Sharon K. Wade

In a touching nomination, Sharon K. Wade was described by her daughter, Kaliah Ligon, as “instrumental in the lives of children and families in the IPS school system and the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood.” Wade describes herself as someone whose purpose is “to help and nurture.”

At IPS school #69, Wade spent her career nurturing the kids in her neighborhood. She served in the Special Education department as a grant manager, project manager, school community coordinator and parent involvement educator. But her work at the school goes far above and beyond these roles.

As the coordinator for United Way of Central Indiana’s ReadUP program at her school, she helped hundreds of children access the program and increase their reading scores. She even gave students books to take home with them and worked with staff to build bookshelves. She also coordinated a food pantry that provided everyday meals for the kids, in addition to holiday assistance programs, clothes and hygiene items.

All this hard work meant that Wade’s office became a place of refuge for students having difficult days. She helped them talk about their feelings and think differently about their reactions to challenging situations. She encouraged the parents of the students to become involved in volunteering and actively engaged in their community and school. Why does she do all of this? In hopes that the residents of the neighborhood come to realize they have the “power to influence positive change in the quality of their community life” in the same way she has.

Wade credits her family, church and neighborhood community center with helping her discover community service. These organizations were critical in providing love when Wade was young and growing into the community servant she is today. She’s always been guided by a simple principle: The purpose of serving others is to set them free to love and serve, not to have them serve our wants and needs. “We are responsible to serve one another, but never in order to be served or to satisfy our immature cravings,” she said. 

Despite the challenges and struggles many of us face, Wade’s example of selflessness and compassion reminds us that helping each other and living by the golden rule does, in fact, build a better community. The many students and families she has guided and served in the Martindale Brightwood neighborhood are now paying it forward themselves.