Tejuania Nelson-Gill is passionate, diligent, and dedicated in her effort to provide quality child care services for the children and families of Mobile and Baldwin counties. As Executive Director of Lighthouse Academy of Excellence and Achievement, she accomplishes that goal and ensures that children, families, well-trained personnel and community come together to create the balance that her personal and professional philosophy demands. Her work in a diverse array of community endeavors such as organizing financial literacy classes and homeownership classes, working with teaching farms in food deserts, and organizing food pantries are part of her holistic approach to preparing our young citizens for the world at large. She and her husband Carlos live in Robertsdale and are the proud parents of three children, Tinera, Tamra, and Taylor, and two grandchildren, Carter and Bella.
Tell us about your business(es)/employer. List services offered and/or work you do and how you describe what you do to others:
The Lighthouse Academy is a service oriented child care facility. We believe in providing quality service in a structural environment as a child care provider for Mobile and Baldwin Counties. Service and training is not just a condition; it is an ongoing process in a demanding and responsible service-oriented business. At Lighthouse Academy, we believe that our services offer value to our community and provide a balanced program that addresses the whole child–social, emotional, physical and intellectual. We strive to help our parents feel confident in the service that their children receive at the Lighthouse Academy. We pledge to provide our parents and their children with personnel who are qualified and receive ongoing training so that the children receive the necessary skills to ensure their personal and academic growth.
Share any relevant education, accolades, experiences related to your success:
I was recognized in 2018 as Business Woman of the Year, an award presented by the city of Prichard, AL. I was also invited to speak at the 2021 Women’s Summit at Troy University in Troy, Alabama.
Tell us why you chose your profession, the value it brings to you and/or the community:
To be honest, I dreamed of pursuing a career in nursing, but after I graduated high school, my parents encouraged me to follow a different path in early education. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change a thing. The reward of seeing a 4-year-old turn into a successful adult is unexplainable.
Are you involved with the community, any non profits, etc. and why is that important?
Yes, I’m involved in all of the communities where each Lighthouse Academy resides. I believe you can’t serve a child without serving that child’s community.
What is your vision or hope for women in the Mobile and Gulf Coast communities?
My vision for women in Mobile and the Gulf Coast communities is that women unite and work together. I believe that we are stronger when we unify. Women possess wisdom and leadership as a result of raising children and being homemakers. So when we combine our gifts and abilities we can truly make the world a better place.
Are there any specific policies and/or laws you would like to see changed?
Over the last decade women have experienced historic shifts. From the first African American First Lady of the United States to the first Vice President of the United States. Even with these two historic occurrences women are still underrepresented. In order for women to advance, equal pay is needed; affordable childcare must be available; and we need consistent representation in government. Once this happens, equality can be achieved, and we will advance.
“The more I focused on how I could become a better person the more my distractions didn’t matter anymore. It didn’t matter who didn’t like me, who hated me, who was trying to tear me down etc.; all that mattered was becoming a better version of myself. If you turn away from negative energy, you can become unstoppable.”
What advice or suggestions can you give to women walking the path of empowerment?
The advice I would give is from my own personal experience: walking the path of empowerment is not an easy task. While walking this path, I encountered distractions that took my eyes off my goals. I realized that I needed to work on myself–spiritually, mentally, and physically. The more I focused on how I could become a better person the more my distractions didn’t matter anymore. It didn’t matter who didn’t like me, who hated me, who was trying to tear me down etc.; all that mattered was becoming a better version of myself. If you turn away from negative energy, you can become unstoppable. I tried, and it worked. I’ve seen so many women distracted by emotions, bad relationships, other women, gossip, etc. that they stopped focusing on themselves; just imagine what they could accomplish if they poured all that energy into themselves!
Was there a moment for you that was a game changer and can you tell us about it?
Yes, the game changer was 25 years ago when one of my high school teachers told me that I wouldn’t amount to anything. I became pregnant my 12th grade year, and my English teacher told me that I wouldn’t make it past the 12th grade, and that I was a disgrace to my family. Something in me stood up that day, and I declared that I would not ever let another person’s words determine my outcome, my future. I don’t fault her; I believe she was a part of my process.
How do I feel about 40 over 40?
I’m overjoyed about this experience and, most of all, I want other young women to see my story and become empowered. I think the impact 40 over 40 has on the community is that women are often overlooked in their careers and their work in the community, and for an organization to highlight the hard work from women says a lot.
Who inspires you?
My mom and dad are my inspiration
How do you take care of yourself everyday so that you stay balanced and centered?
I try my best to eat healthy. It’s not easy, but I try hard. I often treat myself to a “me day.”
What is the hardest part about being a working mom?
The hardest part for me are feelings of guilt. And the questions I often ask are: Did I hug them enough? Did I give them enough of my time? Did I give them enough choices? Did I give them the best education?
What does an average day look like for you?
Daily office duties, in the classrooms, traveling, checking on the other sites, talking with other directors daily, meetings, calling my mom throughout the day to check on her and my dad. Texting my kids and husband making sure they are ok, googling easy dinner meals, cooking dinner, checking homework, etc.