Mom’s GED Inspired Daughter's Passion for Education
A relentless advocate for non-traditional students, Echell Eady (M.A.,’ 01) was married with two children when she learned her mother hadn’t graduated from high school.
She had instead earned a high school general equivalency degree and never spoke of it, Eady said. “She was embarrassed; she didn’t want anyone to know.”
Ironically, Eady—the Vice President of Community and Economic Development of the YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee—has blazed a trail helping countless students much like her mom. Earning a Master of Arts in Education Administration at Governors State University (GSU), and later her doctorate from another university, placed Eady at the intersection of education, social services and workforce development.
Describe your current position.
I’m responsible for four programs. Our YWCA is an affiliate for Dress for Success, which actually provides help with cover letters and resumes as well as clothing, from suits to steel-toed boots. We’re also an affiliate for Girls Inc. And there’s our Family Learning Center, which has a high school equivalency program, and Career Services. A lot of our students who graduate take advantage of many of our programs. And many come from our domestic violence program, which is the largest in middle Tennessee.
How did you get into this line of work?
As an undergraduate, I originally wanted to be an attorney, but after an internship with the Cook County Bar Association, I realized it wasn’t what I expected. I worked part-time as a tutor at Harold Washington College and was bitten by the education bug.
Why did you choose Governors State University?
I was living in the Chicago area at the time and working my way up the ranks at Prairie State College and my supervisor told me I needed a master’s degree in order to be promoted further. GSU was literally in my back yard. But what really drew me was the evening program’s flexibility, which was geared toward working adults. And one of the things I really liked was that I was able to work with advisors and professors to customize my experience for the community college level.
What role did GSU play in your success?
It solidified me in terms of my profession. In addition to earning my credentials, I was able to interact with professors who were already working in their fields. It fed my passion, and it was really exciting for me.
What are you most proud of when you look back at your GSU experience?
The way the experience matured me as a person. A lot of my fellow students were in K-12 education. Since GSU was able to customize what I needed for the community college level, it expanded the way all of us were thinking about the world of education. There was a lot of communication, both on their part and on mine, and I like to think I shed some light on the issues you face in post-secondary education.
What’s next for you professionally?
There are some people who have their whole career planned out, but I’m not like that. I’m going to continue to look for opportunities where I can make the most impact in terms of demographics. My mom earned her GED. When she told me, I couldn’t believe it. She had been such an advocate for education! But it never came up. So that’s my life’s work—helping nontraditional students. It’s a labor of love. I’m still honing my craft. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
What advice would you share with current GSU students?
Work hard, and take advantage of everything the campus offers. There’s so much there. Appreciate this jewel that’s right outside Chicago. And appreciate the legacy you’re helping to create. GSU helped populate much of Chicagoland with professionals in education and in a way, you’re standing on their shoulders. Be determined to make the place greater.