||Like many teenage students, LaQuania Graham did not think about what she would do after high school until she was about to enter her senior year at John Marshall High School on Cleveland’s far West Side. It was only then that she decided to get serious about her studies and she did very well. While it was an indication that she had academic potential, it was a bit late to improve her grade point average.
| However, Graham’s involvement with the Upward Bound program that final year in high school allowed her to take college classes at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®). Those classes at Tri-C’s Metropolitan Campus built a small fire inside Graham, who continued taking classes after graduation while working full time for the former National City Bank, now PNC.
It took Graham six years to earn her associate degree and a special kind of self-awareness. After watching other students diligently apply themselves to their classes, family and full-time jobs, Graham knew she was not working hard enough. That soon changed.
Graham enrolled at Cleveland State University and earned her bachelor’s degree in urban studies. Two years later, in 2009, Graham earned a master’s degree in public service, also from CSU. She also got a new job in Cleveland’s Department of Public Utilities.
Today Graham is a customer account manager in the department. She deals with high-profile customers through the Better Business Bureau, City Council and the Mayor’s Office. She is also a frequently requested motivational speaker and published author.
Graham tells schoolchildren the story of her early academic indifference and offers them alternatives to just getting by. She has spoken not only in the Cleveland area, but also as far away as Los Angeles. Graham and her message have been well received, and she is often invited for return engagements.
With three books of poetry and reflections published, Graham is the author of the My Soul on Paper series. A fourth volume in the series will be out in late January or early February. She also tutors young students in her neighborhood, encouraging them to write and to stay in school.
“Tri-C lit the fire for me academically,” said Graham. “It started in high school and built in intensity as I matured as a student and as a person. I would not be where I am today if it were not for Tri-C.”