We were lucky to catch up with Dr. LaRhonda Young recently and have shared our conversation below.
Dr. LaRhonda , appreciate you joining us today. Can you tell us a bit about who your hero is and the influence they’ve had on you?
My hero is my father, Robert L. Young Sr. He was a retired educator and pastor. I learned many lessons by watching him change careers after leaving the military and becoming a college counselor and professor. I think the greatest lesson I learned from my father was to never give up. He always told me that God has the last word in every situation.
I watched my father receive a prognosis of 5 years to live and later be denied a lung transplant to give him a chance at a longer life. Even then, he said, “God is in control” and he continued to fight. In 2017, he wrote a book about his journey to live despite his illness titled, Faith in the Shadow of Death. He went on to live 4 years after the release of that book and lived a total of 10 years after that grim prognosis. So my father is my hero in every way.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
I began my professional career in 1992 as a Fort Worth Police Officer. I entered the Fort Worth police academy at the age of 22. I was attending Texas Christian University (TCU) when I applied for and completed the police hiring process. I applied as a project to learn more about their hiring practices. Surprisingly to me, I was hired and was forced to decide if I was going to continue going to college or accept the position. I accepted the position and dropped out of college. I served the citizens of Fort Worth for 13 years in various police officer positions. During my tenure, I worked as a street patrol officer, gang officer, an undercover officer on special detail with the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) federal agency, and briefly taught Cultural Diversity at the police academy before ending my career in 2004.
Prior to my police career, I worked with children at the Fort Worth Girls Club and Clayton Child Care. I enjoyed working with children and being able to drop positive deposits into their lives. After leaving the FWPD a long-time friend asked me if I ever thought about teaching and encouraged me to take a teacher certification exam. After that conversation, I realized that I could continue to make positive deposits into our society and directly into children by becoming an educator. I earned my teacher’s certification and began a career in education as a special education teacher. I served as a special education inclusion teacher for 8 years and as a dyslexia interventionist for 5 years. During that time, I saw many parents who wanted to help their children but were oblivious to academic support beyond the school system or simply could not afford tutoring services. This was the driving force that lead me to create, Young Scholar Literacy Services (YSLS). A tutoring service that is affordable, employs Texas certified teachers as tutors and provides support to the parents as well as the student.
Many parents are not familiar with education jargon and feel intimidated and embarrassed when they meet with educators about their child’s academic needs. Oftentimes parents leave school conferences feeling confused and embarrassed. YSLS was created to provide parents a safe space where the teacher educates them on the educational systems that affect their child’s progress and how to maneuver through those systems to ensure their student is receiving the most effective in-school support. YSLS provides individualized academic support to students based on their individual learning needs while educating parents on how to advocate for their scholars. This two-fold system has proven to increase student achievement and has gained YSLS an A+ Better Business Bureau rating.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
When YSLS began almost 5 years ago we focused on in-home service to our scholars. This was to provide services to our young scholars in their most comfortable environment, build relationships with families, and create a safe space. However, when the COVID pandemic hit we had to pivot in order to remain effective. Therefore, we began to offer our services virtually. Still individualized 1 to 1 service, but in a different way. Virtual tutoring became the new normal for YSLS. Virtual is working well, our scholars are thriving and parents absolutely love the convenience of it. Hence, I made the decision to go totally virtual. Now we only offer virtual tutoring services but maintain that safe space by ensuring that our teachers hold a high standard of confidentiality and communicate regularly with parents to keep them abreast about their scholar’s progress.
Let’s talk about resilience next – do you have a story you can share with us?
When I started this company I was a full-time teacher, doctoral student, and helping my mother and siblings care for my ill father. I had a full plate but was determined to succeed. I was scheduled to complete my doctoral program in August of 2021. On March 3, 2021, my father passed away due to complications of his 10-year battle with pulmonary fibrosis. I was devastated, to say the least. At that point, I had the tough task of planning my father’s funeral services while in the process of completing my doctoral dissertation. The stress of it all weighed very heavy on me and I decided to drop out of my doctoral program for the remaining two months of that current semester. I returned to my doctoral program in June and defended my dissertation on November 3, 2021, becoming Dr. Young.
I struggled when I returned to my doctoral program but I knew I had to finish b/c that’s what my father, a long-time educator would have wanted. He knew I was close to the finish line and in the last conversation I ever had with my father he promised to purchase my graduation regalia upon my completion. He wasn’t here to see me in that regalia but he transitioned knowing his oldest would finish the course and make him proud.