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Best-Selling Author Raised By 'Survivalists' Shares Story Of Not Going To School As Child With At-Risk Kids In Dallas

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - A New York Times best-selling author was in North Texas on Tuesday to learn about a local nonprofit that transforms preschools - and to share her own unconventional path to education.

Tara Westover wrote the book, Educated, about her upbringing with survivalist parents in rural Idaho. Tuesday, she toured Hamilton Park Learning Center in Dallas, a guest of Educational First Steps.

Despite the fact that she never stepped foot in a school until the age of 17, Westover's life now surrounds education.

"I think everybody gets brought up with certain ideas and certain perspectives, and I think part of what it means to get an education is to get access to other points of view and then decide what you think," said Westover.

Tara Westover
Author Tara Westover (CBS 11)

Those are the same values that Educational First Steps shares, which is why they chose Westover. The 33-year-old's father forbade schools and doctors, yet she educated herself and went on to BYU, Harvard and Cambridge.

"What Tara's story really does reflect is that there aren't any bad experiences and that everything in our life really is a learning experience that we get to take away and share for others to learn and grow from," said Vickie Allen, Executive Director of Educational First Steps.

The school Westover visited is one of more than 100 for which Educational First Steps provides mentoring, training, and enrichment. The idea is to elevate daycares in at-risk neighborhoods to national accredidation status.

"I'm drawn to education and institutions that support education, especially for younger kids. I think the earlier you start, the easier it is, obviously," Westover said.

Westover will also speak at Educational First Steps' annual fundraiser Tuesday night, sharing a story that seem to resonate regardless of background.

"I hope also that it's that whole question of what education is and what it means to grow up and change your mind and try to participate in the making of your own mind in some way," she said.

Educational First Steps started in Dallas 30 years ago.

It serves child care centers in Dallas, Tarrant, Denton and Grayson Counties.

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