Alumni Spotlight: Lara Billhimer Fike ’06 is Passionate About Helping Children

Laura Fike, Executive Director of Garrett Mentors, Inc. Laura Fike, Executive Director of Garrett Mentors Inc.

A 2006 Bridgewater College graduate with a B.S. in family and consumer sciences, Laura Billhimer Fike married Jared Fike ’05 in 2006 and began her career in education in the Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools (MCPS) from 2006-2012. She taught second grade from 2006-2008 at Takoma Park Elementary School and went on to teach child and adolescent development in the Sherwood High School family and consumer sciences department from 2008-2012, where she also served as the school’s Student Service Learning Coordinator. 

Fike, whose mother was a teacher for 28 years, says she has always been passionate about education and helping children, thanks to numerous teachers, coaches and mentors she had along the way, including Bridgewater professors Dr. Nancy St. John, Dr. David Coffman, Dr. Karen Fritz and Dr. Sharon Yunus and Bridgewater softball coach Donnie Fulk.

Although she originally came to Bridgewater to play softball, she felt called to pursue other activities on and off campus, including volunteering and mentoring through the organizations she was involved in, and decided not to play. Fulk saw her on campus one day and told her he was proud of the work she was doing and that she should be proud of making the decision she did. She never forgot that moment.

“I learned the value of listening to my heart and that it’s important to step back sometimes, re-evaluate goals and priorities and readjust as needed to carry out what I am meant to be doing,” she says.

After relocating to Garrett County, Md., Fike became the Executive Director of Garrett Mentors Inc. in 2013. Garrett Mentors, which has grown significantly under her leadership, is a nonprofit organization pairing local PreK-6 students with volunteer mentors who meet the children once a week during lunchtime at their schools. Mentors provide emotional and social support, help with schoolwork and become trusted adults in the children’s lives. Working in collaboration with local businesses and organizations, the school system and the Garrett Mentors Board of Directors, Fike spearheads the organization’s fundraising efforts, recruits volunteers and much more. 

In 2022, Fike was named to the Maryland Daily Record’s list of Top 40 Leading Women Under 40 in the state for her work with Garrett Mentors. She was acknowledged for her leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, leading the organization to be creative and flexible in resources and programming to continue connecting with the children they serve outside of school. Mentors and students participated in a pen pal program to keep in touch and took advantage of other unique opportunities.

“Through my work as a teacher and as director of Garrett Mentors, as well as volunteer work both locally and at an orphanage in South America, I have had the blessing of working with many children and young people who come out of difficult situations and seeing them become stronger and better equipped for futures they may never have imagined,” she says. “It’s amazing and encouraging to witness and an honor to be part of that process.” Fike currently serves on the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Community Trust Foundation Garrett County Advisory Council and the Garrett County Public Schools Career and Technical Education Local Advisory Council. She previously chaired the Garrett County Chamber’s Workforce Development Taskforce and served on the Maryland State Chamber of Commerce.

— By Olivia Shifflett