Most people feel like the challenges in their community are too big to tackle. They don’t know where to start, and they’re too busy. Can one person even make that much of a difference?
Bridget Goff Archer is not most people. Bridget, a full-time fourth grade teacher and mother of two, manages to serve her community in incredibly tangible, effective ways. She serves as the vice president of the RAIN Group, which provides uniforms, school supplies, haircuts and food to over 8,000 kids each year; sits on the Junior League of Mobile’s management board; serves on the Focus Women’s Conference committee; and, alongside her daughter Cecilia, helped found a meal service for people struggling with food insecurity in West Mobile. Bridget gets big things done.
Her “why” is simple. She loves Mobile and wants it to be the best it can be.
“You can’t complain about your community if you’re not part of it,” she says. “People say there’s nothing to do here, but if you’re not doing anything to bring it up, how can you put it down? If you want your city to become wonderful, you have to put in the sweat equity.”
“You can’t complain about your community if you’re not part of it,” she says. “ … “If you want your city to become wonderful, you have to put in the sweat equity.”
Coming to Mobile
Bridget’s family moved to Grand Bay from Pascagoula when she was in fourth grade so her brother, Joshua, could attend The Regional School for the Deaf and Blind.
“A school in Mississippi told my parents all my brother would be able to do when he grew up was make brooms,” she says. “The education he received through MCPSS empowered him to become a college professor. And I had great experiences, too—I can tell you all the teachers I had from Kindergarten on up. I had amazing teachers. Our family just really loves this school system.”
Becoming a teacher
When Bridget was deciding on a career, she remembered the impact educators had on her family and decided to follow in their footsteps.
She’s spent her entire 17-year career at the same school, O’Rourke Elementary in West Mobile. She has taught Kindergarten, first grade, second grade, fourth grade and fifth grade.
“I started teaching when I was 22 years old, and I looked even younger,” Bridget says. “People would come in and be like ‘Is the teacher in the room?’ Then, this year, my partner teacher was 22, and it hit me, I’m the old one now.”
Bridget says her favorite part of teaching is the moment a student understands a concept for the first time, as well as the relationships she forms with her students.
“For the first 15 minutes of each day, we do a get-to-know you time,” she says. “I love getting to know them. They teach me stuff like what a VSCO girl is, and then last Halloween, I dressed up as one. They loved it. I do stuff like this to bond with my students so when things are tough, they feel comfortable coming to me.”
After 17 years of teaching, Bridget now regularly receives graduation announcements, wedding invitations and friend requests on social media.
“I see these kids get married, go to college, get their first job and think, ‘I got to be part of that,’” she says.
In the future, Bridget wants to become a school administrator. She has a master’s degree in elementary education, has a reading coach certification and also has an administrative degree.
“In an administrative role, I could not only help kids, but also mentor other teachers,” she says. “Administrators set the tone for the building, and I’d love to take on that role.”
In volunteerism circles, Bridget has a reputation for being a logistics pro. In her work with the RAIN Group, a nonprofit organization founded by Mobile business maven Monique Rogers, Bridget handles logistics for the annual Love U Love U Day.
“Usually, we give away three to four uniforms per child, a pair of shoes, haircuts and food,” she says. “It’s a huge event at the Mobile Fairgrounds. But of course, this year we couldn’t do it because of COVID-19.”
Instead, Monique tasked Bridget with a new idea for Love U Love U Day: a mobile food pickup at Ladd Stadium.
“We had food and milk donated, and Monique bought all the chicken,” Bridget says. “We set up stations and cars just pulled through. Each car got a box of produce, a gallon of milk and chicken. The first car arrived at 2:30 a.m. to get in line. That’s how much people need help right now.”
The team served 2,120 cars in three hours, and most cars picked up food for two families.
In addition to her work with The RAIN Group, Bridget handles logistics for the Focus Women’s Conference each year.
“I love all the details and handle the schedule along with the tables, chairs and other things like that,” she says. “Focus does such important work. I love getting to be a part of bringing women in from all over the place and telling them, ‘This is your day.’”
Bridget and her husband Thomas have two children—Cecilia, 13, and Colin, 9. She wants both of them to grow up watching a strong, kind, capable female role model.
“I want my daughter to see that women can be powerful—not powerful in a ‘Get in there and take over’ kind of way—but women who are powerful through grace, kindness and love,” she says. “I also want my son to be able to see that women are important and women can take care of business. I want my son to know his mom is just as powerful as his dad. We’re teaching them both to be feminists, and that’s not a dirty word. It just means we have the same rights and the same abilities.”
Bridget’s dreams of raising a confident daughter who knows her power and worth seem to be coming true. Cecilia is a member of the first all-female Boy Scout Troop in Mobile and is working to complete her Eagle Scout certification. In addition, four years ago, Cecilia co-founded a café inside a church in West Mobile that serves meals for people facing food insecurity. The café offers a meat option as well as a vegan option.
“They cook the meals each week and serve them on china plates with real silverware,” Bridget says. “People need food, but they also need encouragement and for someone to smile at them and tell them it’s going to be OK.”