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HS Dropout turns educator

Comm 310: Feature Writing
Cherrelle Norris
A personal profile paints a vivid portrait of a person. It should not only provide bio data but also demonstrate insight into how and why the subject does what she or he does that makes them a subject of interest, based upon extensive personal interviewing and documentary research. Each article has a compelling "soft" lead, a clearly defined theme articulated in a "nut graph" high up in the story, sufficient background that an uninformed reader can navigate the piece without difficulty, and a well-crafted narrative. Students follow Associated Press style and are asked to produce error-free copy for publication in campus or other newspapers.

Phyllis Lobo has always been a problem solver. The fifth child of six kids, Lobo always found a way to get the things she wanted in life.

"I remember when we were teens she would always get into trouble," says her sister Verona White. "I would always wonder, why won't she just listen and do what she is told?"

White recalls when she and Lobo went out to party and came home past their curfew. "She stood behind a lamp post so that dad wouldn't see her, and then she just darted across the street." Lobo had snuck in through the basement window to get in the house that night.

Lobo is still a problem solver. But instead of sneaking in from parties she is figuring out how to run a business, pay for a new home, and care for her mentally and physically disabled daughter.

"Teacher," as her daycare children call her, is running an early childhood education facility. She has been a self-employed daycare provider for four years. The entire first floor of her new home serves as her daycare center. The rooms are decorated with finger paintings created by the kids. Yellow, red, and blue Legos are on the floor next to toy trucks and children's books.

Lobo reads the ABC's aloud to her five daycare children. The children repeat the alphabet, giggling as they sneak and play with the toys all around them.

"I have the opportunity to help educate these kids," says Lobo. "I give them a head start before they go to kindergarten. They get a head start in a bright and safe environment."

But Lobo says she did not always understand the values of education when she was younger. "My parents came from deep in the south [Henderson, N.C.] where they went straight from school to work," says Lobo. "They didn't understand the importance of college, so they didn't push it on us."

Lobo, who received straight A's in high school, says she dropped out in the tenth grade. But she took and passed her GED exam when she was sixteen, two years before she was scheduled to graduate. She was too young to receive her diploma, however, and it was not until she was 18 that her diploma certificate came in the mail. Meanwhile, she hung out with older kids and partied every weekend.

"I just wanted to party and have fun," says Lobo. But the party did not last long. One of her closest friends pulled out a gun and shot another kid in the face and that is where the party stopped.

"I realized that wasn't a life I wanted to be a part of," says Lobo.

Lobo, now 41, smiles a wide smile with deep dimples every time she speaks. She says she knows that she did not always have it easy.

At the age of 18 she was a single mother and a high school drop out. Lobo says she knew she had to do something to make a better life for her and her daughter, Jitaynia, who has cerebral palsy and is legally blind, non-verbal, and non-mobile. Lobo began her turnaround by becoming gainfully employed.

She became a teller at 18 and worked in banking for 18 years. She says she worked for about four years before she applied for another position at another bank, always looking for a way to get ahead. But her lack of education was a road block.

"I knew the work. They knew I knew the work. Anytime anybody had a question they would come to me. The answer was always, ‘Ask Phyllis,'" says Lobo. "I knew my job. They just kept looking me over for big promotions."

Lobo says she trained numerous employees who were promoted over her. She taught them their jobs and then they became her boss. Each time she asked why she did not receive a promotion, she was told it was because she did not have a college education.

While Lobo was not content with this situation, she says she finally left the job that had become her passion because her parents were getting older and could not help her take care of her daughter anymore.

Lobo had to make a decision: She either had to quit her job or neglect her child.

Neglecting her child was never an option, she says. So she picked a new career where she could stay home and help her daughter while still making a living. She chose to become a daycare provider.

"It's funny I was not able to reach the height in my career because of ‘lack of education,' and now I am the educator of these children," says Lobo.

At 7:30 a.m. her first child of the day rings the doorbell. A 2-year-old boy, J'van Gibson, is the first to arrive. He smiles as he continues to ring the doorbell after Lobo opens the door. She asks him if he is ready to eat. Gibson laughs and says "eat eat" as he runs through the door.

Jacquelynn White, a parent of one of Lobo's daycare kids, says her son Darrick Owens always comes home after daycare and will not stop talking about "teacher." "He loves to show me what he has learned," says White.

When she is not running the daycare, Lobo works on fixing up her brand new home. She smiles as she talks about the brand new hardwood floors she just had put into the first home she has ever owned. She says she painted and decorated every inch of it.

"If I had my way I would've went to college, but this is my life now, and I am fine with that," she says.