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 Programs and Operations
Rachel Madigan moved to Lynchburg in 2009 and has served as a teacher in the Lynchburg City Schools for the past 6 years. 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.
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 both 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.”
Future Center Director – Heritage High School
Leidra Hickson is the 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. Ms. Hickson can be reached at (434)-941-3145.
Heidi Vande Hoef
Future Center Director – E. C. Glass High School
Heidi Vande Hoef 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 County Public Schools. Heidi (or Ms. V. as the students call her) continues her urban college/career access work planning and administering player development conferences with the National Football League’s High School Player Development program across the Southeast. Ms. V. completed her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Spanish at Liberty University and her Master’s degree in Education with the University of Virginia and the University of Minnesota. Ms. Vande Hoef can be reached at (434) 661-8144.