Audrey Williamson Brings a Social-Emotional Lens to Community Work

Audrey Williamson is the Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition for KIPP Foundation, a nonprofit organization that recruits and trains outstanding educators for the network of free college-prep KIPP schools across the country. She also serves on the founding board of directors for Atlanta Unbound Academy, a K-8 public charter school dedicated to providing empowering, rigorous and culturally-rich education to its students.

Audrey grew up in Newark, New Jersey, an area flourishing with families and community, many of whom lived with low incomes.

“I’ve always been committed to community service,” she shares. “I’ve always craved opportunities for leadership and I think that’s reflective of seeds sown into me watching my dad lead as an entrepreneur.”

Growing up, Audrey’s parents worked hard to create a safe space without sheltering her from the world. Her dad owns a real estate company and the way he thinks about generational wealth was instilled in Audrey.

“That’s a big part of why I’m continuously motivated to give back and work in the nonprofit space,” she explains.

Audrey decided to study psychology at Spelman College. However, just before she received her college acceptance letter, Audrey lost her mom.

“It is a very transitional point in my story,” she says.

Audrey leaned on the sisterhood and mentors she found at Spelman to get through this difficult period.

“Spelman taught me so much about myself, my community, and the diaspora. Spelman’s tagline is “A Choice to Change the World” and I wake up and make that choice everyday through my work. Spelman was a safe space where I really began to explore my identity and what it means for me as a Black woman of excellence to operate in this world.” she shares.

Stay Open to Opportunities

Audrey spent the next two years as a Teach for America educator. 

“Teaching was one of the hardest but most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had. Leading in the classroom really pushed me to want to do more and think more about how I can continue to make an impact on the micro and macro level,” she adds.

This experience sparked her interest in school social work. However, she ultimately graduated from her master’s program at Columbia University with a degree in clinical social work and started running an after-school program in Harlem.

“That was a great opportunity to combine my love and passion for education and my interest in the social-emotional development of young people,” she explains.

Being fearful of becoming too complacent, a few years later Audrey decided it was time for a change. She moved to Atlanta and after a year of uncertainty, she landed a position as a recruitment manager for Historically Black Colleges and Universities with Teach for America.

Although she was a trained clinical therapist, she decided to dive into recruitment and try something new.

“I loved it,” she shares. “It combined my love for HBCUs and my passion for education.” During this time, Audrey was also asked to join the board of the Atlanta Unbound Academy by one of her Spelman sisters. 

After 6 years of experience in her role at HBCU, Audrey’s path led her to her current position with KIPP Foundation. 

“It has always been my lifelong dream to open a school,” she explains, and this opportunity has helped her realize what that could look like one day.

“Seeing the school grow has been transformative,” she says. “I am very proud to be a part of the AUA legacy.”

The Importance of Role Models

Audrey’s entire journey brought her to the work she does today – even though this wasn’t a path she originally set out to follow – and she wants the younger generation to know that it’s fine not to have everything figured out.

“It’s important to show up and be ready when that opportunity comes,” she shares.

She also believes in the importance of young people having strong role models, which she found in her parents and Miss Gwendolyn Watts, the leader of her high school Xinos and Kudos Sorority.

“She really modeled what it means to be a woman of excellence and to be able to give back to your community,” she explains.

Now, Audrey uses her own leadership skills to serve as a role model for the next generation.
“We are all standing on the shoulders of giants,” she says. “I’m proud to be a part of someone else’s village now.”