Meet Wanda Shaw Wilson
Wanda Shaw Wilson (1937-2008) was known as a humanitarian, educator, and unwavering advocate for the education of children.
Wanda graduated from Bethune-Cookman College in 1960 with a Bachelor’s degree in physical education and early childhood development. She later earned a master’s degree in counseling from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
A trailblazer in education, Wanda became the first African-American to teach at a Highlands County, Florida school. She spent nearly three decades as an educator at local schools in the Avon Park, Florida and Sebring, Florida area. She was an influential voice in educational in that area during the period of desegregation in the late ‘60s and beyond.
Wanda promoted educational and economic hope, jobs, and opportunities to not only students, but also to families and the community at large. She regularly orchestrated the transportation of busloads of students from Highlands County to Florida universities. Even after her retirement from the Highlands County school system in 2004, she went on to establish the Faith Academy Daycare at the church she attended in order to help families in her communities. Her tireless contributions to local youth continued long after the school day ended. Her home was a haven to many young people, a sanctuary where they shared meals, activities and nurturing with her own children.
The Wanda and Janice Wilson Foundation was founded to continue Wanda’s legacy with today’s youth.
Meet Janice Marie Wilson
The late Janice Marie Jackson Wilson was 57 years old, living and tending to her family and students; she unfortunately departed this life on Friday, June 20, 2014. Janice Wilson was a wife, mother, teacher, and a devoted servant of the Lord. She was born in Daytona Beach and raised in Gifford, Florida before returning to Daytona Beach to attend the Great Bethune-Cookman University in 1976, graduating in class of 1980. She soon thereafter made Daytona Beach her permanent home, marrying Rufus L. Wilson, Sr. and raised her family.
Janice was an active member of New Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church where she participated in the church’s Mass Choir. Amongst many of her passions, she also held the role as Basileus (president) of the Beta Iota Sigma Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated and a Life member of BCU National Alumni Association, where she served as Secretary. Always with a winning smile and a word of upliftment, there were many roles she filled with graceful ease.
Janice was an elite educator and highly revered amongst her peers and her students for more than 30 years, teaching at the following: Spruce Creek HS, Atlantic HS, Silver Sands MS, and most recently Mainland HS. She and her husband, Rufus L. Sr. tirelessly mentored teens and young adults at their kitchen table, molding them towards greater academic performance and more productive adult careers. Ms. Janice M. Wilson is survived by her devoted husband, Rufus Wilson, Sr., her two loving children, Serena Wilson and Rufus ‘Rudy’ Wilson, Jr. and her godson- Darryl “DJ’ Wingate, Jr.
Our CEO, Rufus L. Wilson Sr.
Mr. Rufus L. Wilson is a native of Avon Park, Florida and graduated from Avon Park High School in 1978, as an All-American football player. Mr. Wilson accepted a full athletic scholarship to attend Bethune-Cookman College where he served as captain and a star running back for the Bethune-Cookman College Wildcats. Upon receiving his degree in Physical Education in 1983 from Bethune-Cookman College, Mr. Wilson signed a free agent contract with the Houston Oilers (now known as the Tennessee Titans) of the National Football League. Mr. Wilson later played for the Pittsburgh Maulers of the USFL. After his career in the National Football League, Mr. Wilson served as a coach, mentor, foster parent, and motivational speaker.
To date Mr. Wilson is continuing his 25 year career in the United States Postal Service and has ventured into other endeavors to give back to his alma mater and community. In 2008, Mr. Wilson founded the Wilson Foundation, which provides scholarships annually to deserving high school seniors from schools in Daytona Beach and in Highlands and Alachua Counties. The Wilson Foundation Scholarship recipients have the opportunity to attend the institutions of their choice upon graduation from high school. The Wanda and Janice Wilson Foundation was created to establish pathways of educational opportunities for deserving students to achieve their goal of a college education. The foundation was founded in honor of his late mother, who championed the cause of providing opportunities for young people. In 2014, his wife Janice Marie Wilson, of over three decades passed away. Mrs. Wilson was an educator, loving wife and mother, mentor, and inspiration to many.
The Wanda and Janice Wilson foundation was molded to fit the vision of these two exceptional women. The legacy which was started with these two trailblazing Wilson women, now continues and evolves under the leadership of Mr. Wilson, the torchbearer, leading with the Wilson family, and their commitment to champion the Legacy.