Sometimes you choose your job, other times your job chooses you.
Laura Hope Whitaker, M. Ed., began her relationship with Extra Special People, Inc. by working as a counselor and, subsequently, a leadership team member in 2003. With her passion for enhancing the lives of children with developmental disabilities and her specialized education in this field, Laura was selected as the director after the founder, Martha Wyllie’s sudden passing in 2004. She has found her dream job with ESP (or as she says, her dream job found her!) As CEO, Laura uses her faith along with her leadership and management strengths to manage staff, oversee multiple year-round programs and raise funds to run programs. Her favorite part of the job is getting to hug the many children who walk through the ESP doors.
Laura obtained both her Bachelor’s degree in Collaborative Special Education and her Master’s degree in Adapted Curriculum Classic Autism at the University of Georgia. Laura has been awarded the 40 under 40 by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the UGA Alumni Association, the Athens Banner-Herald and by The Georgia Trend. She has also been given the Super Citizen Award by the Athens Banner-Herald, The Community Four-Way Test Award by the Rotary Club of Oconee County & Volunteer of the Year Award by the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce. Laura was recognized as one of UGA’s top growing business leaders as #12 out of the Bulldog 100. Laura and her work with ESP was featured in The UGA Graduate Magazine 2012 edition. She participated as a member of L.E.A.D. Athens Class of 2012, followed by serving on the LEAD Athens Steering Committee for 5 years.
In the past, Laura participated as a United Way of NEGA Board Member, North Oconee Rotary, Oconee Civitan, and the Junior League of Athens. Laura was most chosen to participate in the prestigious Leadership Georgia program and then chosen to serve on the Leadership Georgia Program Committee in 2018. In 2019, Laura was appointed by the governor to serve on the Board for the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, along with also being chosen to serve on the Oconee State Bank Board of Directors. In 2021, Laura was nominated and chosen as the ATHENA Award Honoree.
Laura and her family are active members of Classic City Church. Laura’s most important roles include wife to husband Joseph and mother to Owen Patrick (13), Finley Gray (9), and Tate Alan (4).
For more information about Laura’s experience with ESP, visit her CEO page.
For more about Laura outside of ESP, visit her site: