October 30, 2019

Community Voices: Meet Lawanda

Lawanda and family

Lawanda was tired of dead-end jobs and looking for something new when she was referred and accepted into PPL’s Hennepin County Office Specialist Program last spring. “When Lawanda interviewed for the program, it was obvious she would do well. She is warm and friendly, smart and a clear communicator,” says Kelsey, PPL Employment Training Specialist.

During this five-week program, Lawanda not only showcased a desire to succeed but took advantage of all of the resources offered, from participating in a lending circle to meeting with PPL’s Director of Equity and Engagement, Nichole. Says Nichole from that meeting: “It was evident how much of a leader Lawanda was, full of resilience and talent.”

“PPL helped me get my finances on track through financial literacy coaching. I had thoughtful and life-changing conversations on how I would fit into Hennepin County and how I could be purposeful in the workplace," says Lawanda. "And, when I thought I wouldn’t finish due to financial circumstances, PPL used every avenue possible to ensure I graduated."

The program concludes with a two-week job shadow, where participants learn from on-site experience at Hennepin County. Lawanda was asked to shadow the County Assessor’s Office, a department that had never hosted a PPL participant before. She handled this responsibility like she does everything else: “She went in fully engaged, ready to learn and ready to achieve her best life,” says Kelsey. She made such a good impression on the job shadow host that the department just finished hosting a second PPL job shadow, for whom Lawanda paved the way.

Not only did Lawanda make a good impression, but she made a permanent impression. Lawanda’s job shadow supervisor in the Assessor’s Office was so impressed that she sought permission to create an entirely new role for her. Before her job shadow ended, Lawanda was offered a full-time position in the Assessor’s Office.

Lawanda continues to own her success. She reaches out to PPL regularly, updating staff on her position, and her continued motivation. She has also returned to be on a graduate panel for the next cohort of participants. At the County, she participates as an interviewer for potential new hires and has joined their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, where she works to advance equity in workplace culture. “PPL’s holistic approach to work training made sure the door to a new career was open and that I was ready to walk through it,” says Lawanda.

It’s clear that Lawanda will take advantage of every opportunity, and that her passion and drive will take her far. “This strong wonderful woman earned herself a great paycheck, a great position, a great boss, and now she is giving back to her community and her family,’’ says Kelsey.



Not only is Lawanda an exemplary participant, who represents all that PPL stands for, but she is an exemplary PPL Achievement Awards recipient who we are honored to celebrate. For 25 years, PPL has honored participants, residents, and youth who have gone above and beyond in demonstrating hard work, perseverance, leadership, and a commitment to their community at our Annual Achievement Awards. These award recipients truly reflect PPL's mission in action. 

Congratulations Lawanda!