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Speak up and speak out: end generational poverty

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

As a Quaker-educated woman, Lynn Wailes knows that within every person shines a great light. A long-time resident of Reynolds at Lake Oconee, Wailes stays humble yet firmly believes, “If you are not part of the solution, then you are a part of the problem.”

In Greensboro, Wailes has joined forces with the Thillen Education Foundation to provide financial support, mentorship, professional and life coaching, and friendship to Greene County High School students participating in Greene College and Career Academy programming. She says, “I realized that I can begin crafting my legacy now, rather than wait until it’s too late for me to experience the rewards for making meaningful change. It’s been so empowering for me to watch progress in the making.”

As a high school career coach who has volunteered for at least four more years of coaching, “I find it fulfilling to be a hands-on volunteer,” she says. “Being in a position to make a difference in the life of a child is my way of paying it forward for all of the many inspiring teachers in my life.”

Lynn Wailes career coaching students
Lynn Wailes meets her students for the first time.

Thillen Education Foundation, which recently launched its Pathway to a Million Capital Campaign, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers financial assistance to participating students who meet weekly with volunteer coaches at the career academy. Through these powerful interactions, students are guided to choose professional or educational pathways and achieve milestones on their path to graduation. Once they graduate, each participant receives earned financial assistance for college, professional certification training, or skilled trade career and military start-up supplies.

For Wailes, “Coaching is not about starting at the top. It’s about beginning at the bottom and working up with a student, milestone by milestone.” No stranger to personal hardship and tragic loss, Wailes’ husband, Jay, was an athlete who drowned in a swimming pool shortly after the couple moved to Reynolds. She empathizes with the family struggles some of her coaching students face at home day-to-day.

Connection with others is critical. Wailes notes, “I’m very sad about not being able to connect as much in person with my students during COVID-19 restrictions.” Now, with the resumption of in-person coaching sessions, Wailes has pledged her financial support to enable growth and strengthen the Thillen program that has seen remarkable results in academic progress, decreased disciplinary and absentee issues, and long-term goal setting. “I’m motivated by the hands-on experience of helping these amazing kids mature into hardworking adults and community members.”

“Every kid deserves a leg up in the world,” says Dave Thillen, the nonprofit’s founder. As a child growing up in poverty in Chicago, Thillen realized the road to success began with education. He notes, “With hard work, commitment, and the proper guidance, anything is possible for these kids. That’s what makes our program so unique.”

Lynn Wailes
Lynn Wailes

Through her gratifying work with the local Thillen Education Foundation, Wailes speaks up and speaks out about taking real action toward ending generational poverty within her own community starting at Greene County High School where the student population is 90% minority and 98% live below the poverty line.

“My Quaker faith taught me that everyone is equal. I encourage everyone reading this to ask themselves the tough questions, recognize the imbalances in our society, and act to make our world a better place by connecting with and coaching our local children. We must come together to support initiatives like Thillen Education Foundation whose mission is to empower young people to lead the very best lives that they can imagine. And it’s never too early to start making a difference.”

To learn more about the Pathway to a Million Capital Campaign or how you or your business can work with the Greensboro-based Thillen Education Foundation nonprofit and its coaching and career path programming, please visit

This article originally appeared on Lake Oconee News

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