With over a million adults in the region volunteering over 131 million hours annually, “her commitment level” makes Andrea Lawful-Trainer a stand out in the eyes of Sean Elliott, Group Vice President for the Abington YMCA and Vicinity. A member of the Abington Y’s Board of Managers for the past four years, Lawful-Trainer has been mentoring in its Y Achievers program, campaigning for scholarship awards for its Strong Kids program, and championing its seventh-grade initiative, said Elliott.
“She’s passionate about kids and families. She’s a great lady and very well respected. I don’t know how she does it all,” Elliott said.
Lawful-Trainer also serves as a member on the Abington School Board, founded the CALM Society, is a member of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in Montgomery County and works as an education consultant for parent leadership. In case you haven’t yet had the opportunity, Abington Patch introduces Andrea Lawful-Trainer.
On a typical afternoon Andrea Lawful-Trainer cannot walk through a hall at the Abington Y without being physically embraced by a loving mentee and warmly greeted by a handful of other admiring well wishers.
Denzel Pryor was one of her young Achievers when he was in eighth grade. He’s now in his first year at Walnut Hill College in University City, studying to be a chef. He called Lawful-Trainer “sort of my God Mom.”
She continues to mentor young teens for college and productive adulthood twice a week at the Y. One of its most active board members, she is a key organizer in its annual campaign to raise $400,000 for scholarship awards.
“My heart sings when I do this work,” Lawful-Trainer said. “I feel most alive when I see a child succeed. Or when a young adult says to me, ‘If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be in college today’ or ‘I’d be locked up.’”
Lawful-Trainer is identified with the VIBE and IMAGINE projects in the Abington Schools, as well. Some years ago, a few Abington teachers approached Lawful-Trainer for help with what have become successful programs to promote academic excitement, leadership and social responsibility among youth otherwise remaining on the periphery of school participation. What began seven years ago with 30 students has well over 400.
Lawful-Trainer was raised in Jamaica by parents who believed it was their responsibility to share their blessings with others. At 44 years old, the Glenside resident has now lived in the States more than half of her life.
“It’s a great country, and an awesome community,” she said.
But from watching her sons, Charles and André, go through Abington public schools, she has noted that “way more children can make it.”
When her children were very young, she attended a parent leadership academy, which opened her eyes to how little most parents understand the educational system. There are so many acronyms used in any given meeting.
“Parents often ignore the schools, or just do the best they can,” she said. “Many just nod their heads, smile, and walk away so confused they don’t do anything [but] if parents don’t get involved, a lot is lost and mistakes are made.”
Parents need to learn how to navigate the educational system, Lawful-Trainer suggests.
“When parents become involved, students are more successful.”
But sometimes parents approach schools with a confrontational spirit. Then both teachers and parents feel tension and get defensive.
“When you collaborate, you get more done,” she said. “It’s a different frame of mind.”
To this end, Lawful-Trainer created the CALM Society. Now in its seventh year, the parent leaders are screened and trained to help teach other parents how to advocate for children in a positive way. Over the years, CALM Society volunteers have served hundreds of families from as far away as Allentown, as well as in school districts like Upper Dublin, Hatboro-Horsham and Upper Merion.
Lawful-Trainer was recently appointed as a minority delegate for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
This motivational speaker has a master’s degree in education and seven vision boards in her home. Her vision boards, containing inspiring pictures and words, are powerful reminders of the changes and goals to which she aspires — they help guide her work.
Lawful-Trainer loves to read and travel, and she clearly loves people. Her mouth waters for sushi and her bucket list includes flying an F16. Besides all her volunteer work at the Y, she also lifts weights.
If she has any regrets, it’s that she second-guessed herself a lot when she was in her 20s.
“I give a lot of time away, and sleep well at night,” she said. “Love what you do and you’ll be successful.”