in order to get to that next level," she said.
The Liberty-Eylau High School grad started out wanting to be a journalist, but teaching fell into her lap and she started her career teaching journalism for the Liberty-Eylau school district.
"From that very young age of 22 I have really dedicated my whole career and my whole life to helping people, and most of the students that I've worked with over the course of my career have been students a lot like me who came from families who didn't have a lot," she said. "They didn't understand the process of how to go to college, how to get to that next level."
With nearly two decades of diverse education experience under her belt, she is now working toward a doctorate in education leadership at Texas A&M University-Texarkana.
As for her day job, leading the Literacy Council is the right fit, she said.
"If I could just write my own perfect job description this would be it," Jenny said. "I'm working with people from all levels and all backgrounds, and a lot of our students that we have here are adult learners who are in poverty and they're just looking for that next step."
The new director of the nonprofit agency promoting literacy in local counties has already begun new programs to reach out to the community.
The Literacy Council, she said, aims to help those people find that next step. That could be accomplishing a GED or gaining work skills.
The English as a Second Language program will be enhanced. Citizenship classes will also be held so immigrants can learn the process, the language and tips for gaining employment.
"We have such a growing Hispanic population in our area, not just in Texarkana but in Mount Pleasant and Hope," Jenny said.
A leadership book-study program for local executives is another plan with virtual lunch meetings.
"We're also going to expand to offer some programming for teens and children," she said, noting the new location at Summerhill Square across from Texas High School.
They'll also hold ACT tutoring after school on Mondays.
"Everything that we have here is free," Jenny said. The program is open to students from any school district. There's also a 9 a.m. Saturday morning ACT class.
Another class for teens is called Life Lessons, teaching basic, need-to-know things like changing a tire, banking online, dressing for a job interview and other essential skills.
"We want to encourage everyone in Texarkana to be a lifelong learner," Jenny said.
Jenny replaced Richard Seymour, who retired.
(The Literacy Council of Bowie & Miller Counties is located at 4014 Summerhill Road, Texarkana, Texas. Phone: 903-255-7733)