Judy Bradsher has been a major catalyst in the growth of Person County's educational systems for the past two decades, having worked over the years as an instructor in early childhood education at Piedmont Community College, a dean over technical and occupational programs at PCC, and presently the Career and Technical Education director within Person County Schools. Her story teaches us that the pursuit of education has no time limits, and and a person who values education is limitless.
Q) What was your upbringing like in Person County?
I grew up on our family’s tobacco farm. Of course, we had other crops and animals but we mainly raised tobacco. I was the oldest of three children and my parents were also Person County natives. My mom is Ann Lester Snipes and my dad was Andrew T. Snipes. He passed away in March of 2007. My brother was also named Andrew and he passed away in 2013. My sister is Veronica Snipes.
I often tell people I'm very blessed because I had an opportunity to live on a farm and learn the value of hard work at an early age. Now, of course, when I was there on the farm, I didn’t think it was all that wonderful, but now that I'm an adult I really appreciate my upbringing. I know exactly the values that it gave me. So, I thank my parents for all that they contributed to my life. My grandparents, too. We were all very close knit and they raised us well.
I graduated from Person High School with the class of 1983. And the class of ‘83, I think, has represented the county pretty well because there are a lot of us here. Some of us went off to school and came back home. Some of us went off to school and stayed for a little while and then came back home. But if you look around the town or talk to some of the folks, the class of ‘83 work in various companies, or in education, or in the judicial system. So, I think we are doing pretty well in Person County.
After high school, I went to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and became a Spartan. I started out in the nursing program but I figured out pretty quickly that it was not what I wanted to do. I then moved into public health because I didn't want to lose all of my credits and have to stay in school longer. But that wasn't working out for me either. So, then I changed my major for a third time and finally fell into something that I love and have been involved with professionally ever since, which is early childhood education and family relations. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood and Family Relations from UNCG and I have a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction for Education from Averett University.
I love to learn. I've also attended other colleges to get various coursework and certificates that I needed for my work life. I've been a student of North Carolina Central. I've been a student of Western Carolina. I've been a student of Lenoir Community College. So, ever since I left Person High School in 1983, I’ve looked for ways to expand my education and knowledge.
After I finished at UNCG, I got married and my husband, Carl, and I lived in Greensboro for about 10 years. We then moved to Columbia, South Carolina and lived there for three years. While in Columbia, we had our second daughter, Carla, and our oldest daughter, Victoria, was getting ready for kindergarten. So, we started to think about where we wanted to raise our kids. And I know growing up, I used to always say, Oh, I can't wait to get out of Roxboro. But then you find out as you get older, home is comfortable, home is where your family is, home is where you can make the most impact. And we wanted to raise our children the way we were raised in our town. And so, we decided to come back to Roxboro.
Q) What is your career path and what are your proudest achievements?
I'm a licensed family and consumer science teacher and a licensed career and technical education director for the state of North Carolina. But my career has been a lot like my early college years. I’ve gone down several paths in education and family relations. In my first full-time position, I served as a preschool teacher for 23 four-year-old’s. That was a learning experience, but I enjoyed it. Since then I've been everything from a social worker to a domestic violence counselor. I taught 12 years at PCC in the early childhood program. For three years, I was the dean of the technical and occupational programs of study at PCC. After that I went to Person County Schools as the Career and Technical Education director. I also serve as the director of the Early College and the Career and College Promise program.
As far as career milestones, in 2020, I was awarded the Career Technical Education Administrator of the Year for the North Central Region. Our state is divided into eight regions and we have about 100 CTE directors across the state. And our region includes some of the following counties Granville, Franklin, Vance, Wake, Harnett, Wilson, Edgecombe, Nash-Rocky Mount just to name a few. I was shocked and honored to be recognized by my colleagues because there are so many awesome directors and larger CTE programs in our region.
As an instructor at PCC, I was recognized three times as a NISOD Teacher of Excellence. NISOD is the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development and they are big with professional development and recognition for instructors of community colleges and universities all around the United States. This opportunity allowed me to travel twice to Austin, Texas to participate in professional development with collegiate educators from all over the US.
Q) What organizations or community endeavors do you participate in?
When I first came back home, I became a member of the Safe Haven board and I enjoyed working with Safe Haven for several years. I then served on the Person County United Way board and prior to the end of my term I served as the President of the Board. I’m a member of Alpha Delta Kappa, which is an international honorary society for women educators. We support our community through various altruistic projects. I’m also a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., and of course, we are a public service sisterhood doing a lot of good things in Person County as well.
But one of the main things I’ve enjoyed was coming back home to my church, Cedar Grove Missionary Baptist Church. I was always active in my church as a young person, and so, coming back home to my church, getting involved with the youth, and serving the community through my missionary work with my church has been my biggest joy.
Q) Why is it important that women be recognized for their foundational work in our community and our nation?
A) When I think about that question, the biggest thing that comes to mind is that I had a teacher when I was at Southern Junior High School named Mrs. Sally Humphries. Now, I had an opportunity to be groomed by many wonderful teachers in Person County, but the thing that was most ironic about this teacher was that when I took the job at Person County Schools, we became co-workers and we actually worked together in the CTE department. We worked very diligently to try to engage students in the program and support them in planning for the future. She used to tell me, Judy, students can't be what they can't see. That phrase has stuck with me because it is so true. We also try to share this same sentiment with our local business and industry. Students need an opportunity to see what’s right at home. Our local businesses and industries that are looking for a workforce must open their doors so students will see what opportunities await them right here at home. Women have made and continue to make outstanding contributions to our community and nation but are not often showcased so other young ladies can see the possibilities. I strive to share with others that if I could do it, coming from a small country farm in Roxboro, they can do it too. Just like with Kamala Harris becoming vice president, now other young ladies should feel like, I can be the vice president of the United States; I can be the president of the United States. Girls and young women need to see it, so they can believe that they can be it.
Q) What do you envision for the future of Person County?
A) My prayer is that Person County will continue to embrace growth and see what it can become. I think it's all about mindset and I think a lot of times we get bogged down in a negative mindset and don't look at the growth potential or how much we’ve grown so far. I think we just have to continue to embrace growth and pray that we unify and see the potential of what this town can be. There are many powerful leaders here. There are some very intellectual individuals in our community, and they just need that opportunity to shine.
Q) What is your advice for girls and young women who look to you as motivation?
A) Set goals. And don't be afraid to set goals that people might think you won't be able to accomplish. Set those goals! And then once you set those goals, surround yourself with people who can help you achieve those goals. My mom and my grandma used tell me, You have to work for things. Nobody is going to give you anything. So, set those goals and decide in your mind that you're going to work hard to achieve them. When you are challenged, embrace the challenges. See them as opportunities, don't see them as something that's going to hinder you. They exist to make you stronger, innovative and creative. So, embrace them and figure out how to overcome them. Have courage and have faith. A word that resonates with me is fortitude. It’s a word that is representative of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. and it’s so applicable to life. Fortitude. Courage in the face of pain. Strength in the face of adversity. Having fortitude will help you overcome. And having a support system of family and friends will help you build that strength. Tough times will certainly come. For my family, it came when we lost my oldest daughter, Victoria when she was struck by a car in Elizabeth City, NC in 2018. So, I know firsthand the meaning of fortitude. The support of our family, friends and faith in God will build you up and make you strong, and then you can continue to overcome challenges.