Community Mom

Dr. Sandi Hagans-Morris believes her purpose is to support her community and its youth.

Dr. Sandi Hagans-Morris works with youth at First State Community Action in Kent County.

Her years as a preschool teacher and her current position as a program manager at First State Community Action earned her the nickname “community mom,” largely because her mentees have stayed at her home in times of need.

Dr. Hagans-Morris works with at-risk students ages 5 to 18, providing them with after-school programs, employment opportunities, education enrichment and civic leadership. She’s secured more than $900,000 in grants since joining FSCA in 2003.

“I create safe spaces for kids in my community, and I work with their parents to make sure their needs are met across all fronts,” says Dr. Hagans-Morris. She spends much of her time in the office, but also connects often with students.

She attributes her compassionate nature to her upbringing. Raised in Sussex County, Delaware, one of 12 children to single mother, Anita Briddell, Dr. Hagans-Morris and her siblings were taught to take care of each other. By 21, she already had six children of her own. She faced hardships, dropped out of high school three times, and lived on government assistance. At 36, she earned an associate degree from Delaware Technical Community College, graduating cum laude.

“This was the first time I felt like college was for me,” says Dr. Hagans-Morris. “So many people counted me out that I started to  believe them.”

At commencement, she promised her mother she’d earn “one of those little hats,” referring to the doctoral tam. She didn’t know what earning a professional degree meant, but she wanted to aim high to be a role model to her children.

She went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from WilmU’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, maintaining a spot on the Dean’s list and receiving the  Compassionate Colleague Award in 2010. On Jan. 29, 2017, she fulfilled her dream of earning an Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership at WilmU. She carried a photo of her mother during the commencement ceremony.

Ms. Briddell had passed away just 20 days prior.

Dr. Hagans-Morris believes her challenges help her connect to others. “I don’t have to tell every child my story,” she says, “but I think they see it.”

She plans to write a memoir and build a teen center for young girls. In the meantime, she’s enjoying newlywed life with her husband, Christian Morris.

Her 27-year-old daughter, Ketanya Moore, is a wife, mother of three — and a WilmU student. She credits her mom for instilling in her and others the importance of education.

“She pushes everyone to be their very best,” says Moore. “Whether it’s her children, grandchildren or kids at church, she encourages us never to give up. I love her for that.” WU

—Britney Gulledge