Donna Hayes-Austin has served a countless number of schools, students and their families over the last 23 years. Although she is now retired from counseling pre-k-12th grades, Hayes-Austin is determined to serve and lead a community where she obtained all three of her college degrees and started her family.
“What I love more than anything else in this world is serving the people and I mean that,” Hayes-Austin said.
Hayes-Austin faced adversity head on during her journey to become a counselor. After graduating from Rickards High School, she enrolled in Florida A&M University seeking a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Hayes-Austin fell short of her degree when she got pregnant and dropped out of college at the age of 19.
Hayes-Austin then moved to California where she worked at El Camino College as a counseling clerk. During her time there, she ran into a guidance counselor who inspired her to go back to school. A few years after the encounter, Hayes-Austin enrolled back into FAMU where she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology.
Hayes-Austin struggled to get her Ph.D. as both her husband and mother battled with cancer. She cared for her mother for seven years until she died. She also lost her husband. However, hardships didn’t stop her from persevering. Despite the adversity, Hayes-Austin graduated from FAMU with a Ph.D. in educational leadership and counseling.
Before starting her counseling career in Gadsden County, Hayes-Austin interned at FAMU DRS. During her internship, the number of minority student groups she worked with increased.
“Donna has a personal experience with the south side of town. She also has over 23 years of professional experience. She could make a difference for the Leon County School District 3,” Jessica McBride, a longtime friend of Hayes-Austin said.
Alongside Hayes-Austin are four other candidates in the running for the District 3 seat. The candidates are Maggie Lewis-Butler, Charles Williams, Darryl Jones and Lynn Jones. Primary voting begins on Aug. 18.
“If I am appointed to Leon County School Board, District 3, I plan to listen to the voice of educators, determine concerns, enable children to be successful and encourage them to work to their full potential,” Hayes-Austin said.