THE ICON: Judy Watts
THE LEGACY: Judy Watts got involved in child care when she took a part-time job at the nursery school her children attended. Learning from the director, whom she described as “a stickler for doing it right,” she would move on to directing preschool programs as well as for lobbying in favor of such causes as child-care licensing, which initially was met with horror from people who fretted the government was trying to tell them how to rear their children. She persisted, however — and she won. In 1984, she founded Agenda for Children and became its first president and CEO. Agenda, which is Louisiana’s largest child-advocacy organization, moved beyond child care and health to take on such issue as juvenile-justice reform, early-childhood education, child-abuse prevention and foster care. Watts retired in 2010 and died in 2015, but evidence of her loving legacy can be found in the smiling faces of the countless New Orleans children whose lives she positively impacted through her determined struggle on their behalf.
THE ARTIST: Connie Kittok
THE INSPIRATION: “Judy is the very best example of everything a leader in child advocacy should be. She is passionate without being threatening, she is honest without being self-righteous, she is smart without being pompous, and she is in it for the long term.” — Carol Kamin, executive director of Children’s Action Alliance of Arizona and a board member of Voices for America’s Children, a national advocacy group, in a 2006 Times-Picayune story