Lovey Toliver calls herself a second-chance woman.
Now, the 45-year old is dedicated to making sure her 11-year-old granddaughter makes the right choices the first time.
To hear Toliver explain it, she has turned her life around. Recently she completed Stand University for Parents -- or Stand UP -- a program that teaches parents how to engage with their children and the school system.
Toliver spoke at the program's graduation ceremony about her life -- having a baby at 14, dropping out of school and turning to drugs.
“What was I to do? School wasn’t helping me. I mean, this is the thing about parents," she said. "We all have them, but are they there to be a parent? We have to learn how to be a parent.”
And Stand UP aims to teach the skills that make people like Toliver school savvy and help their children look beyond graduation.
Around 100 Indianapolis Public School parents and guardians have graduated from the six-week course since it began earlier this year.
During the 90-minute classes, parents learn about the standardized exams their children take, college options and how to use the Department of Education website to find information about their schools.
And they learn from one another too.
Ashley Thomas attended the first course and now works for Stand for Children. Thomas got involved in the effort to change the curriculum at the failing IPS School 93 as a result of her experience in the class.
“It said ‘Wow, this entire time you had this voice,’ this mouthpiece is what I call it to be able to speak, to really influence," Thomas said.
Thomas said many parents who attend the program need help talking to their kids about expectations for behavior or studying. Stand for Children wants to create a network of families who can support their children and eventually lead to improvements at IPS.
“It is a community effort and we are trying to rebuild the village," Thomas said. "We always talk about it takes a village but we are trying to build a village, so come on.”
Recently the organization was criticized by some for its financial support of three candidates for the Indianapolis School Board. All of them ousted incumbents, including the board chairwoman, in the November election.
But Toliver wants people to know how Stand for Children helped her to engage with her granddaughter -- a high achiever at School 69 -- even more.
“Before we go out in the morning we have to read our Bible and we talk, we communicate. We had to learn how to communicate with each other. We eat together so we can understand each other. I want to know: how did your day go, what did you do in class today," Toliver said. "I have to teach her to communicate and be happy with her friends ...
"It is not a play thing when you are in school. Your school is just like a job. You have to learn what you need to know, in order to get where you need to go, in order to be successful in life."
Toliver returned to high school and graduated in May. She is now enrolled at Ivy Tech Community College. At last week’s Stand for Children graduation, Toliver spoke openly about redemption and how to move forward for your children.
"Just because you don’t know where your plan in life is going to be -- you always got a second chance," Toliver said. "And that’s it. Thank you all.”
Stand for Children will offer its next six-week course at three IPS schools in February.