Sharon Joyce-Millen: Get to know the project director of the Gullah Festival

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Question: Where were you born and raised?

Answer: I was born in Tallahassee, Florida, and raised in Beaufort, S.C.

Q: What is your education background?

Sharon Joyce-Millen is the project director of the Gullah Festival and a Behavioral Management Specialist at Beaufort Middle School.
Sharon Joyce-Millen is the project director of the Gullah Festival and a Behavioral Management Specialist at Beaufort Middle School.

A: I attended Clark College in Atlanta and Park University where I hold an Associates and Bachelors Degree in Psychology.

Q: What is a special memory from your college days?

A: While at Clark College, I sang with the jazz orchestra for four years and we were fortunate to perform and travel with jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Mary Lou Williams, Ramsy Lewis, Jon Faddis and many more. We toured France and also performed two consecutive years at one of the World’s Largest Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland.

Q: What is your role with The Gullah Festival?

A: As project director, I am in charge of  operations for the Gullah Festival weekend.

Q: Why is supporting the Gullah Festival important to you?

A: Supporting the Gullah Festival is important to me because it’s a time when we as Beaufortonians can come together and enjoy one another while celebrating Memorial Day weekend the way people of the Gullah Culture of this area once celebrated many, many years ago in the name of unity, while honoring those who have given their lives for our beautiful country. It’s good to learn how others from different communities and cultures experienced life at times when things were not the way they are as we know it today. Maya Angelou once said, “If we don’t know where we’ve come from, we can’t know where we’re going”. All history should be very important to all Americans, if nothing more than to understand and or appreciate others.

Q: What are your expectations for this year’s event?

A: I have been working with The Gullah Festival, a nonprofit organization, for more than 20 years now. This year, things will be a little different as far as location and prices will be lower. The festival will be held at TCL (Technical College of the Lowcountry). There will still be vendors, music and entertainment, storytelling, a play, a pageant and many more fun activities during the course of the weekend. The festival has one day that is focuses on the children of Beaufort County and is opened for everyone to participate. We are fortunate to live in a city where there is a wealth of rich history and many different cultures to learn about and celebrate. We want everyone to please come out and partake in a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.

Q: Where are you employed?

A: I am a Behavior Management Specialist at Palmetto’s Finest Beaufort Middle School.

Q: What led to your current profession?

A: I have always had an interest in working with children. I feel that our children’s future is so very important for our community.

Q: What is your role at the school?

A: As a Behavior Management Specialist, I provide effective positive behavior changes while providing supportive interventions to students and teachers. My goal is to replace negative behaviors with positive ones.

Q: How does your work help children?

A: Children need to know that they are not the only ones who experience challenges in life. They need encouragement as to different ways of looking at life such as looking at the glass being half full, as opposed to being half empty. Or knowing that they can conquer anything from a positive standpoint.

Q: What is the philosophy behind your work? 

A: My philosophy is if I can help one student redirect his or her behavior from negative to positive then my job is not in vain.

Q: Is there any connection between your work with children and what you do at the Gullah Festival? 

A: Every one of us should learn something new every day, and the Gullah Festival is a teaching and learning opportunity for the children, as well as adults.

Q: Have you ever lived away from Beaufort?

A: I lived in Southern California for five years and Albany, Georgia, for two years where I also worked with children. I came back to Beaufort because I had parents who were up in age and they needed me close to them.

Q: Do you have any personal heroes?

A: The first heroes who come to mind are my parents, they were my rock. My mother Emma J. Washington has always been my heart and my hero. She was truly a phenomenal women who was beautiful inside and out. She gave so much of herself to so many people for so many years. She was a cosmetologist who owned a beauty shop for more than 40 years where she trained others. She also worked as a social worker and she was a seamstress. She instilled strict morals and values in me. She always thought about others before herself. Did I mention that she was an excellent cook and a lover of people? My father John Washington was also a very hard worker all of his life. He was a man who stood up for what he believed in and he believed in helping people in any way that he could. They both believed in working hard for what you want in life. Because of them, I was afforded a college education and a wonderful childhood. They both were blessed to retire, enjoy their grandchildren and live until they were both 90 years old.

Q: How did you meet your husband?

A: I met my husband Coah Millen at Clark College in Atlanta more than 30 years ago. We have five children.

Q: What do you like most about Beaufort?

A: Beaufort is and has always been a very quaint place full of down-to-earth and wonderful people.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: I plan to stay positive and involved with as many things in the Beaufort area that I can that involve helping children and others.