Saundra Wilkerson is a highly respected and admired Personian thanks to her 31 years as a teacher in the Person County School system, her lifetime of service at Cedar Grove Missionary Baptist Church, and her leadership within the Roxboro Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Her story illustrates a lifetime of service to the community.
Q) What was your upbringing like in Person County?
A) I’ve been here all my life. It was wonderful. I came from a Christian family. I was the fifth and youngest child of my family. All girls, no boys. Growing up I attended Lawson Chapel Baptist Church and Cedar Grove Baptist Church. But I was baptized at 8 years old at Cedar Grove. That was back in the old days when you were baptized in a pond or a creek.
I attended North End Elementary School. And then after that I went to Northern Junior High and then Person Senior High. I graduated in 1973. I believe that was the first class to come into Person High School having already been integrated. So it was a normal experience. I personally didn’t have any problems or any challenges during those years.
After High school I went to college at Winston-Salem State University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where I majored in childhood education. I graduated in 1977. While I was there, I became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Q) What was your career path and what are your proudest achievements?
A) When I graduated from Winston-Salem State I came back to Roxboro and started teaching. I taught at South Elementary School all 31 years of my teaching career. That’s very rare. I was there from 1978 until 2009. I enjoyed my time there. Usually people say that their first year was a bad year. But my first year was my best year. I will say that. But I enjoyed it all. Toward then end of my time I was teaching some children who told me, “You taught my grandma and my mama.” So I knew then it was time for me to retire. But the children that I had were really good.
Things have changed in education, though. Back then we did more hands-on activities. Fun things that helped them learn. But today everything is on the computers. I personally think the children learned more with hands on activities. I’m not against computers or anything, but it seems like they’re not learning the basics. If they do a math test they want a calculator, but in life some things you have to figure out on your own. You have to know the basics. That’s my philosophy.
Q) What organizations or community endeavors do you participate in?
A) I’m a member of the Roxboro Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta. I helped charter the chapter in 1981. I think I’ve probably held almost every office in the chapter. I’ve been president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.
At my church, Cedar Grove, I’ve served as secretary, I’ve taught Sunday School, I’ve been a vacation bible school teacher and I’ve been the director of vacation bible school. And I’m very active in my church’s association, East Cedar Grove Missionary Baptist Association. With the association, right now, I’m serving as the secretary of the Women’s Auxiliary. I’m also on the registration committee. And I’ve served on several other committees within the association. I’ve been active with the association for well over 30 years. I wanted to be active in that because I wanted to learn more about what other churches were doing and the different things that I could bring back to my church. If you venture from home you can see all the different things that are going on in other places.
Q) Why is it important that women be recognized for their foundational work in our community and our nation?
A) It’s very important because women play an essential role, especially in leadership. Women are role models to girls and boys because of our work ethic and our ability to get things done. We establish our goals and we go after them and that’s why we deserve recognition.
Q) What do you envision for the future of Person County?
A) My hope is that the people of Person County will get together and come together as a whole community. Stop this bitterness and hatred because it’s still a lot of that in Person County. I don’t know if it will ever happen but that’s what I wish.
Q) What is your advice for girls and young women who may look to you as motivation?
A) My advice to them is don’t say you can’t because you can. Whatever you set your mind to do, you can do it. If someone tells you that you can’t you tell them that you are somebody and you can do whatever it is that you put your mind to. Reach for the stars. Don’t give up. But in everything, make sure that God is number one in your life.