Alumna Keidra “Pie” Boaze Advancing Adult Literacy in Memphis

keidraboazeThough teaching others is something Keidra “Pie” Boaze of St. Louis knew she wanted to do in her life, she didn’t know teaching adult literacy classes through Advance Memphis would become her career. Keidra, a Southeast Missouri State University alumna, works in a poverty-stricken neighborhood helping adults advance their educations through Advance Memphis.

“I have a student named Jeremy who just received his GED,” Keidra says. “He gave a little encouragement to the classes and said, ‘Ms. Pie – that’s what students call me – helped me find the smart little boy I once was.’ That reached my heart like nothing else. I never thought that I would be used to do that in anyone’s life.”

Keidra’s company is a faith-based non-profit organization that wants to help the people in the poorest and least educated zip code in Memphis, Tenn., 38126, become economically self-sufficient and provide for their families as well. Services provided also include high school equivalency diploma classes, staffing services, and financial literacy courses. They also help adults by providing a job-readiness program. Keidra helps people build life and people skills such as conflict resolution, work culture and how to deal with roadblocks. As a trained educator, she helps prepare people to take the HiSET by teaching math and English courses.

“I love my job,” Keidra says.

When she first moved, Keidra wasn’t sure that Advance Memphis was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.

“God changed my heart about that as I continued to interact with the neighbors of the community and teach them. I decided to stay because I felt like my gifts and talents could be utilized. I also began to realize that the people of the 38126 community are often the marginalized. They have so many God-given talents and abilities that have been stifled by injustices done against them by others and themselves. I wanted to be a part of the movement and the changing of lives that I was experiencing here. The people in that community have given me more life than I have given them. For that, I will stay here until God says otherwise,” Keidra says.

While at Southeast, Keidra studied early childhood education.

“Educators have always made a difference in my life and I want the same opportunity to impact the lives of students of every age and background,” Keidra says.

She chose Southeast because she was the first member of her family to attend college, and it was not too far away from her native St. Louis. She also knew it had an excellent education program.

She said attending the University has prepared her to work with people of all diversities.

“At Southeast, I felt that everyone had to have adaptability skills,” Keidra says. “There were so many different groups and people to interact with. Now, I work with people of all personalities and lifestyles. I have learned how to love them and interact with them in a way that serves everyone involved.”

Part of Keidra’s interaction at Southeast was as a Residence Advisor (RA) for five and a half years, and her favorite planned event was CaSEMO night, when the Office of Residence Life transformed Towers Café into a casino. She loved seeing people win prizes.

At Southeast, she also enjoyed just sitting in the residence halls and visiting with other people. In Memphis, Tenn., she loves walking down Beale Street and enjoying the blues music she hears, as well as the Redbirds games. She also enjoys trying all the different local restaurants, and she says she doesn’t think she’s been to a chain restaurant since she’s lived in Memphis, Tenn.

“I would tell future students two things,” Keidra said. “First, make the most of your time in college. Don’t complain about how long you have to stay because every moment is a piece of your future and will impact the person you are forever. Second, is to invest in other people. What you put into college is what you will receive out of it. If you are wasting time and not investing in the lives of others, you will regret it.”