Paige Carda is the executive director of REACH Literacy, an organization that provides individualized reading, writing and life skills for adults in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. With free tutoring and resources, the program helps participants reach their full potential as a parent, as employees and as members of their community. Within three years time, Paige has excelled as the leader for REACH while also upholding her passion for volunteer work in the city. She is bold, ambitious and talented, and we’re lucky to have her in Sioux Falls.

Name: Paige Carda

How can people connect with you? 

Twitter: twitter.com/PaigeCarda
Facebook (personal): facebook.com/paige.carda
Facebook (business): facebook.com/REACHliteracy
Instagram: instagram.com/paigecarda

Where do you live now? 

I live in Sioux Falls, and I grew up in the small town of Wagner.

Give us a behind-the-scenes look at your average day.

I get up with the birds at 5 a.m., and my dog Luta (the beautiful Border Collie) and I go for a run. No matter the weather. Typically, anywhere from 3-5 miles, and then we come home, get ready for work, get two younger children up and ready for school or summer activities and head to work. Evenings depend on sports, if I need a second run and then in the summer, I try to spend as much time in my garden as possible. Most school nights are busy with a child’s sporting event.  We have supper together as a family at least 4 nights a week, and Sunday is a big dinner. Sit down about 9:30 pm and in bed reading by 10:30 pm.

What projects are you currently working on, both in your career as well as hobbies or passions?

I have a huge garden and love to get my hands in the dirt. I am considering starting a dog running business on the side and spend a ton of time on volunteer projects with CASA, the History Club and my Girl Scout Troop.

What challenge in your life or work are you most interested in overcoming?

Learning to ask for what I want. I am getting better in both personal and business, but it is tough.  I often don’t think I deserve to ask for what I want and have to really challenge myself when this thought pops into my head.

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If you could do any job, what would you do and why? 

I love science and gardening and would really love to be able work with plants to create new ways to grow food and plants. Creating a more sustainable and viable product.

What’s your desert island album/book/TV show/movie (answer one or all)?:

Album: Has to be Journey’s “Escape” (I am showing my age)

Book: Anything by Stephen King, probably “The Shining” or “The Stand”

Movie: “Star Wars” – first movie, saw this when I was 12 and it had a huge impact on me in terms of imagination and possibility.

Since you live in one of the OTA states:

•    Why do you choose to live here? I love South Dakota. I love the wide open space, the wind, even if it is always present. I love that wind feels like it has life and energy in it. I like that we are small and that you usually know someone no matter where you travel in the state.

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•    What is the most beneficial aspect of living in the region when it comes to your career? The connections and the friendly atmosphere of South Dakota. People here are always willing to help, offer advice and genuinely want others to succeed.

•    What’s one thing you would change about the OTA region? I would like an inexpensive transit system that connects us to Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and North Dakota. I get tired of driving and would love to be able to sit and read while going 120+ miles an hour.

•    What’s one thing that most people don’t know about the OTA region? How great it is to live here. We have art, music, culture, friendly faces, open spaces and a terrific business climate.

Where do you think good ideas come from?

Tough question. For me, it is reading, talking to others, getting advice, mulling over ideas with other people, putting your thoughts out for someone else to talk about and critique. I tend to be linear at times, so having lots of opinions and ideas helps me see all the angles and potential.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

You are not the smartest person in the class, but you work hard and that counts, too. Believe in yourself.

Who is the most creative person in your life, and why?

My brother Dave. He is a Professor of Chemistry at Mississippi State in Starkville. His mind works on a level I can’t even appreciate. He draws, takes great photos, hand-makes electronic Christmas cards and made a bat detector for my kids out of an old radio. He made a “go pro”-type camera for his cat to wear even before go pro existed.

Who is the most connected person in your life, and what personal characteristics make him or her so well-connected?

My Dad was a master of making friends and knowing everyone. He grew up and worked in a small town as an attorney, but he knew everyone all over the state of South Dakota. He didn’t have social media – in fact one of the last messages I have is an email test from him. What he did have was presence and personality. He could remember everyone’s names, your family and information that made you feel important. He spent a lot of time with people, talked to them, helped them, remembered them, and I think that is an impressive quality to have.

Who is the most community-focused person in your life, and how do they impact their communities?

Taté Walker. She is very focused on gender issues, Native American issues and beauty standards.  I don’t always agree with her thoughts or ideas, but it challenges me to re-think my long-held beliefs. She writes for a number of blogs and newspapers and is heavily involved in these issues whether she is in Colorado or South Dakota. Many Native Americans didn’t have a voice or someone to step to the forefront and speak about issues, and I think Taté does this with grace and dignity. She is fierce in her convictions, and I like that about her.

At what intersection do you live your life? (ex: creativity and community, humor and humanity, art and athletics)

I live my life with humor and bad knock-knock jokes. Just ask my kids about their postcards from Mom. Athletics are a cornerstone for our family. As a way to stay healthy, feel strong, centered and I think keeps us together as a family.

Who are the three people you need to have coffee with when you visit Sioux Falls?

Can we drink Diet Pepsi instead? I love visiting with my friend Katie Levitt. She works as a Senior Copywriter at Lawrence & Schiller. She is funny, can make anything sound better and has great taste. Cindy Elifrits Peterson of Maximizing Excellence is always great to visit with. She is calm, focused and really has a great understanding of what is going on in Sioux Falls and the state.  Rod Carlson allows me to ask really dumb questions and always has great advice.

What’s the best way to put inspiration into action?

Just do it.  Honestly you just have to start somewhere. So why haven’t I started that dog running business yet?

Who do you hope to leave a legacy for?

I supposed everyone says their kids, but it is true. I want them to understand that it is important to give back to your community, be involved and be part of life, not just watch it go by.

Who’s one regional writer/artist/leader/entrepreneur we should pay attention to?

I really appreciate Carol Lundeen from Dassel, Minnesota. She does these wildlife scratch boards that I just think are terrific. The amount of time and energy it takes. Plus she is passionate about her work and is always willing to learn new things to keep her perspective fresh.

What’s the greatest risk you’ve taken?

Changing careers. I was working as a medical technologist at a clinic and loved science but was tired of it. I wanted to make more of a direct impact on people. Working at Girl Scouts was a huge culture shift but worth it.

What’s your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?

Not going to Medical School when I was in college. I didn’t even think it was an option. I thought I wasn’t smart enough, and I really didn’t talk to enough people about the program so I made an uninformed decision. I just let myself believe I wasn’t talented and smart. In hindsight, I still think I would have made a good doctor. It really makes me think what messages I give my children. I want them to be willing to explore and fail or succeed, but at least try.  I try more things now than I ever have because at least I can say I took a chance.

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