Laura Lacy Hamilton
The founding Executive Director of Lynchburg Beacon of Hope is Laura Lacy Hamilton. Initially charged with building the structure, research, Board of Directors and 501c3 organizational status in 2011, Laura naturally merged into the role of Executive Director in 2012, as the first Future Centers in the Commonwealth of Virginia opened in the Lynchburg City Schools. Laura’s strengths include ten years as Chairperson of the City of Lynchburg Planning Commission (2004-2014), decades of public policy work in Lynchburg and the District of Columbia, a Masters degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University, and an undergraduate degree from The College of William and Mary. Her strength in recent years has been a command of the dynamics of the public/nonprofit partnership that has evolved between Lynchburg City Schools and the Beacon of Hope and a strategic vision for the first Promise Program in Virginia. For the last 15 years, Laura served the Lynchburg community through various roles Lynchburg City Schools PTOs, on the Board of Directors for Centra Health, on the Board of Directors for the Family Alliance and Presbyterian Homes, and as a former president of the Junior League of Lynchburg. In 2008, Laura was named as the top 20 change-makers in Lynchburg under the age of 40.
Director of Fund Development
Joan Foster is a graduate of Lynchburg College and holds three degrees (B.A., MAT and MEd) in Elementary and Early Childhood Education, as well as Special Education. She currently holds the position of Director of Development with Lynchburg Beacon of Hope, an organization which strives to instill in ALL Lynchburg City Public School students the aspiration to pursue AND attain a post-secondary education.
Joan was elected in 2002 to Lynchburg City Council as the At Large Member. She is presently serving on Council and served two years as Vice Mayor and six years as Mayor (July, 2004 – June 30, 2012).
The first female Mayor of the City, during her tenure as Mayor, Joan advocated for or led the following initiatives:
- Dialogue on Race and Racism(Lynchburg Beacon of Hope originated from this initiative)
- Pre-school literacy initiative (The Amazing Mayor’s Book Race handed out more than 2500 books to elementary school students)
- Live Healthy Lynchburg (www.LiveHealthyLynchburg.com), a challenged she issued to the community to lose 12 tons in 2012, which they did by summer of 2012, she continues to work on this initiative tackling childhood and adult obesity)
- Joan loves both of her jobs because each help our community become a better place to live, work and play!
Joan’s advice to public school students, “Go for your dreams, never give up, work hard, stay focused, and ask Beacon of Hope for assistance to make your dreams of post-secondary education a reality.”
Director of Strategy and Programs
Director of College Success
Leidra McQueen is the new Director of College Success for Lynchburg Beacon of Hope. Leidra began her time with Lynchburg Beacon of Hope as a Future Center Director at Heritage High School. Leidra is a graduate of Heritage High School and the University of Virginia, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. Leidra is a former member of the University of Virginia’s College Advising Corps, where she assisted hundreds of students and families through the college admissions and financial aid process in Martinsville, VA. After her tenure with the University of Virginia, she transitioned to the University of South Carolina’s TRIO programs in Columbia, SC. There she continued her work in college access and student development. Ultimately, her passion for student access and success in higher education for students in her hometown brought Leidra back to Virginia in 2013. Through Beacon of Hope, Leidra hopes to contribute to true community transformation and irreversible impact in Lynchburg City. Mrs. McQueen can be reached through her email or at (434) 941 – 3145.
Office of College Success CVCC Site Director
Rachel Madigan began her time with Lynchburg Beacon of Hope as the Director of Programs and Operations. Rachel now has transitioned into the new role of Office of College Success CVCC Site Director. Rachel moved to Lynchburg in 2009 and served as a teacher in the Lynchburg City Schools for 6 years before working for Beacon of Hope. She received her undergraduate degree at California Polytechnic School, Pomona in Hospitality Management and her Master’s Degree from Hope International University in Education. Rachel also has multiple years of experience working with high school students as a youth leader. She has a sincere passion for students and helping them in their educational success.
Heidi Vande Hoef
Future Center Director – E. C. Glass High School
Heidi VandeHoef is the Future Center Director at E.C. Glass High School. Heidi’s robust college access background was honed in the four years she worked for the National Football Foundation’s Play It Smart Program and the University of Virginia as an Instructional Assistant. Through Play it Smart, Heidi helped to launch hundreds of students to college in Charlottesville and Buckingham Public Schools. Heidi (or Ms. V. as the students call her) continued her urban college/career access work planning and administering the National Football League’s HS Player Development program across the Southeast and was recently named as one of six professionals nationwide for the NCAA HS Advisory Group. Additionally, Heidi consults with the AthLife Foundation and is a member of the Bryan-Wade Fund Board of Directors at E.C. Glass.
Ms. V. completed her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Spanish at Liberty University, Master’s degree in Education with the University of Virginia and the University of Minnesota, and is pursuing her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership. Ms. VandeHoef can be reached at (434) 661 – 8144.
Future Center Director – Heritage High School
Dennis Coan is the Future Center Director at Heritage High School. Growing up outside of Jacksonville, Florida, Dennis came to Lynchburg in 2002 to attend Liberty University. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences and teacher licensure his career began first as a classroom educator, spending 10 years at the middle school level and 4 more years teaching and coaching at Heritage High School. His time spent coordinating a Federal GEAR UP grant at HHS shifted his professional trajectory and provided valuable learning experiences in college and career access. Now continuing to work with Heritage students through the Future Center, Dennis desires to use his varied experiences as a teacher, head coach, and access advisor to provide the greatest opportunities for all of our students with a high level of support for them and their families.
Kennon White, Chairperson
Mari Normyle, Immediate Past Chair
Assistant Vice President Retention Solutions, Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Gary Raulerson, Vice Chair
COO, Innovative Wireless Technologies
Gloria Preston, Secretary
Former Director of Student Services, Lynchburg City Schools
Marty Wright, Treasurer
Lee (Sandy) Ainslie
Developmental Pediatric Physician, Community Volunteer
President, Central Virginia Community College
Mayor, City of Lynchburg
COO, Centra Health
Retired Educator, (Bedford County Schools); Community Volunteer
Former Educator, E.C Glass High School
Friends of Dunbar High School, Community Volunteer
Neurosurgeon, Centra Health
Retired Educator, Lynchburg City Schools
Mary Jane Pryor
Founder New Vistas School, Community Volunteer
Accountant, Brown Edwards
Financial Controller, Best Mailing Service
General Counsel, Genworth Financial
COO, CB Fleet/Prestige