Close this search box.
Sharita Hansford seen in her Jackson State University Class of 2023 graduation robes receiving her diploma on stage
Sharita Hansford, right, is awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Childcare and Family Education during by President Marcus Thompson, left, at JSU’s fall graduation ceremonies. Photo courtesy Jackson State University Livestream

Person of the Day | Sharita Hansford Realizes Dream Deferred

Sharita Hansford waited for her turn to climb the stage in Jackson State University’s AAC building. The 40-year-old grew warm in her blue robe, and the stoles and honor cord seemed to add weight to her tiring body. As the wait continued, she moved to the wall and removed her shoes giving herself a moment to rest before returning to the line. She did this more than once as the sea of graduates stretched before her, but Hansford was willing to wait.

“This was really the first time that I have had that feeling, but I think also it was a lot of nervousness,” she told the Mississippi Free Press on Dec. 11. “There was a lot of anxiety just leading up to it, you know, like just all the excitement surrounded by it.”

The anxiety and nervousness ended as Hansford crossed the stage, shook President Marcus Thompson’s hand and accepted her bachelor’s degree in childcare and family education.

“It means a great deal to me,” Hansford said. “It just solidifies who I am as a person, my determination (and) my courage to just have the mindset to want to keep going because even when things are hard.”

For the mom of four, the degree signifies much more than the completion of an undergraduate program. There was a time when she wasn’t sure she would love to see this moment.

Hansford does not remember her oldest daughter’s birthday party in July 2011. She cannot really recall which birthday it was. The day and much of the time after it is a blur. Hansford had begun having severe headaches the previous fall. She thought they were migraines and began taking over-the-counter medications to try to manage them. However, on the day of the party, the headaches became so severe that she stopped responding and her husband rushed her to the local hospital. While there, Hansford began experiencing seizures, and doctors placed her in a medically induced coma.

Hansford would remain in a coma for nearly a year. Her family moved her from hospital to hospital seeking answers. It wasn’t until she was admitted to the University of Alabama Medical Center that the family began to get answers.

“Once I got there, there was a doctor who came in from a different country,” Hansford said. “He was just coming through doing a little bit of residency work (before) he was gonna go back to wherever he was from, but they had him come down and look at me, and he said that he had just treated a patient with similar symptoms in the country that he was in.”

Hansford had a grapefruit-sized tumor on one of her ovaries. Doctors removed the tumor and Hansford began to improve. Medical staff eventually removed her breathing tube, and Hansford woke from the coma—beginning the long road to recovery.

“I had to go into a rehab facility for a while to learn how to walk, talk and even eat,” Hansford said. “I had to relearn all the basic things of life that I knew before all of this stuff happened.”

Sharita Hansford seen in her Jackson State University Class of 2023 graduation robes
Hansford owns and operates Dream Big, Learn and Play Center, a childcare facility in Biloxi, Miss. Photo courtesy Sharita Hansford

Hansford found herself trying to find her place in the workforce again. She experimented with different jobs before deciding to return to her passion: childcare. Hansford opened Dream Big, Learn and Play Center in Biloxi in 2020. The center services children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old.

“I knew I wanted to be in childcare, but I knew that I didn’t want to be working under someone else when I knew that I had the same if almost not more experience than they had,” Hansford said.

Hansford plans to return to Jackson State in the fall to begin working on her master’s degree. She hopes to one day open more childcare centers and earn her doctorate degree.

“I want to be around here for my younger children, but if something should happen to me, and I’m not here, I want them to be able to look at my life and my legacy and see all the triumphant—because that’s the word I’m going to use—things that I have done with my life,” Hansford said. “I just want them to look at and say, ‘Hey, Mom did all this and, you know, she still did this, and she didn’t quit.’”

“For more information on Dream Big, Learn and Play Center, call 228-967-7511 or visit the center’s business page on Facebook.”

Know a Missisissippian you believe deserves some spotlight? Nominate them for a potential Person of the Day article at mfp/ms/pod.

Can you support the Mississippi Free Press?

The Mississippi Free Press is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) focused on telling stories that center all Mississippians.

With your gift, we can do even more important stories like this one.