Women’s History Month: Inspiring leaders educate Grand Strand’s children, lead communities

Published: Mar. 31, 2021 at 3:08 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - March is Women’s History Month and as the month comes to a end, WMBF News is highlighting inspiring women who are educating area youth and shaping people for the future.

Etta Carter, director of adult education at Horry County Schools, is helping and educating people of all ages.

“I was just helping a young man before I left the building who wanted to improve his reading skills,” Carter said. “I call him a young man but he’s 67. It’s never too late.”

Carter said adult education is for people who may not have been successful earlier in life or those who may have encountered different life challenges.

“With adult education you are not stuck,” Carter said.

While in school herself, she wasn’t only learning but being a manager at her job. Carter later become an educator, paving the way for other women and their futures.

“Just go get it; don’t doubt yourself,” she said. “Sometimes you have to go back to the drawing board and have a plan A,B and C. Learn from your mistakes and go get it.”

At Pee Dee Elementary, Beth Hendrick teaches English for Speakers of Other Languages. She was recently named one of the top five finalists for Teacher of the Year in South Carolina.

“As a part of our job, we teach them essential skills to be successful citizens,” Hendrick said.

Children spent more of their time in school than at home, and for some of Hendrick’s students they even look up to her like a mom.

“Some of my kids even call me ‘school mommy,’” Hendrick said. “It just makes my heart so full to know they look up to me that way and they say things I say, do the things I teach them.”

Hendrick wants to remind people that we’re building a future even as we reflect on the past.

“We are also writing history,” she said. “I would say write your own story and figure out what you are passionate about, what your passion is and use that to change the world.”

From inside the classroom to leading communities, WMBF News also spoke with the three women who lead some of Horry County’s top cities - Conway, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.

“I never, ever expected to run for mayor but I was born and raised here,” Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said. “I started to see things that I thought needed to be done and things that I was passionate about.”

When Bethune isn’t in her office working, she’s out in the community lending a hand.

She lives each day with a motto.

“Stay true to who you are. That’s something I think is so important,” Bethune said. “I have an acronym for what I think my leadership style is and that’s called HEART, to be humble, empathic, approachable, relational and a team player.”

About 15 miles north on U.S. 17 is North Myrtle Beach’s city hall. Inside, pictures of past mayors line the wall and the last picture frame features Mayor Marilyn Hatley.

“Becoming mayor is something I think you have to grow into,” Hatley said. “I served on city councils five years prior to becoming mayor. Those five years prepared me.”

Hatley shared just some of the traits women tend to hold.

“Women are the glue that holds so many things together. Women are great multitaskers; they run a home, they take care of their family, they work,” she said.

Just beyond the Spanish moss in the trees in historic downtown Conway is the Conway City Hall, home of Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy.

She too served on city council before becoming mayor.

“None of the mayors are doing the work for the notoriety but they are doing it for the sincere love and appreciation for human beings and a desire that everyone’s walk in the community to be as fulfilling and pleasant as can be,” Blain-Bellamy said.

Developing leadership can start early. For those who are inspired, Blain-Bellamy said be the change in your everyday surroundings.

“Become the person that notices what doesn’t work for everybody. Start to develop a selfless look at the environment you’re in,” she said.

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