Susan Golden started out happy in first grade, until the first week was over.
“School was a good experience once my parents could quit dragging me out from under the bed,” Golden said. “Ennis Woodley, my teacher, would rock me in her rocking chair until I stopped crying. I was mad because I couldn’t print perfectly.”
That early desire to achieve and expect more of education was a heads-up to a lifelong career of leadership in education and volunteer efforts through United Way.
A product of Jacksonville education from elementary through graduate school, Golden has been an advocate of change, pushing herself and those around her to look at the overall needs of education, benefiting children on many different levels.
“I could tell you the name of every teacher I ever had,” Golden said. “It’s so important to have a good early start.”
Golden was the 2014 United Way of Northeast Florida Sherwood Smith Award recipient for Advocacy, in recognition of her years of advocacy for high-quality early education and United Way initiatives to keep children on track for graduation. She has been a United Way local and state volunteer, a school principal at Parkwood Heights Elementary and is the current executive director of the YMCA Tiger Academy.
“Every agency is doing the best with what they have,” Golden said. “United Way refines and makes services to meet the greatest need. I don’t believe that one agency can do it all.”
Golden said that taking services to the families and children who need them was a crucial part of delivery.
The Full Service Schools initiative has been her focus since her days as an administrator in Arlington. By bringing counselors, food programs and other initiatives into the area, she was able to impact the lives of hundreds of children.
“Full Service has always been an important piece,” Golden said. “It’s the right way to do our work.”
She said that she has seen changes in children’s needs over the years.
“Mental health is an issue increasing among young children,” Golden said. She said that she was very interested in the Proof of Concept Model underway in the Ribault feeder pattern to house a full-time therapist within the walls of schools.
“It’s a model that has potential to do great work,” Golden said. She hopes that as this model takes hold, it will expand to other schools in the city.
Golden wants to make sure that the Full Service Schools resources are available to every child whose life might be turned around with just a little help or different techniques.
“I’ll always support families,” Golden said. “It’s so important to get out of our comfort zone and see what others need.”