Laysha L. Ward is President of Community Relations for Target Corporation. Both she and her husband, Bill, are active supporters of NAZ and their partner organizations.
Q: Why did you become a Friend of the Future?
A: Through my work at Target and as a resident of the Twin Cities for 15 years, I’m familiar with the North Minneapolis neighborhood and the work of the Northside Achievement Zone. I believe an investment in our children and their future is an investment in our collective future.
Q: What’s the value for you in being a Friend of the Future?
A: It’s brought me a real sense of pride, duty and obligation. My husband Bill and I recently volunteered at the Plymouth Christian Youth Center by reading to kids. The students, parents and community members truly humbled and inspired us. We also saw young people rehearsing a production at the Capri Theatre about the true story of the Little Rock Nine. They worked alongside professional actors in the Twin Cities to hone their craft and build leadership skills. It was an amazing experience and, in the end, they gave us far more in return than we gave them.
Q: What does it mean to be a Friend of the Future?
A: My great, great grandmother, Hattie Mae, always said there are few things in life worth fighting for: family, friends, faith, freedom and an education. To me, being a Friend of the Future ensures that I’m carrying on her legacy while making a difference in the lives of children.
Q: What impact do you hope to make from being a Friend of the Future?
A: We’ve all seen the statistics on the achievement gap and dropout rates. Too many children, especially African American and Latino children, are being left behind. Yet behind every number is a child with a story, with hopes and dreams of his or her own. I hope that by supporting NAZ both through financial support and volunteering, that I can impact the life of a child; helping to create a pathway out of poverty and into economic opportunity.
Q: What would you say to others who are considering becoming Friends of the Future?
A: I benefited from participating in the early childhood education program Head Start in rural Indiana and was the first in my family to graduate from college. I was able to achieve that by leaning on the strong shoulders of my parents, teachers, members of the faith community and other role models. Everyone had high expectations for me, and as a result, I worked hard to meet and exceed those expectations. Great schools and supportive services provided a network that wouldn’t let me fail. Thanks to my parents, I was confident yet humble, resilient, and believed that regardless of our meager circumstances, I was worthy. Now, it’s my turn to extend a hand and help the next generation reach their goals. Providing a quality education to all children regardless of race or socioeconomic status is one of the most important issues of our generation. It’s my hope that we will answer the call.