New director brings skills, enthusiasm to lead Smart Beginnings
Published 11:52 am Saturday, February 7, 2015
A desire to help other people and do something that benefits the community is strong motivation for Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater’s new director, Hattie Francis.
The 26-year-old Capron resident came to the work in mid-December. While the job itself is new to her, she didn’t come completely unprepared. Francis has brought related skills and plenty of enthusiasm from her previous work experiences as an English teacher and worker in a non-profit organization.
She describes Smart Beginnings, which is led by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, as “an economic initiative that focuses on the next generation of working Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight citizens. VECF and Smart Beginnings believe that the workforce pipeline begins with the communities’ youngest citizens in their earliest years. Therefore, Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater wants to provide the opportunity for all children to be healthier, stronger and better prepared.”
That Francis is involved with education should not be surprising. First, her mother is Dr. Allison Francis, principal at Capron Elementary School. Second, Hattie Francis went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in English from Virginia Tech. Just last year, she received her master’s degree in the same subject from Virginia Commonwealth University. She’s taught English at Southampton High School, Paul D. Camp Community College and Chowan University.
“I saw this job opportunity, and it’s a great way to help the people I care about,” Francis said. “It’s being able to help others, and see changes and progress that benefit the community and that I have a hand in something.”
While still making her way around, she’s has been enjoying the process.
“The best part is meeting everyone,” Francis said. “My immediate goal with Smart Beginnings is to expand our presence in the communities. People need to know who we are and why we are here. We want all children in Franklin, Southampton, and Isle of Wight to enter school healthy and ready to learn.
“What’s great is that Smart Beginnings not only helps to protect the future of our communities’ economic development, but if our children are properly prepared to enter school, then our teachers are given a better chance to do their jobs as educators. Ready children will excel quickly and will better retain information that will carry on throughout their educational years.”
The agency, which is housed in the Franklin Incubator, doesn’t do the work by itself. There are several other groups within Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight that serve as collaborators. These include the Western Tidewater Community Services Board, The Planning Council, Paul D. Camp Community College, The Children’s Center, Isle of Wight County Schools, Franklin City Schools, Southampton County Public Schools, Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the Franklin Southampton United Way, and the Obici Healthcare Foundation.
Also to help Francis promote Smart Beginnings is the able assistance of Jennifer Cary, Verna Jones and Vivian Mungo.
“I would like to thank all three of our local governing bodies for supporting us the past five years,” Francis said. “I am truly hopeful each locality continues to do so moving forward since the Smart Beginnings initiative is an investment in the long-term well-being of our local communities. I feel that if the governing bodies support us, then it’s a little easier for the citizens to hop on our cause and support us as well.”
“The success of Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater and the Smart Beginnings Collaboration provides a win-win situation for all involved. It is essential that I take my energy and enthusiasm to generate excitement within our local communities moving forward. We are a great community with wonderful young individuals who deserve a chance to have the best beginning possible. As the new executive director, I hope to make sure their chance at a ‘smart beginning’ is continuously provided.”
To learn more about the organization, visit www.smartbeginningswt.org or call 562-8511 or 562-8594.