Carrying on the Tradition

Nikia Fletcher met the love of her life in Mansfield, but didn’t date him for 10 years, and then didn’t marry him for another 10.

It all makes sense when you realize they met as children. “We’ve actually known each other since birth,” says Nikia. She and her now-husband, Antonio, started dating in 9th grade, but like most high school relationships, went their separate ways after graduation. While he stayed in Mansfield, Nikia left for college at the University of Akron and didn’t return for a decade. “I came back to marry my high school sweetheart,” says Nikia. “I always knew I would raise my kids in Mansfield.” The reason? The people.

“Everybody knows everybody,” says Nikia. “People call my husband ‘Fletch.’ Nobody is going to let anything happen to Fletch’s boys. It’s so reassuring being able to raise our kids the same way our families raised us.”

For Nikia, those memories of growing up in Mansfield are still fresh in her mind and heart. “The thing I remember most is working with my grandma. She had fruit trees and a large garden that we’d tend all summer long,” recalls Nikia. “It’s so important to us that we keep family traditions going. I live a stone’s throw from my mom and aunt. We have a big extended family and just love each other.”

Nikia doesn’t just love being friends with her family. In Mansfield, your friends feel like family. “It’s small enough that people really know each other,” says Nikia. “I love that because I have three boys and I want people to watch out for my kids.”

Having spent most of her life in Mansfield, Nikia has seen a lot of changes. She believes right now is one of the most exciting times. “The word I use is ‘bustling,’ she says. “There are so many people who see the vision, see what Mansfield can be and are fighting relentlessly to get there. We have fearless people who say ‘let’s try this, let’s try that, I’ve seen this work elsewhere, let’s try it here.’” Though she’s too humble to brag about it, Nikia is one of those people. She is the director of college and career readiness at Mansfield Senior High School, and serves on the Richland County Foundation board. She plays a key role in inspiring young people to stay in Mansfield, or motivating them to — like she did — come back home.

“I love the culture,” says Nikia. “There’s an energy here. Anybody can find their niche here. But at the end of the day, I love that it’s just a chill place to live and raise my family.”