About LaWanda Dickens ...

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LaWanda Dickens, a Brookhaven, Mississippi native, has 28-years of experience in higher education. She is a graduate of Jackson State University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in English/Journalism and a Master of Arts in English. She also attended Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, where she studied Composition and Rhetoric. Dickens has taught reading, writing, and literature courses in Mobile, AL; Tallahassee, FL; and Detroit, MI.  Shortly after returning home to Mississippi in 2017, she began mentoring young people in her church and community in Brookhaven. She became instantly proud of the natural literary talents many of them displayed but was equally disappointed by the limited resources available to nurture their gifts. On that basis, she founded The Magnolia Literacy Project to empower young people -- not just in Brookhaven but across the state. 

For most of her career, she worked in the Detroit area, where she co-developed a service-learning program for writing students at Wayne State. In her WSU writing courses, her students mentored middle school children in Detroit Public Schools and conducted research projects on community-based learning. Dickens also co-developed and wrote the curriculum for writing courses offered in a summer bridge program with the Center for Multicultural Initiatives at Oakland University in Rochester, MI. This program was designed to prepare incoming freshmen for the demands of college. 

Outside of the classroom, Dickens has empowered communities through nonprofit work and human services. In Detroit, she founded Girls for Global Growth (G3), a mentoring agency for girls in middle and high school. Before starting G3, she devoted nearly a decade of service to Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan as a Troop Leader -- mentoring girls, organizing service projects, and planning events designed to foster leadership. Dickens also helped implement a youth resource program in Detroit, known as Grow Detroit's Young Talent (GDYT), where she collaborated with other professionals to prepare individuals for the workforce and provided job placement. In Tallahassee, FL, she served in a similar fashion as Director of Project C.R.E.A.T.E., Incorporated, an organization that offered workplace readiness training and employment to high school students. Earlier in her career, she served as Program Coordinator for the 13th Judicial Court’s Alternative Sentencing Unit in Mobile, AL, where she located support services for people who were nonviolent criminal offenders with drug addictions. A liaison between the Alternative Sentencing program and drug treatment facilities, she also connected individuals to personal-development resources such as employment, education, family services, and life skills training.​

Dickens' upbringing in Brookhaven inspires her to be an agent of growth and change in her home state. Her work is rooted in a desire to neutralize stigmas against Mississippi, build identity, and represent community. In March 2021, Dickens was recognized by Who's Who of Mississippi Women, an initiative that celebrates the contributions of women of the Magnolia state who work to create a more inclusive, fair, and representative life for Mississippians.