VINCENNES, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Many of Vanessa Purdom’s accomplishments in the Knox County community center around children.
“Ways that I can get children involved in our community and make sure that everyone has an opportunity to do certain things,” Vanessa explained.
One of those ways Vanessa found to give kids an opportunity came in the form of the Migrant Education Tennis Program, which she helped to found in Knox County.
“The migrant education workers, their students would access summer school to improve their skills in English, improve their skills in math, improve their skills in history,” Vanessa said. “As a part of that, we partnered with the US Tennis Association as well as Evansville Tri-State Athletic Club, and we were able to give these kids tennis rackets, shoes, balls, and had a great group of volunteers come through and help us teach the game of tennis.”
Vanessa is also teaching children about the election process through a book she had published several years ago called “The Caramel Apple Election”.
“We took it to the classrooms and they loved it,” Vanessa said. “We’ve had libraries and different community centers have caramel apple elections of their own. It’s just been a wonderful tool to really get our young people excited about the voting process.”
It’s not just K-12 students Vanessa is helping; she also teaches legal studies at Vincennes University.
“We had students that came to me at Vincennes University and they had no idea what they wanted to do,” Vanessa shared. “They were first-generation college students and it was such a blessing to be able to encourage them and see their growth as they went through the legal studies program. Some of them have even went on to law school.”
Vanessa added that the importance of education is something she presses upon her students.
“That’s something that you cannot take from a person,” Vanessa said. “You might be able to take their car, their house, their clothes, but you cannot take away their education.”
So, where does Vanessa get the inspiration to in turn inspire the next generation? That’s an easy answer for her: her family, especially her two daughters.
“I always think to myself when I’m pursuing any endeavor, is this gonna make my family proud?” Vanessa said. “Is this something that is going to enhance our community and encourage my girls to follow in these footsteps? So, when I think about where my inspiration comes from, it’s really my family, because I want to leave a legacy and be the example for my girls.”