Careatha Williams has been a linchpin in the field of early childhood development in Person County for many years, from helping run a daycare, to being a teacher’s assistant with Earl Bradsher Preschool, to helping provide resources to daycares through her role with Person County Partnership for Children. After graduating from Person High School in 1996, she earned an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Development and returned to school later to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in that field from the University of Mount Olive in 2014. She is the mother of three—local small-business owner Antonio, Greensboro College freshman quarterback Malik, and middle-schooler Na’Riyah. She also helped raise University of North Carolina junior track standout Dontavian Smith. In March 2020 she moved to Florida to be closer to her mother and siblings and to pursue other avenues through which to continue her work in childcare, but she will always be part of the Person County community. Her story encourages us to follow our calling wherever it may lead.
Q) What was your upbringing like in Person County?
A) I came here in 1995 which was my senior year in high school. We came from Florida. My grandfather was sick and he asked my dad to move to North Carolina and bring his family with him. I met a lot of good people that year. Of course, I met my husband so that turned out to be good.
Q) What is your career path and what are your proudest achievements?
A) After I graduated high school my mom was working at Kiddy College daycare and they needed some help. After I started there, I decided to go to school to get an education in this field and make it a career. In 2001 my mom opened up her own daycare, called A Mother’s Dream. I was the only one of her daughters who had a degree in early childhood, so I became her assistant director. From there I decided this is what I wanted to dedicate my life to because I saw families that really needed help and my mother always taught us to help other people. I’ve always sort of followed in my mother’s footsteps.
My mom was so dedicated to that daycare that at age 54 she went back to school to get her Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Development. She graduated Suma Cum Laude from North Carolina Central University.
But in 2004 my father fell ill and by 2006 he was no longer working, so my mom had to close the daycare to go back to work at Partnership for Children in Caswell County. She had previously worked at Partnership for Children in Person County.
When we closed the daycare, I applied to Person County Schools. At the time my Dad was getting sicker. Then my mom had a stroke. So, I couldn’t work full-time because I had to help take care of them, and by then all of my brothers and sisters had moved back to Florida. So, I applied to be a sub. And my first subbing job was in the all-inclusive classroom where we had children with a lot of physical disabilities. So, I decided to go back to school to get a bachelor’s degree so that I could do more work with children with disabilities and children in general. I continued to sub for a couple of years and then I became a teacher’s assistant at Earl Bradsher Preschool. In 2010, during the recession, I left Earl Bradsher due to budget cuts and I went back to subbing.
But then I saw that there was a position at Partnership for Children in Person County and it was the same role that my mom had years before. I applied for it and I know I was blessed because I was hired out of 18 qualified applicants. I had just finished my senior paper on sedentary activities leading to childhood obesity, so I was able to talk about that in my interview. That really helped me get the job.
My first position at Partnership was to be over the federal food program and with that program I was serving 27 families in Caswell and Person counties. I would have to do quarterly visits to the homes to make sure their menus were correct and that they were feeding the children nutritious meals. From there I also started doing the NC Pre-K program which is a program designed to provide educational experiences and kindergarten preparation for eligible four-year-old children. This allowed me to connect with and help secure resources for local childcare providers. From there I became a parent educator. In that role I would go in and do monthly home visits. I would sit down on the floor with the parents and kids and discuss developmental topics to get their children ready for kindergarten. I had plenty of different resources that I could offer the families as far as housing, employment, and different things like that. So, in doing all of that my plate was running over, but it gave me joy to see that I made a difference for these families.
Q) What do you envision for the future of Person County?
A) I was on lots of committees for the county when I was with Partnership. I was on the Child Protective Team committee, the Healthy Personians committee, the Juvenile Justice committee—and all of those committees depend on each other. What I hope is that all the different committees, the lawmakers, the childcare providers, and the schools, can all come together as one to help us solve the biggest issues here in Person County. We are one community and we all have to come together to help our community thrive and be the best they can be. So I envision that all of these committees and different groups can come together to make things better for our children, not just in early childhood but all the way up until they graduate high school and go to college. And make Person County a place they want to come back to and work and live in.
Q) What is your advice for girls and young women who look to you as motivation?
A) When there is something that you want to do in life do it because you want to. Don’t do it for someone else. Do it to satisfy yourself. And don’t do it just to check it off your list. Be passionate and committed.