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Following My Mentor’s Footsteps

July 19, 2019

By Dominique Footes, ECMC Foundation Fellow

The one piece of advice that I have always consistently given my students has been to find someone within their future career field to help them craft their career plans. I have given them the full-blown speech about the importance of having and nurturing a network for their personal advancement. I must have preached this dozens of times each semester.  However, I realized at the beginning of the Postsecondary Leadership Success Program at ACTE – Sponsored by the ECMC Foundation that while I was pushing my students to connect, I was following short of my own advice myself.

I just haven’t had much of the time to think about reaching out to someone or even what questions that I should be asking for myself personally.  My work has always required a strong focus on the needs of my students or our institution’s secondary partners.  If they were doing well, I felt like I was doing well at my job. This wasn’t necessarily complacency - I was going to conferences, listening to webinars, and reading regularly to stay up to date with relevant news.  I just thought I was doing enough building myself on my own given my hectic schedule. The reality is that I needed to do way more than I what I was previously doing. I needed someone to provide guidance and help me with asking the right questions to be better in my own career.

My struggle wasn’t selecting a person to be my mentor. I immediately knew that I wanted to ask Kim R. Ford because she knows the District of Columbia and its needs. She began at the University of the District of Columbia Community College as the Director of the College Access and Readiness for Everyone (C.A.R.E.) Program and later served as the Dean of Workforce Development and Lifelong Learning.  She was also the Acting Assistant Secretary in the Office of Career and Technical Education for the U.S. Department of Education. She now works as the President and CEO of Martha’s Table, a nonprofit organization that provides food and family services for District of Columbia residents.

I just didn’t know how to ask for someone of that caliber to step into the role of mentor. I was intimidated because I was asking someone on such a high level to take time out of her busy schedule to talk to me not just about career and technical education, but also about me. I mustered up the courage and asked my boss if she could connect us. I explained the program to Kim and she agreed to participate as my mentor.  Our first meeting was over the phone this past May. She asked me about how my process was going in the program. I told her about my project proposal, which focuses heavily on student support for CTE program collaborations, retention, and completion. Kim talked about her prior experience as Director and Dean at the community college. She told me about initiatives and partnerships that she was able to forge while in both roles. Her past experiences provided me with greater context about navigating and push with goals for my project in the future.

A burning question that I had for Kim was how she was able to climb the latter so successfully. She said very genuinely that she always pursued things that she was passionate about throughout her career.  She shared her wins and losses, but also focused on the lessons that she learned as part of her process.  Her reflection made me realized she and I had was valuing the importance of providing people with meaningful opportunities for their advancement.

My bigger take away from our conversation was the importance of investing personal time and acting on passion. She gave me things to think about that required genuine reflection as we talked about my own career growth. I also realized that by taking the time to invest and reflect with the help of proper guidance, I was building myself to become a better educational professional for the people that I interact with and serve daily. 

I see the value of the mentorship component that the Postsecondary Leadership Success Program at ACTE – Sponsored by the ECMC Foundation has built in as part of its program. I am deeply grateful and looking forward for my continued growth and development with the help of my mentor’s guidance. 

About the ECMC Foundation Fellow

Dominique Footes is a Program Coordinator of College Readiness and Partnerships University of the District of Columbia Community College. She is an ECMC Foundation Fellow of the Postsecondary Leadership Success Program (PLSP) at ACTE – Sponsored by the ECMC Foundation. The program is part of ECMC Foundation’s CTE Leadership Collaborative Initiative.

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