With a firm handshake and her head held high, you'd never know Tywanda Nelson had a troubled past.
"I've come a long way,'' says Nelson. "Let's just put it like that: I've come a long, long way.''
Raised in Brandon, Nelson moved to the low-income Sulphur Springs neighborhood in Tampa about four years ago because she was interested in a house there. Struggling to go to college while raising three children on her own, Nelson says she became too absorbed in trying to help too many people that didn't need or deserve her help.
"My life was hard enough,'' she says. "But I managed to get things done while learning that I can't control anybody else's life but my own.''
Taking control of her life and goals, it was two years into her time in Sulphur Springs when Nelson reached out within the local community. While finishing up her bachelor's degree through Everest University Online
, she experienced some computer problems and began to seek out neighborhood organizations
That's when Nelson stumbled upon the United Way of Tampa Bay
's Sulphur Springs Resource Center.
Resources For Sulphur Springs
Opened in 2009, the Resource Center
is located on Sulphur Springs Elementary School
property at 8412 N. 12th St. in Tampa and staffed by folks from local partnering agencies such as the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA
, Crisis Center of Tampa Bay
, Bay Area Legal Services
and the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance
Offering helpful resources such as job training, resume assistance and legal support, the Resource Center has everything newly motivated and independent individuals such as Nelson need to continue down the right path.
With an associate in arts degree in medical billing and coding already under her belt, Nelson earned both a BA and an MA in accounting with help and assistance from the Resource Center and its educated, willing staff.
"They really will do whatever they can to help you get on your feet. The staff is always nice and never snappy. You can ask them anything and if they don't have the answer, they will go out of their way to find it for you,'' Nelson says. "The Resource Center did a major makeover on my life and prosperous goals.''
Gaining the knowledge to succeed, Nelson was one of the first to graduate from the center's Leadership Institution Program
. She says the United Way has managed to offer "everything you need in one building'' by helping residents start and maintain a better lifestyle.
Helping The Community And Beyond
Giving back to Sulphur Springs, Nelson spends whatever free time she can find as a volunteer at the Resource Center. In an attempt to gain experience in accounting, she helps out by doing taxes and working with other in-need residents in the neighborhood.
But despite all of the Resource Center's efforts, Nelson thinks there's much more to be done to improve Sulphur Springs.
"There's still a big effort that needs to be made and, though there are good resources in the area, it really depends on how determined someone is to change and make a difference in their own life,'' she says. "The staff isn't going to knock on your door and make you visit. You have to get out there and get to know your neighborhood.''
Recently, everything has been falling into place for Nelson: In March, she got married, started house hunting in Brandon
and began a job as a Tax Processing Specialist with PricewaterhouseCoopers
in Tampa -- a company she says fits her lifestyle, morals, ethics and goals. She was even asked to share her story of success at a JPMorgan Chase
luncheon in February honoring work done in Sulphur Springs.
"Things are finally working out for me," Nelson says. "I feel so blessed."
Alexis Quinn Chamberlain, a Florida native and freelance writer, can often be found eating at The Bricks, walking around her Egypt Lake-Leto neighborhood and daydreaming with her boyfriend and Chihuahua at Curtis Hixon Park. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.