Dr. Roxie Hentz has over twenty-five years of experience in the education field, including service as a state education consultant, culturally responsive teacher leader, district-wide teacher mentor, university teacher-in-residence, adjunct professor, and classroom teacher. For 17 years, she served as the Founding Executive Director of a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization offering empowering youth programs including financial literacy, job-readiness skills, and entrepreneurship. Roxie is also the Founding Executive Director of CEOs of Tomorrow, Inc., a non-profit organization where youth innovators and problem solvers are given the tools to become young social entrepreneurs who shape and influence their world. Extending her commitment to social entrepreneurship education, she authored It’s My Business: Inspiring Students’ Ideas for a Better Community, a resource packed with fun lessons and engaging activities for educators to guide their students in creating their own classroom business for social good. This instructional resource began taking shape in 2011 where her shift from entrepreneurship education to narrowed focus on social entrepreneurship was inspired by her mentor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa where she spent six months writing and formally testing her curriculum. Roxie earned a bachelor’s degree in education, a master’s degree in business administration, and a doctorate degree in leadership for the advancement of learning and service.
Get to know Roxie better
How did you come to work at your current organization?
Upon moving to Madison in 2013, I continued my professional career here as an Education Consultant and assigned to many of our state’s Priority Schools, or those having been identified as among the lowest-performing five percent. This meant the schools I was assigned to were outside of Madison, yet I soon learned and was deeply disturbed by the disparities that existed here in education. Far too many black and brown children are falling through the educational cracks. Knowing that my statewide position could not provide an opportunity to use my gifts to directly affect the lives of local youth, I made the decision to launch CEOs of Tomorrow to do just that. I know our children are cloaked in brilliance, and I wanted to give them the platform to realize and demonstrate it. blessing of God’s gifts to empower and educate our youth.
Why is the work that you do important to the Madison community? Why is it important for you?
The benefits of entrepreneurship education extend far beyond business ownership. They transform young people into entrepreneurial thinkers who dream big, plan for their futures and make sound academic and economic choices. Entrepreneurial skills build leadership, develop self-responsibility, instill confidence, and promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills—all transferable skills necessary for success in school, home, and life. A pathway to entrepreneurship can also reduce current and future unemployment rates, especially among youth facing economic and racial disparities. Coupled with minimum job requirements becoming increasingly more demanding and the intensifying complexity of the 21st-century workplace, it is critical that youth are regularly exposed to relevant and rigorous curriculum. Our programs provide them with just that. Ultimately, they innovatively develop and launch revenue generating business ideas that help address societal issues they face, while making their communities better for themselves, their families and the community.
What is your vision for Madison?
When envisioning the ‘ideal Madison,’ it radiates a community where all people are not only connected to but also are influencers in, all aspects of the city. It is a place that has fair and just opportunities and outcomes for all, including our youth. New and diverse ideas drive continuous improvement, and access to services and information advances the quality of life for all its residents.
When you look back over your whole life – What experiences have shaped you as a woman? and Why?
My mother, Daisy Hentz, was a model of entrepreneurship. Armed with a hard-earned associate’s degree and an undying will to succeed, she founded and ran two businesses, Daisies Fashion House, a boutique where she designed and sold her own fashion line, and Daisies Charm and Finishing School, where urban children learned social graces. It occurred to me quite early on that rather than sitting idly for hours in my mother’s shop as she diligently worked, I, too, could run a business. Following suit, I launched my very first “business” at the age of nine, using the shop’s large windowsill as my storefront. Customers seemed to love my handmade stuffed-animal pillows—or was it my adorable smile? In either case, I had caught the entrepreneurial bug! For this, I would like to offer my first acknowledgment to my mother for my foundation. As a result of her inspirational example, I developed and cultivated entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education in all aspects of my professional careers.
What are some of your practices of resilience? Who did you learn this from and how are these helpful in times of challenge?
I knew early on that if my parents, both born in Mississippi in the 1920s, could elevate their lives in the racially-charged south during Jim Crow, raise seven children on a working-class income, and make meaningful and lasting contributions to their communities, surely I could and should follow suit. Even more impressionable for me, my father did so with only an 8th-grade education, yet was one of the smartest people I have ever known. Because of my parents’ model of resilience, I can. One can often hear me state, “If the door closes, go out of the window.” A firm believer that there is nothing that one cannot accomplish when passion and commitment are linked arm-in-arm, even if it seems all doors to opportunity may be closed, I see failure as opportunity and setbacks as motivation. I am humbly honored to be my parents’ and ancestors’ wildest dreams.
What are some of the things you enjoy the most in life? What keeps you inspired, re-charged and brings you joy?
On a practical level, I am a lover of the great outdoors. Fishing, skiing, biking, camping, hiking – all things outdoors brings me physical joy. Traveling to other countries recharges and re-centers me. But what brings me joy beyond all other is sharing time with my family, God’s greatest gift to me.
When you think of your life journey unfolding, Who do you see yourself becoming?
Without continual growth and improvement, success has little meaning. Bring the program to the world – and vice versa. For me, professional development and learning are the keys that unlock new strategies, insights, and innovations that would otherwise be mysteries to me. My continuous goal is to remain current on proven and meaningful entrepreneurial curriculum and experiential opportunities so that what our students experience while in our programs mirror concepts taught in many of the top college business courses and experienced by real entrepreneurs. CEOs of Tomorrow is piloting its Global Social Entrepreneurial Excursions Program for teens beginning in the summer of 2019. Thanks to Amplify Madison, we attended the Enactus World Cup 2018: Entrepreneurial Action & Social Innovation conference. Enactus is the world’s largest experiential learning platform dedicated to creating a better world while developing the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders and social innovators. The conference was pivotal for our team’s learning, growth, and development for our new global program.
Please list any recognition, awards or other similar that you might have received from college all the way to today.
Among the awards and recognitions for dedication to urban education and community leadership are:
- The Fulbright Distinguished Teacher Award
- Wisconsin Economic Teacher Award
- Sr. Kliebhan Graduate Student of the Year Award for Service, Achievement, & Leadership
- Jammin’ 98.3 Black History Maker Award
- V100 Radio’s Positively People
- Channel 18’s Inside/Outside Milwaukee
- Named one of Wisconsin’s Most Influential Black Leaders.
I have most recently been featured in BRAVA Magazine, Wisconsin State Journal, Madison Magazine, Madison365, The Cap Times, Capital City Hue and WisBusiness.com.