Director of Programs, Leading for Children
Hometown: Sherwood, Arkansas
Briefly describe your role:
Leading for Children is a national nonprofit that offers mutual early learning programs in communities to ensure all children thrive now and in the future. As director of programs, I support the development and implementation of programs, and I am part of the organization’s leadership team.
Q: Is what you’re doing now what you always pictured you would do?
A: Not exactly. I wanted to be a criminal psychologist (way before Criminal Minds made it a thing). I wanted to help create a better world and thought that was a way to do it. Then I became a part-time nanny for three children. To prepare, I read books about child development and its importance, and the light bulb went off for me. If I truly wanted to help create a better world, I needed to be a part of the early childhood field.
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges for women in your chosen industry? What are the greatest opportunities?
A: I think the greatest challenge stems from the intersectional inequities faced by early childhood staff and the families we serve. The workforce is primarily women, often women of color, who typically receive low pay for the critical work they do. This contributes to burnout and high turnover rates with the greatest impacts on children from disadvantaged communities and communities of color. I think the greatest opportunity lies in the thing that often separates us. If we can come together with an openness to learn with and from each other’s experiences, wisdom, and talents, we could create equitable solutions to a lot of the challenges we are facing.
Q: Who has inspired you in your life/career?
A: I feel so fortunate because this question is hard to answer. There are so many women in my life who have inspired and mentored me. My mom, aunts, sisters, mentors, etc. My maternal grandmother is one of the greatest inspirations in my life. She was the matriarch of our family and a community elder. While she didn’t have a formal education, she was so smart and wise! She taught me so much about giving back to others and being resilient, grateful, and strong.
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring professional?
A: Do it even when you're afraid. It can be easy to allow “what ifs” to stop us from chasing our dreams, goals, and passions. When you feel that happening, stop and ask yourself, “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” Then do it.
Q: What’s been your secret to success?
A: I grew up in a segregated community until the summer of 7th grade. My experiences, both within that community and without, had a huge impact on me. I remember sitting in the Sumter County library and making a promise to myself that I would always treat every person with dignity and respect. That no one would ever leave my presence feeling less about themselves because of something I said or did. It’s a promise I strive to fulfill every day. I don’t always get it right, but I never stop trying. I believe that when you work to respect people in that way, it opens the doors to collaboration, growth, and solutions that make this world a better place for children and us.