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If you were to put all of 90 plus Parent Mentors in one room you would have assembled a diverse group of men and women who all share one focus: “building effective family, school, and community partnerships that lead to greater achievement for students, especially those with disabilities.”
While the personalities, geographies, talents, and backgrounds differ, our shared work of parenting a child with a disability brings us together, regardless of the road we traveled to get there.
Because we are working to empower families, we put the focus on them and we don’t often share our own stories. This page is meant as a place to do just that. It is a place for us to tell our stories.
We are; urban and rural, mothers and fathers, teachers, stay at home moms, social workers, salespeople, store managers, journalists… we have advanced degrees and GEDs. We all love our children and want to see them (and other’s children) thrive.
Thomas County Parent Mentor Eloise Wells discovered that her disability advocacy would take her all the way to city hall. By the end of the year 2014, Ms. Wells and her husband decided to dive into building their non profit foundation full time and she resigned her position as parent mentor.
My name is Eloise Wells. I am the Parent Mentor for the Thomas County Schools’ Special Education Department, and this (2013-14 school year,) is my second year. This year, (2014,) I was also elected as a city council woman in Boston, Georgia. I believe that both positions require similar skills: you must love people, be involved in community, and have the ability to listen well.
My family and I moved to Georgia 14 years ago and our children were educated in the Thomas County School System. I’ve been married for 25 years to Lorenzo Wells and we have three wonderful children, a daughter and twin sons.
We were blessed with one son, Carvin who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 4 and today is 22 yrs old. Carvin had limited access to any community services since he aged out of school. We search for support within community organizations because of the need in raising our son with autism.
The lack of community resources prompted us to start a support group called Let’s Come Together Helping Parents with Children and Adults with Disabilities. Our desire was to connect with other families to help us gain strength. We also founded an annual event called “Fun Day in the Park” to provide families dealing with disabilities with activities such as, Zumba dance, free food, games, and prizes to inspire and encourage children.
The support group has been successful helping parents to know that they are not alone. Fortunately, for me personally, I have an awesome internal support system at home, my husband and two adult children with whom I am able to arrange my work schedule around. Our other son, Marvin, and daughter, Lakevia recently graduated from Thomas University to obtain their Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Laboratory Science. They both work at a regional hospital as Medical Technologists.
Because of my experience, I am able to share with others and help them to deal with various stressful issues. The group has developed the afore mentioned event project into a strong community awareness engine, which includes both the Boston Georgia Police and Fire Departments.
As a result of my interactions with various community leaders, I was asked to serve on the local board of the Easter Seals. Later, Dr. Bonnie Seery, a former special education director asked if I would serve as the parent mentor of the Thomas County Schools. In addition, I was asked to consider running for a position on the city council. I accepted the challenge and ran uncontested during this year’s election.
This school year I am working to increase the percentage of students with disabilities who transition to employment or post-secondary education. I never imagined that my community efforts would yield so much fruit. Due to the fact that I was home every day rearing my son Carvin, I know the stress that parents are facing when dealing with a child who has a disability.
My hope is that over the next few years, through my work as a parent mentor, local disability activist, and as a city councilwoman, that some of the barriers that prevent adults with disabilities from living a full life will be broken down and everyone will benefit.