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Dr. Hattie N. Washington (AUNT HATTIE) PROVIDED A NURTURING HOME AND A SAFE HAVEN FOR ABUSED FOSTER BOYS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

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She made history as the first female vice president of the Coppin State University in its one-hundred-year history. It was during this time that she also worked as the Executive Director of their Development Foundation. Her goal, while in this position, was to implement a capital campaign to raise $3 million within five years. When her campaign ended, she had raised over $8 million dollars within five years. I am referring to Dr. Hattie N. Washington. We were delighted to finally get the interview from this Renown Educator, Motivational Speaker, Award-Winning Author of several books, and Founder of Aunt Hattie’s Place, Inc. As I talked with her it soon became obvious to me that she had a heart for disadvantaged, homeless, and special needs youth, especially young boys of color. She was affectionately called “Aunt Hattie” by them. Washington tells the story how she came to be known as Aunt Hattie.

“I have a passion for disenfranchised youth; therefore, I took them into my own home for a time. It was doing that time I realized they needed a permanent home of their own. Thus, without thinking twice, I decided to use my retirement money to support the opening of a boys’ home. I called it Aunt Hattie’s Place (AHP) because that name invoked a welcoming and homey kinship feel to the boys home. Aunt Hattie’s Place, Inc was a 501(c) (3) non-profit residential facility in Baltimore to service males from the foster care system who had special educational needs. God was with me, and I was able to bring in dedicated and loving staff, volunteers, and a team of professional practitioners to work with me. We worked tirelessly to provide care, treatments and nurturing for young boys and men ages 8 to 21 years old who had been abandoned, neglected, and abused. After obtaining our 501©3 non-profit certification, we were later able to accept donations, apply for grants, bond bills and other revenue to establish even more group homes in Sandy Spring and Randallstown.” I firmly believe that every child is intelligent, full of hope, talented and loveable, but just needs love, structure, and guidance. We were able to provide those. We did require them to have high expectations, self-discipline, and self-dignity to actualize their potential.” 

I said to Washington, very few would do what you did, what drove you to make such a bold move, especially with young boys who grew to become young men under your guidance. According to Washington. it was because she truly believes investing in foster children is worth the effort, encouragement, and time. She continued with conviction, 

“I believe that it takes a village to raise a child. Aunt Hattie’s Place is a home where foster boys who have been neglected and abused can find a safe haven. My responsibilities as a foster parent began when I found kids on the corner in the middle of the day. I stopped my car to see why they were out of school because they were in my school district as Baltimore City Schools’ Assistant Superintendent. I found out that they did not have an address.” 

Washington said they told her they were foster kids and were confused about the school they were supposed to be attending. As a result, she put them in her car and drove back to her office. 

“My secretary called social services and explained the situation. While they were looking into the matter, I took them home with me; supposedly just for a night. One night turned into a week, and one week turned to a month. After several months had passed, I decided that I would keep them because they were no bother at all.” In 1997, this is where we found ourselves, my boys and me. 

At the (now group home) the young men called all the volunteers, board members, and staff, ‘uncles and aunts’. Aunt Hattie firmly believed that all her boys needed was support and a “helping hand”; not a “handout”. Aunt Hattie’s Place began because a group of young boys needed someone to care. She saw it as a call to action and her life’s lessons learned through faith, family and favor caused her to step up to the plate and hit a home run. That, she did. 

WASHINGTON THE EDUCATOR 

She holds a certificate of Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education from Norfolk State University with a minor in Special Education. She engaged herself in further post-graduate studies in Multiculturalism and Special Education Administration (on a Rotary International Scholarship), at Glasgow University, Scotland, UK. Washington has attended several institutions of higher learning such as: Harvard University in Boston, Oxford University in London, England, Ball State University (an Athens, Greece Overseas Program), and received her Doctorate from the University of Maryland College Park in Curriculum and Instruction. She worked as a professor of Education for over twenty-years at Coppin State University (CSU), Baltimore, Maryland. She also served as the assistant superintendent of Baltimore City Schools, and an evaluator and program specialist for the Maryland State Department of Education. 

WASHINGTON THE AUTHOR 

Dr. Hattie Washington is a motivational speaker who has authored of two books DRIVEN TO SUCCEED: An Inspirational Memoir of Lessons Learned through Faith, Family & Favor and AUNT HATTIE’S COOKBOOK: Southern Comfort Food Favorites. In her Driven to Succeed:… book, she wrote about relationships, family, and the complexities of growing up during the segregation and desegregation era where the student strike at Robert Russa Moton High School, in Farmville, Virginia in 1951, was significant to the historic Brown vs. Board of Education landmark case. Her strong belief and high self-expectation shone through despite her early humble background being educated in a two-room elementary schoolhouse that was in Prince Edward County, VA. Her school closed in 1959 due to Virginia’s massive resistance to the Brown vs. Board of Education desegregation/civil rights case. In her book, she also talked about how an ongoing series of her setbacks brought on many stumbling blocks, yet she was able to break the barriers trying to stop her. The proceeds from two other books and the recent one released in 2020 (in Spanish) help to benefit her scholarship fund at Coppin State University to foster youths who endeavor to further their education. Her book, AUNT HATTIE’S COOKBOOK: Southern Comfort Food Favorites, a companion book to the DRIVEN TO SUCCEED:… the book is loved by novice and expert cooks. The book will guide you through many special dishes, such as her homemade hot buttermilk biscuits dripping with her melted honey butter sauce, fried apples, golden-brown fried chicken, and her scrumptious desserts, such as sweet potato pie, her signature bread pudding, blackberry cobbler, apple pie, peach cobbler, and her stepmother’s old-fashioned traditional Christmas fruitcake. 

WASHINGTON’S RECOGNITIONS AND AWARDS 

Dr. Hattie N. Washington has received numerous recognitions, plaques, citations, and awards, for her work in fostering community and children organizations through Coppin State University, Aunt Hattie’s Place, and other community service organizations: National Council for Negro Women (NCNW), Black Women for Positive Change (BW4PC), Sisters 4 Sisters Network (S4SN), just to name a few. Some of the awards she received include: the 2018 Maryland Women’s Commission Hall of Fame Award, nominated by Dr. Valencia Campbell, President of Prince George’s Country Drug Policy Coalition, Inc. In addition to the above, she received the Sisters4Sisters Network 15th anniversary Jewel Diamond Taylor Inspirational Life Changer Award, the 2013 Outstanding Service to Youth award by the Montgomery County Commission on Youth and Families, the Outstanding 2017 Graduate Faculty Award from Coppin State University and the Top 100 Minority Business Entrepreneurial of the Year (2009 and 2012), and others. 

WASHINGTON THE WOMAN & MOTHER 

The most tremendous thing I noticed about Dr. Washington was her outlook on life. She revealed to me that it wasn’t until her later years that she found out the sobering truth from the only mother she knew. She was not her biological child. She was her stepmother but made no difference in her love for her step-children (four of us) than her own biological children (six of them). Hattie had to wonder if somehow this was why she had such a heart for disadvantaged children. Her parenting and teaching skills were also demonstrated in rearing her two accomplished biological daughters (a physician and an attorney). Some people in this life get to choose their destiny, and for others…it’s already chosen for them. But, she believes one can change their negative path, as she did, through faith, family and favor; just Dream Big, Think Positive and Work Hard. Contact Aunt Hattie at: drhnwashington.com for workshops, speeches, and book signings.

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