First Lady Places family first
y husband said it best when he remarked, 'The family is the most important building block in our society,' said First Lady Donna Edwards. "It has inspired me to focus my time as First Lady on assisting and encouraging our Louisiana families in need." Family life has always been the center of activity for Donna Hutto Edwards. As the youngest sibling to two brothers, she credits her parents with establishing a healthy home life. She enjoyed her childhood, moving from Mississippi to Alabama and then to Amite, Louisiana. There she met her future husband John Bel Edwards, and the two began dating in high school. After graduation, he left Louisiana to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. Donna moved back to Mississippi, where she enrolled at the University of Southern Mississippi and earned a B.A. in Business Administration in Industrial Management. The two married in 1989 and were sent to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, John Bel's first post as an Army Infantry Airborne Ranger. It was in Hawaii that they had their firstborn, Samantha Bel. Even in the early years, Donna saw the importance of supporting families. "I developed close relationships with other military wives on the base. I began helping families while stationed on post. We leaned on one another while our spouses trained and prepared for potential deployments,” she said. "I truly understand the sacrifices soldiers and their families make when serving their country." Their second child, Sarah Ellen, was born while stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. "Not long after Sarah Ellen was born, we returned home to begin planting our own family’s roots in Louisiana. John Bel started law school at Louisiana State University, and our third child, John Miller, was born."
Settling in Louisiana as a full-time mom, Donna once again turned her attention to the needs of children. "I have always had a heart for helping children. After becoming a certified teacher, I taught music education for almost a decade in the Tangipahoa Parish Public School System. I know firsthand that teachers have tremendous power to inspire all students and encourage the belief that they can succeed in life." And that is what lead Donna Edwards to be a diligent advocate for teachers, public education, and arts education. One of her goals became a reality under her husband's administration when teachers and support workers received a pay raise for the first time in ten years. This raise is anticipated to continue until Louisiana educators reach the Southern Regional average per year. Funding for classrooms has increased, and the state is investing in higher education again, for the first time in a decade. Donna Edwards’ initiatives do not stop there. The First Lady partnered with the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA) to assist flood-damaged schools throughout south Louisiana. Donna was instrumental in the launch of "Louisiana Fosters," a resource to connect foster parents and children with the support systems they need in their communities. It brings together government, faith groups, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and community members to create a network of support for Louisiana's foster care system. "Having a good, wholesome, nurturing environment is critically important for our children. We have over 4,000 of our children in need of foster care in our state," added Gov. Edwards. After seeing these initiatives create such a positive difference in the state, Donna Edwards created "The Louisiana First Foundation," focused on helping Louisiana children and families.
Ladies of Northshore