CIU alumna recognized for her role with youth
By Bob Holmes
When LaToya Reed became the director of the South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy in 2018, she was told there would be pushback.
The 2006 Columbia International University alumna, who majored in Youth Ministry, is the first female, the first minority and the first person with no military background to head the Academy associated with the South Carolina National Guard. The Academy is a residential quasi-military program designed to help struggling youth acquire the basic skills and education necessary to succeed in life.
“The first two years were very tough,” Reed admitted, as some of the 85 people under her supervision struggled with a woman at the helm or her lack of military experience.
“But now I’m getting the right people in place and my hard work and my vision are coming together,” Reed said in a phone interview.
And that’s why Reed was recently honored by her closest staff members for her “visionary leadership.” She says she was totally surprised when they presented her with a plaque acknowledging her hard work and all she had to overcome.
Reed, who has also worked with youth at the South Carolina Department of Social Services and the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice, says she still has the same drive to relate to youth that she had as a CIU student.
“It’s awesome. I still have a passion to work with youth,” Reed said. “It hasn’t burned out yet. Most people will burn out working with youth throughout the years. But I’m still hanging in there.”
Reed notes that her CIU classes in Youth Ministry have been valuable to her in her various state jobs — even when a class assignment called for preparing a budget.
“At the time, I was thinking, ‘What does this have to do with Youth Ministry? Why do we have to do a budget? I don’t want to have to do a budget,’” Reed recalls. “But now I’m over a budget for (the Academy), and it’s like, ‘Wow, that did come in handy.’”
And when it comes to relating to, and communicating with youth, Reed says it doesn’t matter that she graduated from CIU’s Youth Ministry program 14 years ago.
“The things that I learned about youth are still affective today because there is still nothing new under the sun,” Reed said. “So you find ways to communicate with youth whether it’s a different generation from you or not.”
With record enrollment in 2020, BestColleges.com ranks Columbia International University the 2020 Best Online College in South Carolina, and CIU is #2 in the state for Best College Campus. CIU also consistently ranks among the Top Regional Universities in the South and a Best Value Regional University in the South by U.S. News & World Report.