April Locklear offers addicts options to lead productive lives

LUMBERTON, N.C. – April Whittemore Locklear offers people with substance abuse addictions options when they think there are none, and hope for a future they often can’t see. Locklear is a clinical counselor who offers substance abuse services for Robeson Health Care Corporation.

In addition to helping people succeed through her counseling, she and her husband, Chad, have a successful photography and graphic design business called Eye7 Images and Graphic Design. Locklear is also available for inspirational speaking engagements through her business, Pick Cans, offering positive approaches in an often negative world.


 Chad and April Locklear

Locklear, a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, grew up in Fayetteville, a military community about 45 minutes from her tribe’s community. As a child, that 45-minute drive was an entire world away with different culture, foods, teachings and life ways.

As a counselor, Locklear works with women and their children offering outpatient and residential services. She also counsels women who have transitioned into the residential program from the states’ first maternal perinatal treatment center, Our House, located in Pembroke, N.C.

Locklear attended Campbell University earning a bachelor degree in education and in 2006 her master’s degree in mental health counseling. Returning to school, she earned her second master’s degree in human resource development in 2008.

She always comes back to what she has tried to run from. “If you like counseling and clinical work it takes a lot out of you, because you care. I left counseling because I got so involved in it at one time, and went to work writing grants for the tribe. I was there for three years and found myself coming back to counseling because I missed it. I enjoy creating ideas and options for people so they are able to see that they do have choices. I hope that through my counseling I am helping them to see what choices they have and allowing them to gain some patience as well.”

While growing up she spent weekends and summers with her maternal grandmother in Indian country. Walking the roadside picking up cans together, she learned some valuable lessons listening to her grandmother’s jokes and stories. This is why she calls her business “Picking Cans,” her symbolism for picking the positives in life, finding solutions and a way to remember the time she spent with her grandmother.

April's mother, Sandra Hunt Whittemore, Chad and April at INPRO in Oklahoma for the award ceremony.

“One of my workshops was called, ‘Tales of an Urban Indian.’ It was about my experiences in a high school I attended. There were about 30 Native students there; it was a rainbow of colors, accents and cultures. It was absolutely beautiful. Then you go south 45 minutes to the all Native school on the reservation. I went there while in college to observe for some of my classes. My head was turning in so many directions my neck hurt afterwards. I had never seen anything like it before because I wasn’t exposed to that. It was a shock that just down I-95 was a totally different world.”

Her biggest inspiration and role model is her mother. A corporate trainer for a national insurance company, her mother took her to conferences and exposed her to the corporate world while modeling how to speak and interact with others.

“My mother grew up in an Indian community and witnessed the KKK, and was one of the children who weren’t allowed into a store because it was white only. There are so many things that

In 1998, at 24 years old, April Whittemore was Miss Indian World.

shaped her that also shaped me, even though I didn’t experience them directly. When she was 17 she was accepted into medical school in South Carolina. She stayed for one semester before coming back home because the racial tensions were so bad. She eventually went on to become a nurse practitioner.”

Locklear remembers her mother continuing her education at Emory University in Atlanta to become one of only four enterostomal therapists in the state at the time, and the only Indian.

“As a child she walked to the drug store in Fairmont to pick up some medicine for her father. The drug store was owned by a white man and he would throw the medicine out the back door to her. Because she was an Indian she wasn’t allowed into the store. Later, as a nurse in the city, she was making her rounds and walked in on the same man who wouldn’t allow her to come into his store. She asked him if he remembered her. He said no. She told him she was the little girl who wasn’t good enough to come into his store and that he used to throw medicine at her.

They talked and she could tell he felt ashamed and embarrassed. She told him the experience had made her a better person and that she wasn’t angry about it. It had motivated her to do more with her life”

Locklear, 35, and her husband, are expecting their first child, a boy, in March. Recently, she received the 2009 “40 Under 40” award presented by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development at its 34th Annual Indian Progress in Business Event.

“I appreciate the award and am honored by it, but I know there are many people just in my community alone that are trailblazers and visionaries.” Locklear continues to counsel women and children and looks forward to telling her son stories and sharing with him a culture rich in traditions and history.