Stefanie Prokity, Vice President/CFO
Hilda Stevens, Executive Director of Professional Development
Darla Edwards, President/CEO
You all have been working as a team for over a decade now. Take us back to when you were founded in 2006 and why you came together.
Through God’s divine intervention, our paths crossed when we began working together as administrators at a Title I school. We saw a need to help our students become more successful by outreaching to their families, so we created a resource to make it easier for parents to support their child’s learning. Other educators around the state became interested in this resource, and we soon realized we could expand our impact beyond our own school to reach families in schools throughout the nation. We founded Successful Innovations, Inc. with the desire to help schools partner more effectively with families. This became our passion which prompted all of us to take a leap of faith and leave the school system in 2009 to work full time pursuing the mission and vision of our company.
Elaborate on that mission and vision.
Our mission is to support and strengthen family and school partnerships. We do this through our resources to help families support their child’s learning. We also equip educators with the skills needed to partner with families. We have created the National Family Engagement Summit—the largest family engagement conference for educators in the nation.
How soon did you realize your business was really meeting a need among Title I schools?
God provided us with a vision to help families. We were familiar with the unique needs and challenges of Title I schools because we worked in one. We saw the tremendous value of family and school partnerships and interactive resources to support families. We knew that a strategic focus on family engagement was a critical component to the increased success and achievement among our Title I students.
What type of feedback do you get from schools about the programs?
Because we are now in a new era of accountability with the Every Student Succeeds Act, we are seeing family engagement given priority as an essential component of education reform. Title I schools now have family engagement at the forefront of their goals and priorities. Educators express gratitude and appreciation for our resources and training to help them more effectively outreach to families.
Tell us about your newest undertaking with On Demand Video.
Family Engagement On Demand is an online platform that leverages the power of mobile technology and video modeling to help schools easily reach families anytime and anywhere. Parents are able to watch engaging short videos providing practical tips on how to support their child’s learning. Educators can utilize the platform for online professional development and parent workshop resources. School administrators can monitor and track family engagement at each school through detailed reports highlighting parents’ video usage and interaction. We are excited to provide this resource for many schools and districts throughout the nation.
This is also a big time of year for you all with the National Family Engagement Summit. How did that start and how has it grown?
This summit started in Lynchburg as a small conference for a handful of Virginia educators. It then grew into a conference for educators in the Mid-Atlantic states. As educators attended this event, they would tell many more of their colleagues. Then the conference grew into a national event for educators all around the nation. As a result, we moved the conference to Richmond due to the larger venue space and international airport. Today, the conference is the largest family engagement conference for educators in the nation. This year the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit will be held on March 20-23 at the Richmond Marriott Hotel.
How do you all share the workload? Who does what?
Each of us has different talents and strengths that we bring to the table. Darla Edwards (President/CEO) travels to schools and districts to secure contracts with administrators who are interested in our family engagement resources and services.
She also forms valuable partnerships with educational organizations that align with our mission. Stefanie Prokity (Vice President/CFO) is in charge of the daily operations of the company. She works in the office each day and handles purchase orders, contracts, financial records and accounts. Hilda Stevens (Executive Director of Professional Development) prepares capacity building workshops and travels to schools and districts to provide training for educators on various family engagement topics.
Who is the best at handling conflict?
By keeping Christ at the center of our business, we have all worked as a collaborative team to overcome any conflict. We have a great understanding of each other’s personality and trigger points. We treat each other with respect and always keep our mission as the driving force that guides us through any type of conflict.
Who is the most organized?
Stefanie Prokity is the most organized. She begins her day by focusing on the three top priorities that she needs to accomplish for that day. This really helps to provide her with a clearer focus. She stays organized by keeping electronic folders, categorizing specific items, and prioritizing what she needs to do. She believes that being organized is essential in her role as CFO. Stefanie is easily able to locate records, files and documents when needed.
Who is the best at customer service?
Darla Edwards is great at customer service. She has to interact with customers on a daily basis. She takes pride in always being accessible to customers no matter the time of day. For example, calls from customers who are in different time zones could present a challenge for some companies, but Darla is always willing to assist, support, and serve our customers no matter the hour. Customers appreciate being able to talk with a live person and not a pre-recorded voice message. When customers have a problem, she works to get it resolved immediately.
Hilda Stevens brings tremendous value to the company as well. Her expertise as a master teacher in Title I schools has led our company in creating resources that parents and teachers can use to impact learning at home so children can have academic success in school.
What’s next for Successful Innovations?
We want to see our National Family Engagement Summit continue to grow more each year. We strive to stay current in our field by staying abreast of best practices and educational research. We also want to form more partnerships with other organizations that are aligned to our mission.
It is also very important for each of us that we continue to grow in Christ through a servant-oriented focus. We look for ways that we can give back to our community and nonprofit organizations. Each of us has leadership positions within the greater community. Hilda Stevens is the President of Lynchburg Kiwanis Chapter and President of the Iota Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, an International Society for Key Women Educators. Darla Edwards is a member of the Lynchburg College Board of Trustees, Board Member of the Lynchburg Education Foundation, Board Member of HumanKind, and Board Member of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation. Stefanie Prokity is the President of the Board of Directors for the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance, Board Member and Treasurer of the United Way of Central Virginia, and guest lecturer at Liberty University.