Point University to honor longtime educator
Published 10:42 am Friday, March 31, 2023
By: Charlotte Reames
Point University is holding a tribute for Dr. Lacey Southerland on April 25 to celebrate 25 years of service.
As her students and coworkers gather up photos and videos to commemorate her time, Southerland prepares to say goodbye to Point University at the end of the school year.
When she first decided to move home to Texas to be near her family, Southerland was asked what she wanted for her farewell reception. All she asked for was to have her former students involved somehow.
“I just love hearing what students are doing and how Point impacted where they are now,” Southerland said. “And so I’m really looking forward to that aspect of the celebration.”
Now, she will get to see her years of connection and inspiration reflected in the memories of her students and colleagues.
Southerland joined Point University right after graduating from getting her PhD in Early Childhood Education. While still in school, what was then called Atlanta Christian College sent a notice of a job listing to Georgia State University.
“Pretty much the rest was history. Because as soon as I interviewed, I knew this is where I wanted to be, and they had told me after I was hired, that they had been praying for two years for someone with a doctorate in early childhood education,” Southerland said. “I felt prayed for as soon as I arrived. I felt like they were really thankful.”
Over the years, Southerland has helped forge integral connections with the West Point community. She became the director for the Hawkes Library children’s program, where she ran the weekly program and summer camp.
Southerland also started an afterschool arts and drama club at W.F. Burns Middle School. Every year, students produced a stage play.
Five years ago, Southerland and a group of community members founded the Chattahoochee Early Learning Academy to serve the West Point housing community. Building it up over the years, the center has hit its stride this year with kids from both West Point and the surrounding area.
“The biggest heartbreak, though, is not just that I’m leaving, but so is the part-time director and so is the full-time teacher,” Southerland said. “All three of us are leaving at the end of this year.”
With all her different projects, Southerland faced challenges and may have felt stretched thin, except that her passion for serving others kept her going.
“I’m really motivated by whatever joy people get out of the activity,” Southerland said. “And if somebody is benefiting from it, and it’s making them smile, and happy and educated and in some way advanced in their emotional makeup, that was what motivated me.”
She remembered the times spent outside the classroom building relationships with her students on field trips.
“That has been very important to me in my work,” Southerland said.
Though endings are always bittersweet, Southerland is excited for the next journey of her life.
“Going back to Texas is exciting,” Southerland said. “It’s bittersweet, though, because I’ve been away from it longer than I lived in it. It always has been. And it’s really exciting to think of being closer to my family and getting to go to my nephew’s children’s ball games.”
Southerland has been so grateful for the connections she has made with her colleagues and students. In the recent months, she has felt how much her going home to Texas has impacted her work family.
“That’s really home to me,” Southerland said. “But this will always feel like it, though, since I’ve spent so long here, and Point University specifically. It’s been 25 years in my life. So, it will always seem like a place that I’m coming home to.”
Her farewell reception will be held on April 25 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Parr House. Those who would like to submit photos or videos of her can upload them to the dropbox listed on Point University’s Facebook page.