Click the highlighted link at the end of Cynth'ya's true story to review her professional file.
"Some among us serve as doors, opening to the atriums we should eagerly explore. Others serve as keys, unlocking doors that have yet to be opened. And oftentimes our lives serve as both doors and keys for people continually searching for definitive, dynamic and duplicative, balanced solutions." cynth'ya lewis reed, 2008
For author Cynth’ya Lewis Reed—whose journey began from homemaker to non-traditional student scholar to community activist/columnist and eventually author and speaker—life could not be more different than she realized in a town where, before she began writing, she felt completely powerless.
In 1978 Cynth’ya earned her bachelor’s degree in health science from BallStateUniversity in Muncie, IN. Shortly afterward, she was called by the late Warren G. Schaller, then-department head of Physiology and Health Science, who had been her cheerleader and mentor all through her undergraduate days, and offered Cynth’ya a graduate assistantship as a community educator as she worked toward a master’s degree in Public Health Administration. Her duties involved working as a graduate assistant on a $50/week stipend in charge of a staff of volunteers for the university’s birth control information center.
However, she later discovered that although administration work was "logical", it wasn’t quite the right “fit” and preferred hands-on working with teams in the community.
After her assistantship ended, she accepted a job with the agency supporting her graduate assistantship, Planned Parenthood of East Central Indiana. That job paid just under $8,500 in 1979.
"A REAL JOB!"
From May 1979-June 1980 Cynth’ya worked as an Education Specialist with several boards in mental health, education and social services in Grant and DelawareCounties in Indiana. But what she loved most was her ability to relate to people from all backgrounds, especially in terms of informing the community and planning special events.
Yet deep inside she felt that from a community media standpoint, consumers were getting only “part of the story” when it came to their reproductive decision-making. The turning point for Cynth’ya came after she volunteered to visit an abortion clinic as an observer in Indianapolis, IN.
After witnessing the procedure not once, not twice, but a total of eight times, she knew that these women did not get the kind of information they needed, that it was a far more serious decision that greatly affected the entire lives of the women and their partners who did not understand the procedure.
Because she began sharing that information with clients, especially teenagers, the agency was not pleased. One week after a glowing performance review with increased responsibilities, she was asked to turn in her keys for what was told to her “problems that could not be solved.” The agency was not found justified in firing her, and she received full unemployment benefits, no contest from Planned Parenthood. This was her turnkey moment for her career that, unknown by Cynth'ya at the time, directed her to survive mounting bills by becoming "The Temp."
Cynth'ya worked at least 25 odd jobs, none of them leading her in the direction she thought was a "safe and logical" way to make a living. After one more dissatisfying temporary shoebox office-too-many, she investigated the path of her own mother once upon a time. Yes, Cynth'ya had become one of America's most wanted in the neighborhood . . . she became "The Avon Lady."
But the real reason she started selling Avon products not for the promises of money and demos at wholesale. She was a "people person"; Cynth'ya just to get to know her neighbors.
After knocking on 26 doors, a kind hearted Avon addict seeking a representative invited Cynth'ya in for a chat, some cookies, and a $25.00 order. This of course set Cynth'ya on cloud 9 and 9/10ths. It also bolstered her confidence at a point she was ready to, as she says, “just pack up her kit and quit on working at all.”
Since Cynth'ya herself is now a recovering Avon product junkie, she always spent profits on the latest new product addition. That of course was before Robert Kyosaki published "Rich Dad, Poor Dad." But in the world of marketing, if there is no advertisement to leave behind, your product and service is, as she knew, soon forgotten with the last cream sachet.
Since Cynth'ya knew she was in no position to could afford the sales demo materials, she decided to analyze the needs of her the 10 or so customers she had, and started creating personalized ads of her own based on her customers preferences.
Then came baby number three. More bills. Against her desires, Cynth'ya applied for what she knew how to do, office secretarial. Even though she just didn't like being tied to one spot all day, it was enough stretch the budget if she landed an office job. But when she was called in for a second interview as a secretary at a local chiropractor’s office, and was told that she would be strongly considered for the job, that same day she got a very cryptic call from the same office, turning down her candidacy because of what she feels was racially motivated on part of the chiropractor’s wife. (Long story, the novel is coming!)
However, a young black graduate studentwho created his own customized MBA program that was accepted by BallStateUniversity’s MBA program—just happened to be assigned to an internship at the chiropractor's office. The MBA student saw her credentials, was also convinced that the reason she did not get the job was anything but on the up and up, and encouraged her to check out graduate classes at Ball State University. He kept telling her the same thing others have told her. . .“You have a way with words.”
JUMPING IN THE DEEP END
Cynth'ya first college instructor was a woman who was one of her high school sponsors from more than 15 years ago. The encouragement she received from the chiropractic graduate student, and from her first instructor, Dr. Beverly Pitts who recognized Cynth’ya immediately, initiated the budding stages of her writing career."
CINDERELLA'S REALITY GODMOTHER:
Dr. Pitts said to Cynth'ya often during that first in her life journalism class: "You are not a 34 year old mother of three; you are a graduate student in competition. Leave 'Mommy" outside the classroom." Now all she had to do was learn how to use a computer. Yes, Cynth'ya was completely computer illiterate in a classroom full of students at least 10 years her junior at best. And none of them could relate to parenthood.
But she credits some of her toughest instructors with some of the greatest experiences of her life. Getting into graduate school was a challenge with a failed GRE (Graduate Requirement Exam) the first time in the math area not once, but twice. So she petitioned the Deans Office to enter the graduate program on a trial basis.
It was all because an internationally world renown instructor, Dr. Melvin Sharpe looked at her home-made Avon flyers, and said to her after a couple of pre-enrollment interviews as head of the graduate school's public relations department, "You've got what it takes. Go for it."
If she maintained a 3.0 out of a 4.0 average, she could be permanently enrolled. First term, winter 1987-1988, she hit a 3.2 average in a graphic arts class which she thought was a total waste of time, and a class designed not for beginners, but for intermediate journalism students.
While in BSU's journalism program, she ended up writing for more than six college publications, including doing feature stories for the university’s award winning yearbook, “The Orient” in addition to other stories for the Non-Traditional Student Newsletter, the Ball State Daily News, and “Houselines” a minority student publication. This included interviewing acclaimed poet Nikki Giovanni.
There was even a time when she had an 8:00 a.m. newsletter design deadline and she didn't, as Cynth'ya said, "know Jack about using "MAC" computers. Both she and her instructor, Dr. Charalotte Hatfield--one of the toughest instructors--stayed at the lab until well after 6 a.m. in the morning. Cynth'ya drove 6 miles home, got her three children ready for school, dropped them off early, turned back around and got the project to the lab before deadline.
Having never even taken a journalism course in her entire life, Cynth'ya wrote several opinion editorials for her local newspaper (then known as the Muncie Evening Press) as a citizen who “just had to say something” about an issue important to people in the community. People took notice, actually invited Cynth’ya to meetings and asked her to serve on committees because of the words she nervously sent in to the local news expressing her viewpoints. She NEVER felt comfortable expressing her views because of her fear of rejection...something that was instilled in her in childhood since her family moved to an all white neighborhood in Anderson Indiana in 1966 at the height of the civil rights movement.
The only place where she felt people did not judge her for her color, was band class in grade 7 at Madison Heights Jr. High where she was the only black student in the school. Some of her best friends years later are to this day musicians, poets, and actors.
Why? "Because creativity sees no color."
Cynth'ya was determined to finish her degree by summer commencement 1990. While others chose to conveniently "walk across the stage for show" at commencement, she gave up the entire summer of 1990 to work on her reseach paper. So under the dogged unapologetic guidance of the best professor a thirty-something Mom could have--Dr. Mark Popovich" Cynth'ya pushed herself to get up early and hit the library stacks in Anderson Indiana where she did her research project on racism in the media while her husband and three children lived out "a normal summer." In a 1996 Black History Month feature where she and her family were highlighted, she noted how Dr. Popovich had to tell her when she felt she was about to break down near the end of the project...."Reed, go home, put the 'blankety blank" paper down for three days, and don't dare look at it! You're pushing yourself too blankety blank hard."
In fact, in the then-Muncie Star news feature, Dr. Popovich referred to her as a "pit bull of a journalist."
As word of mouth regarding her writing style got around, Cynth'ya found out many others felt the same way...she was determined to get thru the toughest part of a project when others would choose to throw up their hands, even at the expense of her own health at time, not to mention many marital arguments because sometimes she actually seemed 'married' to the computer.
Right after graduation in August 1990, Cynth’ya again was disappointed because the publications editing job she applied for on campus was given to a PhD who already had a full time campus position.
Dragging her self-esteem across campus in what must have felt like 95 degrees of summer heat and humidity, she runs into a long time friend she had not seen since she started graduate school in 1987. He told her about a job opening in the Ball State Department of Continuing Education and Public Service as an Associate Director for the Governor’s Commission for a Drug Free Indiana.
Not seeing herself as a prevention education advocate, but a hard-core journalist, Cynth’ya bit her lip, acted on sheer faith and took the friend’s advice anyway. She was never asked to fill out an application, and against logic, she walked to the opposite side of the campus and asked about the job. She was called in for a one-time interview, totally unprepared, and with eight grown “very conservative old white guys who pretty much frowned the entire time.”
But still, she got the job because they recognized her appeal in communicating with people, based on what she had done as a grad assistant and as a reporter. All they wanted to be sure of was that she knew how to communicate with people.
Fast forward. . . . The Real World
Having endured over two years of sexual harassment, a life time of racism, sexism and tokenism by working a number of unsatisfying, underpaid jobs, Cynth'ya took the MBA grad student’s advice and enrolled in graduate school at BallStateUniversity to pursue an area where people claimed she had a natural talent, but no documented professional experience: Journalism and Public Relations in the sixth highest ranking journalism school in the nation in 1987, Ball State University.
Because Cynth’ya faced the fear of failure to attend graduate school, and because she took a friend’s wise advice about a job she knew nothing about, it allowed her to travel all over the country, and be introduced her to scores of people she never dreamed she’d meet up close and personal, from the former United States Drug Czar Lee P. Brown to award winning writers, even personally meeting the Rev. Jesse Jackson of Operation P.U.S.H, and Grammy Award winning artists Lou Rawls and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds
More than anything, Cynth’ya has ALWAYS and STILL loves working with people in workshops and team building events on the local level, especially with youth. Thanks to a budget cut, Cynth’ya Lewis Reed found herself laid off from the only real job she ever truly adored with the Governor’s Commission for a Drug Free Indiana from September 18, 1990-June 30, 1995.
This was at that time when she found herself battling the stigma of being overqualified for every job she attempted to do, including temporary office work. Even professional job counselors discouraged her from just trying to make ends meet with the office work she knew how to do so well. WHAT'S THE POINT?
In the summer of 1995, severe depression set in. She never left the house, and lost all desire to interact with others.Suffering from insomnia, Cynth'ya began writing poetry about the inequities of life, relationships, family misundertandings, and yes, she wrote about death because she never knew her father, Jay Lewis who died at age 25 due to a surgical tragedy. She was only 10 months old. Her mother refused to talk about it. So Cynth'ya never knew anything about her father. The pain was too great for her mother to communicate.
Writing poetry and essays again helped Cynth'ya thru this challenge, in addition to connecting with her father's family that consisted of 15 other brothers and sisters.
In 2002 Cynth'ya authored her own self-published chapbook of poetry, "Pieces and other Quiltations” and recently completed her first full-length 77-poem manuscript of what she describes as edu-enlightenment”. She dedicated that book to her father and her grandmothers.
It sold over 200 copies with no advertising. Just plain word of mouth. And that small success both thrilled and frightened her...but she forced herself to move past that fear by encouraging others to get past their own fears, no matter what it was they feared. 2010: EIGHT YEARS LATER:
Cynth'ya posts new poetry, stories, articles and community/spoken word events regularly on her website at Authors Den (www.authorsden.com/cynthya).
In July 2004, Cynth’ya attended an historic family gathering where she had the rare experience of standing on the same ground of the slave master’s house of her children’s great-great-great grandfather in Abbeville, SC, and meeting the white ancestors of the Reed family. She and her husband Kenneth Reed were also involved with a credible established networking company where her own business “Accord Unlimited Enterprise” specializes in natural health, water treatment wellness, and personal gift selections for people who “just need more time and energy.”
As for Cynth’ya, the freedom she experiences with this business opportunity translates into being able to have more time to write and share her own experiences for the purpose of others to choose to improve their own lives.
Cynth’ya Lewis Reed is now in a leadership position with #YTB Travel Network & professionally trained on a consistent basis as a travel professional with both YTB and #ProTravelNetwork. She is a nine-year veteran in the #travel industry.
Her educational blog for consumers and those who are seeking a 2nd career that does not interfere with their personal dreams is www.BetterThanDonuts.com
It's called #BetterThanDonuts because all we meet should leave our presence having experienced a sweet memory that comforts one's soul, as opposed to feeling bitter & irritated from our life's journey.
P.S. Over the years, Cynth'ya has received supportive recognition from local groups, schools, associations and coalitions in her work with drug prevention, media development, and team building. She wants to use the medium of spoken word to further the cause of people realizing their dreams and ambitions.
Her belief is “Everyone deserves to experience their dream. . .hopefully my poetry will help someone realize their own God-given potential.”
hello Cynthian, nice to read your CV - I'm always interested in understanding how people got to what they are. You seem to have gone through quite a number of battles, of the kind that made you a real person. Keep up the good work. Love & cheers, franz