Staff Tributes

In celebration of March’s theme for the month ‘Women in History’, when asked to reflect on who the most influential woman/women have been in their lives, this is what the Alliance staff had to share:

Sandra Johnson
Executive Coordinator
“The woman who had the most impact on my life was my mother, Ernestine Johnson. She became the first African American female teacher at Wesson Attendance Center in 1969. I often wondered if it had been hard for her to gain the respect of her fellow teachers but over the years it became apparent the respect and appreciation they had for her.

She was a mentor to former students who later became teachers. Not only did she educate the students of Wesson, but I also saw her serve under-privileged students, the elderly, the church, and our rural community of Allen.

She gave so much of herself while asking for nothing in return. Her favorite quote, one by B.B. King, hung in her classroom until she retired, “The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.”

Jamie Rasberry
Director of Policy and
Strategic Partnerships
“My grandmother, who will be 96 this year and still lives by herself on our family farm in Kosciusko, after my grandfather passed away 4 years ago, shy of their 72nd wedding anniversary, has impacted my life in so many ways.

She still writes me letters in the mail even if I just talked to her on the phone or spent the weekend with her. She writes down every detail of her life in spiral notebooks so none of us (her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren) will forget her life or the many millions of prayers she has offered over each of us.

She still makes homemade chocolate cake, plants daffodils and tomato plants every spring, gets her hair done every Friday, drinks her coffee with the liquid sweet-n-low, stands in the driveway and waves until we are out of her sight in the rear-view mirror, and still teaches and instills in all of us work ethic and the practice of being a good citizen.

After raising 5 children mostly on her own (my grandfather drove a Trailways bus for over 30 years and was gone a lot) she entered the workforce at the age of 52 and was elected Circuit Clerk of Attala County and served 3 terms. She has taught me kindness, love, compassion, hard work, hospitality, and most importantly, how to be the best mother possible for my daughter.”

Sandra Hodge
Chief Programming Officer
“As we celebrate Women’s History Month, please allow me the opportunity to reflect on a woman that have greatly impacted my professional career, Dr. Bettye Ward Fletcher, a distinguished and profound woman of faith, leadership and service that has been a guiding light shining the way throughout my career journey.

As a higher education and nonprofit trailblazer, Dr. Fletcher has served as an exemplary leader encouraging me to pursue excellence, be a women of integrity, and to know my value and worth in all my endeavors.

Now a retired career academician, researcher, and administrator, during her thirty years in higher education, she ascended the academic ladder from instructor to Interim President of Jackson State University. Dr. Fletcher is a successful entrepreneur which she founded Professional Associates, Inc. an organizational development consulting firm specializing in proposal writing, outcomes evaluation, strategic planning, and organizational infrastructure development.

As a persistent advocate and servant leader, Dr. Fletcher continues to prove that one person can make a difference in the lives of many.

During Women’s History Month, we celebrate you, Dr. Bettye Ward Fletcher.”

DeLorean King
Learning & Capacity
Building Associate

“As a child growing up, my family stressed learning about finances, however they did not know everything that was necessary about taxes, estate planning, retirement, investing, or life insurance.  I watched them learn things the hard way and make many mistakes.  I told myself in college that I did not want to fall into the same category.  I went to the bookstore and started looking for books about finances and eventually changed my major from engineering to finance where I was introduced to a book by Suze Orman.  The book was Women and Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny. In reading her book and doing more research on her background, I realized that she had a licensed professional take about $50,000 dollars that she borrowed  to start her own restaurant business.  Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she enrolled in the Merrill Lynch training program.  She excelled at it. Suze Orman made a name for herself and has trail blazed a path for women in the financial sector.”

Jason Easley

“Different women were the major influencer during different stages of my life. At an early age, my grandmother taught, supported, and nurtured me. During my secondary and college years, it was my mother who taught, mentored, corrected, and supported me. After I got married, my wife took care of me, the house, and the children, as well as working full time most years. In addition, she supports me and teaches me qualities I did not have.

All three of these women worked, kept up the household, and raised the children. Therefore, I have the upmost respect for these women because they can do three times as much as a man.”

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I’m grateful to be connected to you in this season of celebration and acknowledgment of Black history.