NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Andraea LaVant grew up reading and studying LifeWay Christian Resources materials. So when she spotted the Nashville headquarters while on a college field trip to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, she felt a special camaraderie with the Tennessee-based Southern Baptist entity.
“My Mom’s been teaching the Sunday School materials for about 10 years,” said the Middle Tennessee State University mass communications major. “So when I saw the buildings, I said, ‘Oh, my goodness, is that LifeWay? I would love to do public relations for them. Now that would be a firm I could represent.'”
And so she does. LaVant is working this fall as a writer and public relations intern with LifeWay’s corporate communications department.
After discovering LifeWay’s home office, LaVant said she chose the company as the subject of a report for her business communications class. Her professor asked the class to write about “a company we would potentially work for.” LaVant’s extensive research about LifeWay prepared her for an interview with Rob Phillips, director of corporate communications.
“She impressed me with her knowledge of LifeWay and passion for what we’re doing in ministry,” Phillips said. “Our team felt she would be an asset to our communications efforts — and in the process teach us about LifeWay from a different perspective.”
LaVant felt she would learn a thing or two herself. Her hope for the internship is “to make each day a new learning experience. I want to use this opportunity to see if this is what God has truly called me to do. I also hope to leave as much of an impact on the lives of people I have worked with as they will leave on me.”
LaVant is just learning to drive at age 20. When she was about 2 and still not walking, her parents learned she had spinal muscular atrophy — a form of muscular dystrophy.
She recently acquired a 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan, had it customized for handicapped driving and no longer relies on friends and family to drive her to school or work. “I’ve taken lessons to learn how to drive it,” she said. “There is a lot to learn, but having it is making me more self-sufficient.”
Not that she isn’t already. LaVant is a woman accustomed to setting goals.
Usually, she said, she makes them five years in advance. On her resume, however, LaVant has ramped them up to 15 years: To enter corporate public relations as a general PR specialist; to serve as a PR manager for a Christian-based company/ministry; to own and operate a PR company that services the Christian community.
She’s even mapped out her personal life. After graduation, she plans to purchase or rent a condo-style home; in five to seven years, she hopes to marry, purchase her first home and be debt-free; and in nine years, she expects to have her first child.
“I’ve always been extremely goal-oriented,” she said. “Usually I look five years down the road. It doesn’t mean I can’t accept change, but I just like to plan where I’m going.”
LaVant said her venture into journalism and public relations progressed naturally. “When people asked the other kids what they wanted to do when they grew up, they all said, ‘firefighter or doctor.’ Since I was about 6, I’ve said I wanted to be a writer.”
That’s because she stayed inside her Louisville, Ky., home reading while other kids were outside playing. “I started reading when I was about 4.”
At age 12, she attended a young writers’ workshop when her friends were at camp. Eventually, she said, her dream of writing books translated into the more practical — journalism and public relations.
“I have a very practical father. He wanted both me and my sister — who is interested in cosmetology — to get business degrees,” she said. “He said, ‘You can’t make money writing books.'”
The first president of the newly chartered Alpha Theta Omega Christian Sorority at MTSU, the first physically disabled student to serve as a class officer at Louisville’s DuPont Manual Magnet High School, and the first communications department intern in a wheelchair at LifeWay, LaVant does not fear challenges.
The ones she faces at LifeWay include finding her way around a building divided up by various acronyms (CT, NW, OP, ST, FB), understanding employee lingo and “knowing that each project I complete isn’t just for a grade, but has the potential to impact many people.”
She adds with a twinkle: “I also hope not to run over, break or damage any LifeWay property with my wheelchair.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: THEN & NOW.