Working in the human-services sector isn’t a job for Anna Kay, it’s her life’s calling. She started volunteering at the age of 12 at the local YMCA and has now amassed over 25 years of impressive work in the nonprofit arena, including some of the ground-breaking innovations and partnerships that have led to her being named as one of Tallahassee’s 25 Women You Need to Know.

A native of Tallahassee, Anna Kay graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Psychology and then returned to her hometown to raise her family. After serving more than 17 years at the YMCA in various leadership roles, she joined Children’s Home Society as the Development Director, working to support programs serving children in the foster care system.

She has been the director of Leon County’s first Community Partnership School at Sabal Palm Elementary for four years. Since the Community Partnership School’s inception, numerous community leaders have worked alongside Anna-Kay to implement and develop programming and services brought at Sabal Palm.

The innovative school model relies on community partnerships that make a 25-year commitment to provide wrap-around services ultimately designed to break cycles of generational poverty. “100% of our 550 students are living at the poverty line with a lot of heavy need,” she says of the school, which is located in Florida’s poorest Zip code. “But we have a great community in Leon County and everyone works together to make things happen,” she says.

Anna Kay brings in partnerships that help remove the barriers that students and their families face on a daily basis, like transportation barriers, food scarcity, and access to even the basics of medical care. She forges relationships with donors that have led to innovations in the classroom as well as access to dental and vision care, and programs like Curls for Queens, which provides hair styles for female students, and a partnership with Lively’s barber school so boys can receive haircuts.

She arranges for elementary students to tour college campuses, because she believes that if they can envision themselves as college students, they can start working towards achieving it.

She knows that earning the trust of parents is crucial, so a homeownership webinar helps provide stability to families struggling to make a life in Leon County. “We do a needs assessment to find out what the community needs, and then we go out and create partnerships to meet those needs,” she says. “The coolest thing we are working on right now is a dental clinic that will be available to the whole community. It is a game-changer.”

She doesn’t act alone; she has surrounded herself with those who share her vision. “I’m drawn to thought leaders,” she says. “I feel very lucky; my job is just nothing but bringing great people in Leon County together to help serve these students.” Her leadership has impacted the Community Partnership School model both locally and statewide through training and webinars she has designed. “I see myself as a connector to help these organizations provide services to the kids.”

She inspires and leads at every opportunity, and her energy is impossible to resist. When she proposed Sabal Palm to her Leadership Tallahassee class as their class project, the school gained an outdoor classroom.

When the Knight Creative Communities Institute (KCCI) was working to improve bike safety awareness and creating educational bicycle parks, she convinced the volunteer team to create Florida’s first educational bike park on the school’s campus, a model that many other schools and cities have since duplicated.

“I lost my ego the first year of working at Sabal Palm,” she says, “and I think it was the best personal growth that I have ever experienced.”

She has been recognized for her work with awards ranging from the peer-selected Community Partnership School Director of the Year and the Community Partnership School of the Year. She is a Children’s Home Society Shining Star recipient and Children’s Home Society North Star finalist. In 2022, she was named as the Children’s Home Society Advocate of the Year.

She will not accept credit for any of this, saying, “I’m not an educator. I’m not the content expert. I just find out what everyone needs and then we bring everyone together to get the work done.” But of course, she is wrong about that. The expertise, contributions, and dogged advocacy work of Anna Kay Hutchison means that Tallahassee’s most vital resources are connected to the people who need them.

Originally posted by Tallahassee Democrat

By Heather Fuselier