Dossie Harrison has made education the foundation of her life’s work. During segregation she matriculated through Roxboro Elementary School and graduated from Person County High School in 1967. While in high school she was inducted into the National Honor Society and received several scholarships, which she used toward her collegiate education at North Carolina College at Durham (Now known as North Carolina Central University). She graduated in 1971 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. She also earned a Master’s Degree in Education Counseling from NCCU and later accompanied that with a second Master’s Degree in Education/Curriculum Development from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. Her story reminds us that education can lift us out of challenging circumstances.
Q) What was your upbringing like in Person County?
A) My Father raised tobacco as a sharecropper, so I worked on the farm until I was 19 years old. I was raised in a wonderful loving home with wonderful parents and siblings. I am the youngest of six children from a very close-knit family. We still eat together regularly. My parents taught us to always keep God first and find something to laugh about every day, including maybe laughing at ourselves. My father told us despite racism we could achieve and have a fruitful life and all six of his children did.
Q) What is your career path and what are your proudest achievements?
A) I worked for state governments for 31 years, in several different positions and locations. Here in Person County I worked at Piedmont Community College as a counselor and social worker. I also worked here as the director of community corrections coordinator. In that capacity I co-wrote a grant for the first drug court program in the county. The drug court was placed under the umbrella of community corrections, so I supervised the staff of the drug court program.
In Durham I worked at the Employment Security Commission and I was the director of a sheltered workshop with persons with disabilities.
I worked with the Vance County School system as the director of the Alternative Learning Center and the hearing officer for the system. While there, I co-wrote a grant establishing a fifteenth school in Vance County to serve as the official alternative school.
And I worked with the Virginia Department of Corrections as an assistant principal and special education coordinator at the Mecklenburg Correctional Center in Boydton, VA, which is a maximum-security prison.
Q) What organizations or community endeavors do you participate in?
A) I am currently a proud member of BASIC (Brothers And Sisters In Conversation), an organization tackling race issues in Person County. I have also served on the Board of Directors for Person Family Medical Center for 12 years. I am an original member of and served on the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity for Person County and I chaired the committee to select the first family to receive a home. I was also the first Chairperson of the Roxboro/Person County Human Relations Committee and served in that capacity for 8 years. And I served on the Person County Schools Dropout Prevention Task Force from 2002-2006.
Q) Why is it important that women be recognized for their foundational work in our community and our nation?
A) Women are literally the backbone of this nation. One example comes to mind of recently deceased Katherine Johnson, the mathematician who worked at NASA in the 1960’s and was pivotal in making the calculations that allowed NASA to put Alan Shepherd in space, John Glenn into orbit, and Neil Armstrong on the moon. Without a woman those feats would not have happened.
Q) What do you envision for the future of Person County?
A) In the future minorities need to have a bigger voice in what happens here. There needs to more minority-owned businesses in Roxboro and we need to be recruiting talented people from various backgrounds who can use their gifts to enhance the business sector of our community. Person County needs more jobs, and not just fast food places but jobs that pay a living wage. And The County needs more recreation areas for children and families.
Q) What advice for girls and young women who look to you for motivation?
A) Believe in God and trust him in every area of your life. Form a personal relationship with God. Have respect and love for yourself. Do not allow anyone to talk you into things you know you should not do. Have confidence in your abilities and strive to achieve your life goals.