By Nancy Winckler-Zuniga
Originally published in the Florida Times-Union
Lyndsey Brokenburr loved middle school.
“It was such a good time,” Brokenburr said. “I grew up in Lakeland, and I’m still friends with some of them.”
The support of classmates, teachers and family members enabled her to have a blast during those years in spite of two corrective surgeries on her legs that left her in a wheelchair for months on end.
“I had bowed legs,” Brokenburr said. “The first surgeries were when I was 2 and 3 and then at 12 and 14. Sometimes, I set off the security alarms because of the screws.”
Remembering middle school is what caused Brokenburr to volunteer for Achievers For Life, a dropout prevention strategy partially funded and managed by United Way of Northeast Florida. Through the initiative, she mentors a student at Northwestern Middle School.
It was a logical fit.
Brokenburr grew up in a family of educators and dedicated many hours talking to and encouraging young women at the Bill Duncan Opportunity Center in Polk County, where her mother is principal. There, she would speak to groups about trying to achieve goals and setting their sights on a better future beyond the troubles that had landed them there. The Achievers For Life initiative brought more direct involvement.
“I had always done group mentoring,” said Brokenburr. “This was different. There was a connection. I loved her [her mentee]; she made me cherish what I had. Once I really got talking to her, I realized that she just needed someone to listen.”
Brokenburr said that talking with her student made her realize how lucky she was.
“She told me that she’d love to go to Red Lobster for dinner sometime,” Brokenburr said. Simple things, like a night out with her family, made up her student’s dreams.
While her family focused on education and she loves mentoring, Brokenburr chose a career in finance. It was through her employment with Merrill Lynch that Brokenburr was able to connect with the Achievers For Life initiative.
This year, Brokenburr returned to college at the University of North Florida to finish her second undergraduate degree in business and finance.
“I want to start a nonprofit that will help both children and their parents. We can tutor the children while helping parents, especially single mom/heads of household, be financially successful. I want to reach thousands of people.”