Published Friday, February 08, 2013
From Staff Reports
Longtime local art educator, civic worker and Global Achievers director Bette Jo Hickman is the 2013 Coweta County Citizen of the Year.
The announcement was made before a sold-out crowd by 2012 Citizen of the Year Steve Mader.
“I love this community,” she said, accepting the award. “When Ruth Mealor left last week, I thought about her. She was a role model.”
Mealor, a retired educator and a member of numerous organizations, died on Jan. 30 at age 84.
Calling herself a “professional volunteer,” Hickman noted the support of her husband and children. “I thank you so much for this honor.”
Hickman – an artist, teacher, entrepreneur and community volunteer with a gift for serving children – received the honor Thursday during the annual Citizen of the Year program and gala, sponsored by the Kiwanis Clubs of Coweta at the Coweta County Fairgrounds.
Hickman established an art program through the Coweta County Recreation Department and for the past 34 years has taught art to hundreds of children. The Young Artists of Newnan and Coweta County has grown and flourished through the years and “Miss Bette” now teaches the children of many of her original students. For 27 years, Hickman has led the Little Lambs class at her church, and former students frequently drop in to visit.
During a seven-year employment with the Coweta County School System, Hickman drew on her creativity, her interest in people and her experience as a small business owner, to effectively perform her duties as a liaison between schools and the community. As director of the Business/ Education/ Community Partnership, she built a strong program benefitting both students and businesses.
Hickman developed the school system’s first adult/ student mentor program in the early 1990s, and the framework she helped build continues to enhance the lives of students and members of the community through one-on-one mentoring relationships.
Her work with Coweta schools served as a model for a mentoring program at the Georgia Power Company, a project on which Hickman served as a consultant. She credited the leadership within the school system and the local business community with recognizing the value of mentoring during those years.
Hickman founded Global Achievers Inc. in 1995 and is the driving force behind the education non-profit focused on international economic education. Through her vision, creativity, and leadership, the program grew from an idea supported by business leaders and legislators to a statewide initiative serving students across Georgia.
As executive director of Global Achievers, Hickman works at home and abroad to identify and match schools, resolving issues involved in an international education project. The cultural and educational exchange trips that often result from the program are frequently facilitated, organized and hosted by Hickman.
A proponent of economic education, she has spoken frequently on the topic using the Global Achievers model. Hickman has been a featured speaker at six international educational conferences in Europe, North America and Asia.
Hickman is an active community leader who currently serves on the boards of directors of the Salvation Army and the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society. She is a member of the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission and the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce and has been named a “Gracious Lady of Georgia.”
In 2012, Hickman served on the Horsey Affair public art project committee on behalf of the Historical Society. Horses on the Square benefitted the society’s future interactive Children’s Museum. She painted the colt that stands on the front lawn of the site of the Children’s Museum on Clark Street, and she is in the process of painting another fiberglass sculpture to benefit the museum fund.
Hickman has dedicated her life to the arts and to the children of this community, according to her Citizen of the Year nomination, and all of the work she has been fortunate enough to be a part of is a credit to the giving spirit of the leaders in Newnan and Coweta County who have been willing to say yes to projects in which she believes.
Prior to the award presentation, a slide show by Kiwanian Willie Boyd paid tribute to former winners beginning in 1992: Bill Williams, Scott Wilson, Joe Crain, Sr., Mike Barber, Lindsey Barron, Sally Bowen, Jim Hardin, Dennis McEntire, Don Phillips, Bill Loftin, Bernie Parks, Harold Barron, Gene Tyre, Bill Headley, Willie Boyd, Bobby Welch, Robin Tornow, Don Chapman, Annie Joe Berkowitz, Blake Bass and Steve Mader.
Selecting Hickman was a committee of 14 former winners of the award, voting by secret ballot.