A Hand-in-Glove Fit: New Horizons Executive Director & VersAbility Board of Directors

Portrait of Board Vice Chair Casey R

His roots are in education. So is his heart.

Casey Roberts is the Executive Director of New Horizons Regional Education Centers, the largest of nine regional centers in the Commonwealth of Virginia in both size and scope of service. He also serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for VersAbility Resources, a community partner with New Horizons for its newest workforce development program, Future of Work. Students enrolled in Future of Work’s welding cohort attend New Horizons twice a week for nighttime classes while simultaneously receiving support from VersAbility’s Job Coaches.   

“It’s a natural fit,” Roberts said. “At New Horizons, we have experience working with students with disabilities. We have the equipment, lab space, and instructors; it has become a hand-in-glove type partnership.”

Roberts hails from a family of educators, starting with his great-great-grandmother, Mary Todd Park, among the first African Americans in Surry County, Virginia, to teach formerly enslaved people how to read and write. She, in turn, taught her husband (Goodman Brown), enabling him to become one of the first African American men to serve as a delegate in the Virginia General Assembly after the Civil War. Both of his parents and grandmother were also educators.

“I wanted to be a military pilot,” Roberts said. “The one thing I was never going to become was an educator!”

Yet after completing Air Force JROTC in high school and Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech, Roberts realized he had a knack for instruction. “I had experience instructing cadets both in high school and college and discovered I was generally good with teaching high school students,” he said. “When you’ve been trained to be a leader, you automatically acquire the skill set of influence and how to guide and manage a process, whether through teaching, delivering instruction or designing curriculums.”

Roberts holds a bachelor’s in history with a minor in leadership studies from Virginia Tech and a master’s in curriculum and instruction from Regent University. He earned an education specialist degree in educational leadership and administration from The George Washington University, where he is nearing completion of a doctorate in educational administration and policy studies.

He started with Hampton City Schools, where he served as a social studies teacher. By age 30, Roberts was appointed principal at Smithfield High School. During the summer of 2018, he accepted his current position at New Horizons Regional Education Centers.

“I may not be fighting on the frontlines or be deployed around the world flying fighter jets and defending freedom,” he said. “But I’m helping to educate and develop the next generation, and that mission is worthwhile.”

When you’ve been trained to be a leader, you automatically acquire the skill set of influence and how to guide and manage a process, whether through teaching, delivering instruction or designing curriculums.

New Horizons trains and educates students of all ages from the six Greater Peninsula School Divisions. Many of those students are juniors and seniors seeking to earn a ready-to-learn entry-level credential for a skilled trade. Others earning college credit in high-level math and science to pursue a STEM-related career field will matriculate to a local or nationally prestigious university. Some students with Autism and intellectual and emotional disabilities receive community readiness skills training and credentialing. New Horizons is where many since 1965 have started their journey toward their dreams.

Roberts grew up just down the street from VersAbility Resources’ Hampton headquarters. Back then, he didn’t know the mission that today he terms “phenomenal.” VersAbility connects individuals with disabilities to dignity with a full and productive life of their choosing.

Roberts’ second cousin, Jana Bradby, affectionately called “Bae,” had a disability, and he watched her live well into her 50s, far longer than what doctors indicated.

“She had a heart of gold,” he said. “She was an integral part of our family, and everyone loved her to death. I was raised to treat everybody with kindness and respect. And from my perspective, her disability made her unique, and we loved her just the way she was.”

When Roberts was asked to join VersAbility’s volunteer Board, he saw it as an opportunity to connect the dots. He advocates for the organization on various Hampton Roads committees and councils he sits on, noting, “VersAbility Resources is a key leader in many regional discussions and serves as a resource for many and a pathway to success.”

Roberts is married and has two children, an 11-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. He’s a huge Star Trek fan (“Trekkie”), in addition to hobbies that include reading historical biographies, cooking Italian and Indian foods and traveling. He has visited several countries and regions and looks forward to another trip to Trinidad and Tobago this summer, the native country of his wife’s family.

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