Tangipahoa’s Hidden Figure
Meet Paulette Walker of the Tangipahoa Black Chamber of Commerce
Paulette H. Walker is the granddaughter of the late Rev. Melvin Hebert Sr. and Nina M. Hebert of Ponchatoula, Louisiana. She and her husband of 39 years Clarence have three adult children.
Known throughout Ponchatoula for her work in education and business, Walker is a retired school administrator and educator of 37 years. Her education philosophy is, “There are no substitutes for effective teaching, practiced professionalism and expected outcomes.”
As an administrator, Walker was the recipient of the 2001 Governor’s Character Initiative for Girls Reachable and Challenged Every day, a suspension prevention program. Known as GRACE, the program was developed to provide an alternative to suspension and allow girls to remain in school. It offered activities on conflict and decision making. Walter later created the BRACE character program for boys and the Girls for Christ Program, a Christian character education program based on Biblical principles.
As a classroom teacher, Walker was named Teacher of the Year in 1978 and 1979 at SJ Middle School and in 1985 at Fannie C. Williams Middle. She is recognized as the only educator having won this prestigious award three times in Louisiana.
Walker has served on the Professional Administrators of New Orleans Inc. board as middle school chair, the Tangi Charter School Board writing its discipline policy. She was also a public member of the Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners and the Louisiana State School Turnaround Advisory Committee. She is the developer of the One Step Ahead Education Program which promotes early learning for each grade level. Shee is also a 50-year member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., and Tangipahoa Professional Women’s Organization.
In 2012, Walker developed Tangipahoa African American Women’s Network or TAAWN. The network provided workshops and held the first Business Expo at the Tangipahoa African American Heritage Museum & Veterans Archives. Walker received commendations from former first lady Michelle Obama, for her community service.
In 2020, she developed the first women’s business Celebration Krewe in Ponchatoula. The Krewe of Nizhoni, whose theme is “Great Women Do Great Things,” consists of educators, medical professionals, community leaders, and members of civic groups. The purpose of the krewe is to create cultural diversity while promoting Black businesses. The Krewe of Nizhoni has ride dates planned through 2032.
In 2021, a Black business sector was initiated in downtown Ponchatoula with the establishment of the first Black Business Appreciation Expo held on Feb. 19.
Walker said she saw the need for unity in the Black business community and on Oct. 9, the first Tangipahoa Black Business Chamber of Commerce was established with the motto: “Developing Pathways for Business Success.”
Viewing herself sometimes as a hidden figure, Walker said things are happening in the community that she is responsible for and people don’t know. But just like the women in the movie, “Hidden Figures,” the success of her work is far more important than the recognition.
With each vision she completes, she says, “To God be the glory.”
Walker said her priority for 2022 is to galvanize small Black businesses to form networks and relationships within the community because those relationships will allow the business to grow and have sustainability.
“If God gave you the business, He’ll give you the customers,” she said. “He blesses the gift, not the business.
She said her mother, the late Rebecca Hebert, taught her that everyone can be honest, have integrity, and work hard. She encouraged her to be a leader always working to help others and putting things in action.
Walker said her next goal is to renovate a house for a family or a business and she hopes that others will do the same in their communities. She also wants to secure land either by donation or purchase for a Girls’ Summer Camp.
She said she is especially looking forward to developing a Business Pairing System that introduces and matches businesses to form larger companies.
With all that she has accomplished, Walker she said she wants people to remember that she worked hard, prayed harder, created with a pure heart, and made things happen for the first time