Amanda Reed has a hard time narrowing down a story that's impacted her the most during her time with Project LIFT, a non-profit mentoring program for at-risk students in Roswell.
Pushed, she shares the story of Dominic, who has gotten a job, raised his grades to a B average and smiles more often since entering the program. Though Reed doesn't say it, she conveys the idea that something as simple as smiling can often be a better measuring stick for success than a standardized test.
"He has a great smile," she adds.
Reed has always had a passion for improving teenagers' quality of life. She graduated from the University of Minnesota, Morris with a degree in psychology. But just like many graduates, she ended up working outside of that degree in business analyst and consultant positions for several years. Still, she was determined to follow her passion even if it wasn't a full-time job at that point.
"I sought out volunteer opportunities to help youth through church ministry and outreach programs," Reed said.
After the birth of her second child, she left corporate America to stay home with her children and became more involved with helping youth through ministry at Bridge to Grace Church in Roswell.
In 2009, when leaders at the church tossed around the idea of establishing a new program that would attempt to become a local stopgap for a dismal state dropout rate, Reed jumped at the chance to help.
The result was Project LIFT: a performance-based mentoring program that provides participants with a personal mentor/coach to help them improve their academic performance and enables them to withstand daily challenges as a teen. The hope is that the extra attention prevents an at-risk student from dropping out of high school; something that costs Georgia $16 billion in lost lifetime earnings and $746 million in healthcare costs, according to projections by the Alliance for Excellent Education.
"I was involved from conception to program implementation," she said. "I partnered with the program director from YES! Atlanta who was working with us on a consulting basis and took over as program director at the end of our first program season in May 2010."
Since taking over the reins, Reed has found herself driven to make a personal and lasting impact on young lives.
"My motivation comes from getting to know these amazing young people," she says. "I see first hand the potential they have for a successful future. I want to be a part of that community of support that helps them see it, believe it and then live it! There are setbacks and challenges to be sure, but I have the privilege of sharing those moments when they experience success and that is what keeps me going."
Reed went on to say she is also motivated by community members who step up to help the oganization by serving as a mentor, tutor, providing transportation, leadership and financial support.
She notes that while she loves overseeing and directing the entire program, her favorite part of the job is developing relationships with the students she mentors.
"Another great aspect [of my job] is to get to know the families and also the wonderful teachers in our community who are doing so much to help everyday," Reed says. "It really does 'take a village to raise a child.'"