Alumni Spotlight: LeAndrea Mack
When I was a little girl, I received the opportunity to participate in an inner city reading program hosted by Derrick Thomas. One day, after reading a book with him that was really bad, he turned to me and said, "You could write a book better than that." His words always stuck with me. I am now an award winning author. My books have been featured at the Essence Festival, I recently won the title of Best Author at the KC People's Choice Awards and I have traveled as far as Lagos, Nigeria to share the children's books I wrote. One of my proudest moments was conducting a book workshop with the Third and Long Foundation at Foreign Language Middle School in Kansas City. This was important to me as both a former member of the Third and Long Foundation and a former student at the middle school. I am glad I got a chance to demonstrate to the children that they are storytellers and it was amazing to see the stories that the kids came up with. The best part was watching the children realize their potential, in the same way that Derrick did for me. I am a huge Chiefs fan and my first game was compliments of Derrick Thomas. He also took us golfing, camping and bought my first pair of adidas shoes. He wanted so much for us and I never forgot how far out of the way he went for us book club kids. I am now a healthcare fraud investigator living in Washington, D.C. but he showed me how important it was to give back to my community. Recently, I taught a book workshop with the Presidential Inaugural Committee for President Joe Biden, won Miss Juneteenth of Kansas City and was featured for my BLM photography over the summer. IF you are looking for proof this program works, I am the proof.
" I started the 3rd and Long foundation in 1991 and I quickly found the mentorship that I needed from Derrick Thomas and Donna Woolard. At the time I was experiencing physical and mental abuse in my home and I was interested in any extra curriculum activities that would allow me to stay after school and spend less time in a deplorable situation that no child or adult should ever be subjected to. According to family members, from my birth my mother didn't want me and never took an active role in my life to include academics. Throughout my childhood I spent a fair amount of time in the emergency room from the abuse of my mother and her husband. In addition there were the couple of attempts/threats where she tried to take my life at a very young age. I can remember nights where I was forced to sleep outside without food or safety from the gunshots that frequently rang out nearby. I did not have a father and to this day I have no idea who he is. I grew up in high crime-low income neighborhoods around Kansas City and I was on government public assistance (welfare, Section 8, Medicaid, etc) After joining the 3rd and Long Foundation they provided me with some imperative life resources that I attribute to my success and survival. 1) A different perspective - if child's immediate environment consist of government assistance, crime, abuse, homelessness, etc - statistic's illustrate that they are likely to repeat the cycle. The foundation provided me with a view of the other side of the "tracks" that opened my eyes to so much more. I will never forget the day I walked into Derrick's home and how amazed I was to see that not only did people really live like this, but an African-American man had achieved insurmountable heights in my small mind. Immediately following this visit, I became obsessed with the Kansas City Star newspaper. I would circle jobs that I wanted in the “Help Wanted” section, I would highlight houses in the “Realty” section, and I would underline cars in the “Classifieds” section. I would then calculate my monthly budget based on the job I selected and the cost of the house and car. I had “a different perspective” than the poverty, drugs, food stamps, and gangs that was my true environment at the time. 2) Self-confidence – the abuse I experienced wasn’t only physical it was mental as well. I now know that the rejection experienced by my birth mother from my birth father was deflected on me. For as long as young as I can remember I was told that I was dumb, ugly, an idiot, and I would never turn out to be anything just like the father that I had never known. It’s an unfortunate but a true fact that children of abuse will start to believe the negative words that they are saturated with. I will never forget the day Donna Woolard selected me to speak in front of a crowd at a local restaurant for a fundraiser for the foundation. I couldn’t understand why she wanted someone “dumb” and “ugly” to represent the foundation in efforts to gain financial support, nevertheless I was honored and excitedly nervous. Donna coached, coached, and coached me and I practiced, practiced, practiced! When the big day came (game day as Donna referred to it) I was ready. I delivered the speech in front of a room full of dignitaries and elites (or at least that’s how I remember it) and when I finished I was rewarded with a thunderous applause from the audience and smiles and hugs from Donna. Something about that day flipped a switch inside of me and I no longer felt dumb and ugly but I felt smart, important, and proud of my accomplishments. I realized that with support and mentorship I could succeed and achieve. 3.) Love – Should be automatic right? Well it’s not always the case for some children unfortunately. Honestly, it’s something I still struggle with to this day – “Why couldn’t the one person (my birth mother) in my life that is supposed to by instinct and nature love me?” The reality is that this scenario is all too common in our country and we as a community have to pick up where others have fallen short. That’s exactly what the 3rd and Long Foundation did for me and so many countless others throughout the years. Small acts of kindness and generosity can have huge impacts and steer a child’s sail boat of life in the right direction. I am so grateful to Derrick, Donna, and all the staff for providing me with love and support. After completion of the 3rd & Long Foundation I had the tools required to succeed and break the poverty and abuse cycle. I joined the United States Air Force and served for 8 years and I completed 2 college degrees (Bioenvironmental Engineering and Business Management). I live in Washington, D.C. and I work as an Environmental Health and Safety Engineer for Alexandria Renew Enterprises. My passion is traveling the globe with over 1 million miles flown and I’m excited to conquer my last continent of travels next month. My greatest accomplishment and my passion is being a mentor for the Urban Alliance Program that reaches underserved high school students."
" I am currently the Funding Coordinator for CapWest Mortgage. Thanks to the scholarship from 3rd-N-Long I have a BA in Psychology from the University of Missouri - Kansas City. I am married with 2 children and an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, Mu Omega Chapter."
Thank you all! It’s me - Mrs. Patricia Davis. You may remember me as Patricia Ja’Mese Woodward. I hope I can put a smile on your face with an update from a founding member of the wonderful Third and Long Foundation. I hold a B.S. in Curriculum and Instruction from Texas Southern University (2012) in Houston, TX and an M.Ed. in Education Administration from Sam Houston State University (2014). Today, I am married to Mr. Larry Davis of Shreveport, LA and we reside in Houston, TX. Larry is a barber/instructor and comedian. Our son, AJ, is 18 years old and graduates in May 2016 from the historic Jack Yates Senior High School with a 3.98 GPA. AJ is a scholar athlete that plays football, basketball, and baseball. He has been awarded academic scholarships from Texas Southern, Xavier, and Howard Universities to date. In honor of the Third and Long Foundation and my own personal story of overcoming a challenging real life situation, I teach in a socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhood which fulfills my passion to “give back” in an attempt to repay my debt of gratitude. Music is still a big part of me as I use it to reach students by creating content-driven chants and songs that enable students to retain more knowledge versus music-less lessons. (Also, I am writing an album to record in the near-future. After all, we know what happens to a dream deferred.) The challenge of pouring daily into the hearts of these children gives me a glimpse into the hearts of Derrick, Neil, Betty, Donna, Marge, and all the other gracious members of the foundation whose investment in me has paid huge dividends. I aim to honor the foundation with my service to others, especially the late Derrick Thomas - my guardian angel.
My name is Danielle and I became a Third and Long member in 1992. When I first joined the program, I was one of the "older kids" and while I felt originally out of place, I came to relish my time with all of my friends in the program. Third and Long helped me build bonds, not only with other members, but with numerous mentors; Donna, Marge, Betty, Neil, Terri, etc. a few of whom I still keep in contact with to this very day. My time reading, meeting, and participating in different activities allowed me to gain connections and decide what I wanted to do with my life. While I thought I was going to an Ivy League for college, being with Derrick and everyone else made me realize that an HBCU was the better fit for me. I was a 1997 Scholarship recipient, and used the money received to start college without paying any money out of pocket. My road was very long and definitely not in a straight line (that's a story for another day); but one of my few regrets is that Derrick was not around to see me walk across the stage with my BS in Psychology. Derrick was more than a mentor, he was a big brother to most of us; and there are some stories that would definitely have you in tears with laughter. I work as a Loan Analyst for PNC Bank in their C&IB Division. I have always had a love of service, and my membership in AKA Sorority, Inc. and Soroptimist International are small tokens of giving back to my Kansas City Community, as Derrick did. I currently service on a couple of local boards, and looking to expand my portfolio, as I will be attending Graduate School in the fall of 2021 to achieve a Master in Public Administration. I will forever be grateful to Third and Long for the direction and focus they provided in my life, and the memories that can never be taken from me.