Category Archives: EDUCATION

A Picture Perfect Present

4-year-old Wendelaya hugs her new "We Are Friends" book (Photo by Monica Anthony)

3-year-old Wendelaya hugs her new “We Are Friends” book (Photo by Monica G. Anthony)

On her Dad’s birthday, I handed her Mom a copy of “We Are Friends” my latest children’s book and she placed it on a table. Seconds later, Wendelaya picked up the book and her Mom snapped a picture.  The next day she sent it to me and I was in tears. It was a picture perfect present, not only for Wendelaya but for me. On top of that, she told her Mom, “I love this story.” As a children’s author, it doesn’t get any better than that. Out of the mouth of babes.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Viola Davis brought me to tears too, as she stood on the stage and accepted her SAG Award for Female Actor in a Drama series.  She said:  “When I tell my daughter stories at night, invariably a few things happen. Number one, I use my imagination. I always start with life and I build from there,” she said. “And then the other thing that happens…she always says, ‘Mommy can you put me in the story?”

Mirrors or maps?

Christopher Myers, children’s author and illustrator said the children he knows “see books less as mirrors and more as maps. They are indeed searching for their place in the world, but they are also deciding where they want to go. They create, through the stories they’re given, an atlas of their world, of their relationships to others, of their possible destinations,”

We all play a part.

As authors and illustrators, we create mirrors and maps for children like Wendelaya to see themselves in the story and dream beyond boundaries. That’s our part. In the words of Christopher Myers, “The rest of the work lies in the imagination of everyone else along the way, the publishers, librarians, teachers, parents, and all of us, to put that book in her hands.”

A picture is worth a thousand words.


IT TAKES A VILLAGE by Darla Davenport-Powell 3/25/13


It takes a village to raise a child; and a village to restore one who has gone astray. However the “village” principle is not limited to children but applies to adults as well; those who have lost their way. I witnessed an amazing graduation on Sunday that brought tears to my eyes. As I sat and waited for service to start at the Potter’s House, I knew something extraordinary was about to take place.

As the lights dimmed, three simple words captured my attention on the Jumbotron; three simple words: “I Am More!” As the 75-plus graduates from the T.O.R.I Program (Texas Offender’s Re-entry Initiative) made their way down the aisles, with each step I could imagine them saying, “I am more than my past; more than my mistake; and more than the transgression that cost me my dignity.”

I am more

The T.O.R.I Program is a model for the world. Its founder, Bishop T.D.Jakes has masterfully assembled a cadre of trained professionals, volunteers, mentors and facilitators whose sole mission is to empower and equip ex-offenders with the tools that they need for a productive life.

All it takes is one wrong turn

Award-winning Actor/Director Charles S. Dutton (Roc) knows about wrong turns. At age 12, ‘Roc’ dropped out of middle school for what he called “foolishness.” In his “Jail to Yale” keynote speech to the graduates, he told a story about remembering his “16th” birthday; for that was the only year that he did not go to reform school. A year later he was sent to prison for killing a man who stabbed him eight times. After serving a few months shy of two years, ‘Roc’ went back to the penitentiary for possessing deadly weapons. The day of his release, he was told that he would be staying eight more years for a prior assault on a prison guard.

It takes two dollars to educate and sixty to incarcerate

A funny thing happened to ‘Roc’ on his way to solitary confinement. He accidentally picked up a book on short plays by African American playwrights that changed his life. It was the “Day of Absence” by Douglas Turner Ward that ignited his soul and set him on a path that unlocked his purpose. He was allowed to stage the play in prison under the condition of completing his GED.

‘Roc’ was on a roll. He successfully earned his GED, was allowed to take courses from a community college in prison and received his Associates of Arts degree after parole. He continued his studies at Towson State University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Theater. He was admitted and received his master’s degree from the Yale Drama School, where he met August Wilson, the late Pulitzer Prize playwright, who launched his Broadway career.

A new beginning

One by one, as their names were called, the graduates marched across the stage before a sea of witnesses. Family, friends, program volunteers, judges, state elected officials, county representatives, and the congregation were all there to applaud the end of their 12-month intensive program and the beginning of a new chapter. In addition to being reunited with their families, many of the students received their own home and a job; while others enrolled in college.

Tina Naidoo, a licensed social worker and executive director of the T.O.R.I program says, “The City of Dallas housing authority is the only one in the country that provides section 8 vouchers for my clients and their families. How can they get their kids back if they don’t have a home?This takes away the element of being ‘illegal’ and gives them responsibilities…something they can have in their name.”

Texas will release more than 70,000 prisoners this year, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The report states that more than 35,000 of those released will return to prison within three years. The T.O.R.I program has a low recidivism rate. Naidoo states that “the demand for our services is greater than our current resources. The best way to get ahead of the demand is for individuals, corporations, and foundations to rally around T.O.R.I.’s mission and support it so we can expand our services, serve more people and end the cycle of incarceration indefinitely.”

To make a donation to the T.O.R.I program and for more information, visit: http://www.medc-tori. IT TAKES A VILLAGE!

INVENTING DARLA/Warren Buffett, I’m on your trail!

I must admit. I am in way over my head.

What have I gotten myself into with this social media marketing animal? And, boy, I do mean animal.

For two weeks, I have been trying to wrap my brain around all of this new media technology. I said yes to blogging with a passion. I love extemporaneous writing. The major hurdle was sharing my inner most thoughts with the world—pretty much like handing the key over to anyone who wanted to read my diary.

Now I have a Twitter account and a new NiyaKids Facebook page. It’s kind of weird having followers and following people around on the internet. The goal is to get as many people of like interests to sign up as followers, which would make me a leader. I’m all for that. But the other way around feels somewhat odd. I know. In order to have a friend, you must first be a friend; and to be a good leader, one must be a good follower. I get it! The same principle applies to my new Facebook page The goal is for me to get 100,000 friends to LIKE the page to gain the interest of a manufacturer or licensor.  The more toy folks I like, the more folks may like my products. I’m still trying to figure out if my Twitter name is Niya@NiyaKids or @NiyaKids. I need all of my global diary readers to ‘tweet’ me – and we’ll see which one works.

My technology tutor said that the object of all of this is to connect all of the dots. It’s like the neck bone is connected to the shoulder bone concept. With a push of a key, my blog will go out to all of my Facebook friends and Twitter followers. The thought of it is a bit overwhelming.

I wonder what Warren Buffett thinks about all of this texting and tweeting?  I bet he doesn’t answer his own email. But he does have a Facebook page. In fact, Warren Buffett’s page has180, 797 LIKES.

Tweet this: Warren Buffett, I’m on your trail!

INVENTING DARLA/An invocation that continues the dream

SACRAMENTO, Calif. _ Drexel University held its inaugural commencement outside Philadelphia yesterday in a stellar ceremony that featured Darla Davenport Powell giving the commencement. We’d like to share her words!

My Mother’s favorite saying is: This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it; indeed, this is a great day. Psalm 118:24. Let us still ourselves in this moment… as we give thanks for this special occasion…a historic day in Sacramento…the first commencement of Drexel University outside of Philadelphia in the 120-year history of the University.

We have a lot to be thankful for…

Let us pray…

God we are grateful to be alive today…to witness, to participate and to celebrate our inaugural commencement. We are filled with appreciation for those who made this journey possible.

We give thanks to our grandparents, our parents, our spouses, our significant others, our children, family and friends who gave us the inspiration to “keep on keeping on” in spite of the challenges and in the midst of obstacles.

We give thanks for our late President Constantine Papadakis, ‘Taki’ for his vision, his wife Eliana, for her continued support of his vision and thanks to our administrators for carrying out that vision.

We are grateful for the Trustees, President John Fry and the alumni for their continued commitment and service to this outstanding University. We give thanks to our professors for their rich deposits, our guest lecturers and mentors; and the excellent staff that truly was the wind beneath our wings.

We are grateful for the soldiers who serve to protect our freedom and give thanks for their sacrifice.

Now God we ask your blessing on this ceremony, and on this graduating class. Guide us in our decisions and allow us to use what we’ve learned to make a difference in our communities, this nation and the world. Keeping in mind: “To whom much is given, much is required.”(Luke 12:48)…and in the words of Winston Churchill: We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”


Darla Davenport-Powell, M.A., MSHE

INVENTING DARLA/God has a funny way . . .

My daughter and I were talking this morning about God and his sense of humor. One thing is for sure:  He has been consistent.

I can imagine how Abraham felt when God told him to “get thee from your kindred and kind, and I’ll make thee a nation; and make thy name great.”


Did anyone bother to tell God that Abraham was old, and his wife Sarah’s eggs had long since dried up? They were probably hardboiled by the time Isaac was conceived. Nevertheless, Isaac was conceived and we know the rest of the story.

The same God took Paul, persecutor of the Christians, and turned his life right side up to be a premier apostle of the very same Christians he hated.


God has a sense of humor, and He is consistent.

We see it in the story of the Mary the Mother of Jesus (a virgin), Mary Magdalene (a former prostitute), Peter (a former thug) and throughout the Bible. Take Noah for example. Here it is: He hears from God to build an ark for years with no rain in sight. I can imagine people murmuring: “Look at that crazy Noah, building a boat, and it ain’t even raining.” The flood came and we know the rest of the story.

I can talk from my own experiences. He sets me up to get a second master’s degree with full tuition paid, without a book allowance. Unemployed, son in college, one in high school, bills up the ying yang and you want me to go back to school and earn a second degree with no books, Lord?

It gets better . . You are not only going to earn a third degree, you are going to graduate with a 4.0 cumulative GPA.

And one car, 17-thousand schedules ( everybody going in opposite directions) and an ailing Dad, who was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma plus a myriad of other demands, I graduated.

And we know the rest of the story.

It doesn’t make human sense . . .

I live in a house that our salary does not sustain. My children attend private schools, I’m sitting on top of a mega-million children’s entertainment business. I’m able to fly to Philly for my graduation. I get my hair done and eat on the regular. I enjoy full medical benefits through my husband’s teaching salary. I get stopped in public places by people from foreign places who ask me: “Aren’t you that doll lady I saw on “American Inventor?” Who knew I would win $50,000 as a finalist to take my product to the next level on a show with 14 million viewers, a product that now is licensed internationally to countries around the world?

God’s ways are not our ways.

I don’t have to imagine what went through Abraham’s mind when God promised to make him a nation with faulty equipment. I know how Noah felt when he was given the assignment of building a boat for an event that people didn’t believe was going to happen. I can identify with Peter, who was rough around the edges but willing to trust what he couldn’t see. For faith is the street where I live; not knowing how but knowing who; not knowing when but knowing that if God said it . . . we know the rest of the story.



INVENTING DARLA/This just in!!

Dear friends and supporters: I wanted to share this news with you!

Drexel University Mom Graduates Top of Her Class without Buying a Book

Darla Davenport-Powell was so excited to learn that she would be one of the first recipients of a merit- based full fellowship from Drexel University that she forgot that it didn’t include a book allowance. So how did this mother of three graduate at the top of her class with a 4.0 cum GPA without buying any books?

“I literally lived in the library,” says Davenport-Powell My day consisted of searching the web to find text books on line. Google became my friend and I read and printed any information on the topics that were assigned. On occasion, I would borrow my professor’s books and read as much as I could before returning them the following week. I also had wonderful colleagues who allowed me to make copies of pages that I couldn’t find (on-line).”

Davenport-Powell will give the invocation at Drexel University Sacramento Commencement at 6 p.m. on June 25, 2011 at the Crocker Art Museum, where more than 100 graduate students are expected to participate in the ceremony. Drexel has enrolled 424 students in its doctoral and master’s programs since opening its Center for Graduate Studies in Sacramento in January 2009.

“I feel a double honor to be celebrated as a graduate of Drexel’s inaugural class and keeper of my Dad’s legacy,” says Davenport-Powell. “He had a work ethic second-to-none and never called in sick after working 46 years and 3 months at the U.S. Postal Service. He was an example of excellence, determination and discipline. My success is a tribute to my father—a man who lived the motto: No excuses!”


%d bloggers like this: