Julie Highsmith could be called one of those community treasures that late President George H.W. Bush referred to as one of “a thousand points of light.”
According to Principal Jennifer Makowski at H.L. Johnson Elementary School, she is one of the best PTO presidents in the school’s history. She owns a thriving business employing about 50 nurses, and she also volunteers as a member of the Royal Palm Beach Education Advisory Board, where board liaison Councilman Jeff Hmara lauds her “fantastic level of balance.”
Last, but not least, she is a fully dedicated wife and the mother of three girls under eight years old.
“Our school had its first Fall Festival in many years, thanks primarily to Julie’s hardworking leadership of the PTO,” Makowski said, continuing to praise Highsmith for her commitment, dedication and leadership, as well as for her organizational skills. “She is the type of leader who wants to include everyone. She genuinely cares about the kids and loves to help the community.”
Royal Palm Beach Vice Mayor Selena Samios has a daughter who attends H.L. Johnson and volunteers on the PTO, so she has worked alongside Highsmith on several events and fundraisers. “I think Julie is wonderful. She is an exceptional mother, friend and community servant,” Samios said. “She has been extremely helpful with me navigating a child in elementary school.”
Highsmith and a friend started Fidelity Home Nursing Services, based in Wellington, 15 years ago.
“My greatest business success was realizing that I could run my business alone,” she recalled. “Moving forward after losing my business partner was nearly impossible, but I did it. Now 11 years later, I’m still doing it, largely because I truly love what I do — but also because just before she passed, she told me I could.”
How does being an entrepreneur, PTO president and a community leader compare to raising her daughters?
“Mothering three beautiful girls doesn’t compare to anything I have ever done,” she said. “It is the most challenging, yet most rewarding thing I have ever experienced. Helping these tiny humans become successful adults is an ongoing adventure, and I love it.”
Highsmith doesn’t like to take shortcuts, especially at something as important as parenting. As a healthcare professional, she knows that the medical community almost universally recommends breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics has noted that breastfeeding protects against a variety of diseases and is also a great benefit to the environment and society. Breastfeeding children are sick less often, and the parents miss less work.
With a busy schedule like Highsmith’s, missing work is not an option, so she is an avid proponent and advocate for breastfeeding.
“None of my children have ever used a bottle or even a pacifier,” she said. “My grandmother taught me that breast milk is the heavy cream that helps raise chubby, healthy babies.”
She is currently breastfeeding her third child, Abby, who just turned five months old.
Besides her impressive organizational skills, one of the reasons Highsmith is able to successfully balance so many demands is multi-tasking. One of the ways she manages time is to take Abby to long meetings, where the infant mostly lies asleep or smiling, usually unseen from public view as she nestles in Highsmith’s lap up behind the dais.
Members of the Royal Palm Beach educational, business and civic communities have all met Abby. “Of course, I take Abby to the Education Advisory Board, and even council meetings — that’s where her milk station is.”
When Abby gets hungry during a long meeting, Highsmith discreetly feeds her, even while participating in meetings on the dais.
Hmara, a retired U.S. Army colonel and Vietnam veteran, noted that attitudes have changed regarding breastfeeding.
“I have zero problem with that,” he said. “It’s a normal, healthy behavior, and there’s only a few places in the world that have any cultural hang-ups with breastfeeding in public.”
Breastfeeding in public is now legally protected in all 50 states. Hmara added that Highsmith is doing a fantastic job, and he is pleased to serve with her on the board.
Parenting is a team effort in the Highsmith family. While mom is with Abigail at meetings, eight-year-old Addison and four-year-old Makenzie are usually home in La Mancha with their dad, Bill Highsmith, an IT professional.
Her husband is as impressed as everyone else about his wife’s ability to accomplish so much and do it all well.
“Honestly, I don’t know how she does it all,” he said. “She has a drive that I have never seen before. She makes time for work, PTO, the village and to top it off, she makes all her accomplishments look easy. She is the most amazing woman I have ever met.”
Highsmith treats leading a balanced life as almost an art form. So, there’s more to her story than parenting, work and community service. When asked for an interesting fact about her that most people don’t know, she was stumped, but only for a minute.
“Something most people don’t know is my husband and I are members of the 501st Legion, a fan-based Star Wars costuming group. We have screen-accurate costumes we made ourselves that we wear to various events, mostly fundraisers,” she said.
Highsmith has advice for other active moms.
“Do good things, and good things will happen,” she said. “To the active moms, keep up the good work! And get involved with what your kids are doing, it matters to them.”