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Member & Activist Spotlight

Felecia Hampshire: "I didn't give up"

Felecia Hampshire is a retired ESP in Green Cove Springs, Florida
Felecia Hampshire
Published: May 17, 2022

It was 1983, and I was excited—and nervous!—to be interviewing for an office position with a school administrator. My husband and I had three children, and I had dropped out of college because we were struggling. I needed a better job, but the interview did not go well.

‘Gal,’ he said, ‘you can’t work here. I can’t hire you in the office. But there’s a custodian position you can have.’

I felt strongly it was a racial issue—discrimination was a known problem in our school district. But I didn’t give up.

I took the custodian position and got involve with the Clay Educational Staff Professionals union. My colleagues there taught me about my rights and opportunities. I also began to see how essential it is to build strong relationships and have the right people in key positions.

I worked for a superintendent candidate who was a member of the local and had progressive ideas about race and gender. We became close friends through the union, and after she won with the union’s support, she helped me get a new position—in the department where I had first applied. That was just one of the many times the union opened doors for me. Since then, I’ve had success in support positions in district schools and have held top leadership positions in the union locally and statewide.

In 2007, the campaign skills I developed through the union helped me become the first Black woman to serve on the Green Cove Springs Town Council. The strategies I learned, the confidence I gained, and the support I received from the union all made that possible.

Later, I put my bargaining and consensus-building skills to use in winning a pay increase for city workers.

Through these successes, I earned the support of city employees. I’ll never forget the sanitation worker who told me: “Felecia, you were really there for us, and we appreciate all you have done.” The police also cooperated with me, because I lobbied federal legislators to secure funds for a much-needed new headquarters.

One of the most important benefits has been the connections I’ve made in the community that I was born in and have grown to love so much.

Twenty years ago, my husband, Clarence, and I decided to celebrate our city by starting a festival that some 7,000 people now attend each year.

A long-running community parade has now become part of the festival. I marched in it when I was five, and just a few years ago, I was the grand marshal.

National Education Association

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The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.