YWCA: Learning to Speak Out



onna L. Smith came to the YWCA after noticing posters for the organization on her way to a shopping outing. Far from the timid woman she claims she once was, Donna doesn’t even need a prompt to begin sharing her story. She immediately pulls out a video of her speech at the Washington Area Women’s Foundation luncheon, gleaming with pride.

Donna Smith, a mother and a student at the YWCA of the National Capital Region, speaks at the 2014 Women's Foundation Leadership Luncheon. 

“I started this program last summer, and my goal was to take anything that I have a fear of and try it,” Donna said. “I did more than I thought I would do, twice as much. It took me from being a timid, recovering addict to being an outspoken woman... It’s more than just a GED program. [The YWCA] gave me something to inspire me and something to reach for.”

Donna is quick to credit her YWCA instructor for her speaking confidence.

“If it weren’t for Ms. Gray, I wouldn’t have done it in a million years...She makes us stand up in the middle [in class] and ‘work the room.’”

Taking adult education classes has also offered an unexpected way to bond with her daughters, aged 12 and 16.

“We’re all ready to go to school at the same time, and I love that.”

What achievement are you proudest of?
“I gotta say, to be able to speak around people and speak to a crowd and be confident.”

What else would you like to tell people about the YWCA?
“The classes are small and there’s immediate attention from everybody in here. Even the dumbest question -- they never make you feel that way. Anything you ask is the most important thing you could ask. When you get stuck, you’re not afraid to ask for help. When I first came... I was embarrassed to be here, but not anymore. If I had to recommend it to anyone, I’d say take that first step. They’ll help with the rest.

You have two daughters, ages 12 and 16. How does the YWCA help you pay it forward with them
When I was just a homemaker, I couldn’t understand what they were doing [with the computer]... With the computer classes we took in here, I can do things that they don’t know about, and that’s amazing.

Donna has recently retaken an exam toward earning her GED, and is eagerly awaiting results.


About the Author: Jessica Sillers is a Washington, DC-based writer. She has volunteered as a teacher's assistant in Faridabad, India, and on a farm in Ireland. Contact her at jessicasillers@dcfreelancewriter.com