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Inspiring Conversations with LaTanya Sherman of Project Educate

Today we’d like to introduce you to LaTanya Sherman.

LaTanya, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Formerly founded November 6, 2018 it was in 2014 that the framework for Project Educate was created. My son Orlance was in the 10th grade and he asked me not to buy him anything for Christmas. He wanted me to use the money to do something for those who were homeless. Having been someone who always volunteered, donated, and supported those in need I was thrilled with his philanthropic spirit. We got up early that Christmas morning and we went Downtown Los Angeles with a woman named Donna Collier (Root Fruit Catering) I connected with on social media to bring food, gifts, and some holiday cheer. We met on 5th and San Pedro not knowing a single person in Skid Row. She brought the food and music, we brought the gifts and hygiene products. We borrowed a table from a local business and we set up and served. It was by far a feeling that to this day is still indescribable. Although the majority of the items came from the $1 store the level of gratitude, excitement, and happiness they expressed touched me in a way nothing else had before. It was at that moment I realized I wanted to and needed to do more so I did.

Over the next few years, I made my way to several tent cities in Los Angeles County helping the homeless using my personal funds and resources. By 2017, I had a few homeless individuals I checked on regularly and who could count on me for food and other necessities every two weeks when I got paid. I had already decided to start a non-profit but wanted to wait until my son was off and situated in college. As I started researching to create a need that wasn’t being met in the homeless community, I came to realize my various college degrees, certifications, life circumstances, work and entrepreneurial experiences had been preparing me for this journey all along and the acronym created by my son and co-founder, Orlance Shirley, for the EDUCATE (Empowering, Disadvantaged, Underserved, Communities, All, Through, Education) sums up why I do what I do.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
No, it has not been a smooth road but the challenges we faced allowed us to grow and forced us to create ways and methods to continue to have an impact and service those who are experiencing homelessness. Funding, rather it be cash, gift cards, grants, donated items, sponsorship’s, or fundraising activities are always a challenge for a new non-profit because individuals and companies alike want to donate their time or money to organizations that have a proven track record with results and that in itself takes time. That coupled with the onset of the pandemic in early 2020 and the ultimate shutdown and stay at home mandates made it extremely difficult to secure volunteers for projects and service initiatives.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Project Educate?
Project Educate is a 501(c)(3) non-profit formed to alleviate the suffering while improving the quality of life for those experiencing homelessness. As the co-founder of the organization, I am engaged in every aspect of its operation. Fundraising, grant writing, presentations, building partnerships, annual compliance and filings, website data, program design and launch, curriculum, leader and participant guides for our FED class, creating service projects and initiatives, data and research, maintaining all social media pages and YouTube channel, and any other task required to keep the organization moving in the right direction. What sets me apart is my passion for serving the homeless and the ability to take an innovative vision created in my head and bring it to reality. I am most proud of the fact that Project Educate, in a short period of time, has been recognized for its community work.

Project Educate was the first organization in over 15 years to bring movie day to Skid Row in 2019. A”Grab n Go” set up created in March 2020 to continue serving through the pandemic when many others weren’t and this year a one of a kind fun, informative, and interactive 2 hour class that combines physical fitness with health, wellness, and nutrition is being launched in the Fall. Also proud of the partnership created with The Brown MAE Foundation and SRO Housing Corporation to host an annual Black History/Heart Health Month event every February and a Health, Wellness and Resource Fair every September for Skid Row. I want readers to know that although African Americans make up 9% of the general population they make up over 35% of the homeless population. Disproportionately large numbers of African Americans are in poverty, under-educated, and incarcerated which directly impacts the staggering number of African Americans living and dying under freeways, on bus stop benches, in tents and on the streets.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts, blogs or other resources you think our readers should check out?
Yes, the book “Aspire To Inspire” by author Kenji Jones-Lane, “Monday Never Comes”, “21 Days With Jesus” by Liana Sims, and “The Woman I Am Becoming” by Miracle Wilber have been inspirational and motivational reads for me personally. Spotify is part of my everyday routine with a playlist for waking up and having my wellness space, to getting dressed and navigating throughout the day. I use the calm app for those long days and restless nights leading up to an event.

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