Janie Hatton believes that “teaching is heart work.” And while the 1993 National Principal of the Year recipient is now retired, her heart was fully present in the education arena and her hand remains deeply entrenched in it, even in retirement.
Hatton earned the prestigious national award while serving as the first woman principal of Milwaukee Trade and Technical High School (now Bradley Tech). Well liked by administrators, teachers and students alike, Hatton has been known to ‘bring the house’ down with her powerful and poignant oratory—whether she’s speaking at a school assembly, a national conference, or a business meeting.
A native Arkansan, Hatton was always ready and willing to take on the tough assignments, and she was given the opportunity to do so at North Division High School. She was recruited to become principal of North Division to turn the school around, and that she did. Among her initiatives to increase student achievement were establishing academies within the school, focusing on literacy, using technology for accelerated learning and establishing GEAR UP, which supports students with the goal of getting them ready for and pursuing learning beyond high school.
During her illustrious career with Milwaukee Public Schools Hatton also served as a deputy superintendent and prior to becoming principal of North Division, she worked on the Task Force for a New North.
Since retirement, Hatton has been actively involved in an initiative called SEED, to bring a boarding school to Milwaukee, and continues to keep her pulse on issues related to Milwaukee’s education community.
Will Allen’s life has come full circle. The son of a South Carolina sharecropper, Allen has found his niche in urban farming—sharing with and showing others the basics of ‘urban gardening.’
At 6’7”, Allen taught himself to play high school basketball, where he earned a scholarship to attend the University of Miami. After college Allen was selected by the Baltimore Bullets in the 4th round of the 1971 NBA Draft. He never played in the NBA, but appeared in seven games with The Floridians of the ABA during the 1971–72 seasons, before playing professionally in Belgium. It was in Belgium that Allen began gardening in the early 1970s while playing pro-basketball. He used the ‘fruits’ of his labor to feed his fellow players.
Today Allen is founder and CEO of Growing Power, a nonprofit organization based in Milwaukee. Allen’s daughter, Erika, runs similar operations for Growing Power in Chicago.
Allen is so passionate about teaching gardening to Blacks because, as he says, “The people hit hardest by the current food system are usually people of color.” People come from all over to marvel and learn about farming from Allen. His community food center houses 20,000 plants and vegetables, thousands of fish, plus chickens, goats, ducks, rabbits and bees! And, he even makes his own dirt from compost!
With rising food prices and shrinking wallets, thanks to Allen and his ‘living museum’ urban gardening is becoming increasingly popular. Allen’s success with ‘green’ gardening has become so popular that he’s been he was interviewed by Good Morning America, CNN, NPR, and the New York Times. He has traveled overseas to train people in Africa, Europe, and South America about gardening and his staff and has increased to three dozen full time employees. Allen now owns five greenhouses, and produces more than $500,000 annually from fresh, organic food.
A key component of Growing Power is the Growing Power Youth Corps, which is a youth development apprenticeship program. The program gives kids from low-income backgrounds academic and professional experience by learning different farming methods, developing leadership experience, build entrepreneurial skills, and learn to work with a wide range of people.
Allen is a towering giant, literally and figuratively, in the urban garden movement.
Margaret Henningsen led the first and only group of African-American women to start a commercial bank.
Fifty years after she first stepped inside her neighborhood bank with her grandmother, she came full circle in 1999 when she returned to the bank that she and her partners called Legacy Bank. To some she is “the black George Bailey.”
While most banks fled the African-American neighborhood Legacy Bank opened as a community-development financial institution that aimed to revitalize the struggling Milwaukee district of Fond du Lac and North. Henningsen and her two co-founders defied the skeptics and grew Legacy Bank from a $5 million institution to a $110 million one that was profitable by its second year.
Henningsen’s life has been ‘no crystal stair,’ in fact; it might make a good made-for-TV-movie. Her first life-changing lemon occurred in her first marriage. Her then-husband was physically abusive and a spendthrift. He lost his job, had tax issues and cleaned out their bank accounts. Eventually Henningsen filed for divorce, and, in order to save her home, she filed for bankruptcy.
Ultimately, Henningsen’s internal strength won, and she turned that lemon into lemonade. Determined to make sure her daughter went to college, Henningsen, developed an aggressive savings plan and had conversations with people about building wealth. She researched and consulted mutual fund investors. She also decided to start her own business as a mortgage lender. Although her personal life was a wreck, Henningsen continued to move up the ranks at the bank that employed her.
During this time she also became a mentor for the 9-5 women’s group in Milwaukee. She started a grant program at her bank that helped women become homeowners. Henningsen believes that home ownership can transform women and their children by helping them get out of the vicious domestic violence cycles. She knew that her community needed a bank that would focus on the financial needs of women and minorities. So, Legacy Bancorp, Inc. was born.
Today Henningsen speaks to groups telling them that “Life isn’t easy and it takes time to get through lemons, but that if you don’t turn that lemon into a spark to change your life, shame on you!”
It’s been more than 20 years now since Margaret filed for bankruptcy. And, she is a Legacy.