Personal Brands We Love: Duanecia Evans, Education Reformer

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IMG_8752 With a strong commitment to educational equity, social responsibility and community development, Duanecia continuously thrives to extend the lessons of her own life experiences through mentorship, workshops and extending her voice through social media.

During her time at the University of Bridgeport in Bridgeport, Connecticut - Duanecia noticed a variety of similarities between Bridgeport and Harlem, her hometown; encouraging her to stay in the city beyond graduation and lend a hand in efforts to improve the city, particularly those related to education reform.

Duanecia graduated from the University of Bridgeport in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications and currently works at Teach For America on the Connecticut regional team.

Describe your personal brand in three words

graceful, polished, formidable

30 second elevator pitch, Go! I have a love and unwavering commitment to equity, to mindfulness and to growth. As manager of Community Engagement at Teach For America - Connecticut, a game-changing teacher preparation and leadership development program; I have the privilege of shaping the training, development and leadership experiences of 190 current teachers and over 500 alumni across six cities in Connecticut. Most meaningfully, my work gives me the opportunity to build relationships and connect people who care about the prosperity of our children. Mostly, boys and girls who look like me and share my life’s walk. I am professionally challenged by the intricacies of our nation and how systems of oppression in their skillful design, have kept and continue to keep children and families from living their best lives. I walk with scars earned through poverty. It took a lot of time and strength for me to realize and accept what it meant to be born and grow in zip code 10031. I spend my days ensuring that I, and those around me lift as we climb. I firmly believe that all children are able to break cycles, achieve and take their rightful place as today's leaders, they shouldn’t have to wait until tomorrow. I will work relentlessly until this is true.

Current position and your typical work day

I manage Community and Digital Engagement at Teach For America - Connecticut. Most days I spend my time divided between Stamford, Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford and Windham building relationships with community members, leaders, veteran educators, and students. Through this, I am able to align Teach For America - Connecticut's long-term intent with our daily actions and interactions to meaningfully engage and learn from communities. Additionally, I actively seek to amplify teacher, alumni and community voice through the management of our regional website (tfaconnecticut.org), cross-promote community events and opportunities through our social media channels, as well as, develop and maintain best practices, policies and procedures for Teach For America - Connecticut's external facing content.

How have you developed your brand? I've developed my brand by taking advantage of every opportunity to be at the table. In 2012, I had the opportunity to meet and learn from one of my personal heroes, Dr. Howard Fuller. He spoke to the necessity of "taking your seat at the table"; not passing on an any opportunity to be in the room and share meaningful insight, experiences and perspective; actively resisting silence. His advice empowered me to stay on my game. The challenging part about being invited to multiple "tables" is that it requires you to remain in the know. Anyone in education knows just how difficult this can be. We are doing "people work", we are passionate about what we do. This passion sometimes creates highly contentious conversations and even polarized environments. However, I believe that we are all well-intentioned, we want what's best for children and families. Guided by this belief, I intentionally spend lots of time gaining perspective and building relationships with people regardless of which side of an issue they may sit on. This allows me to make informed and meaningful decisions and strengthen the conversation, when I am afforded a seat at the table. I am clear that in many rooms, I am often the only woman, the only person of color, the only young voice - I have to show up.

Explain the role that your personal brand played in getting you to where you are today.

I began my first role out of college at Teach For America as Assistant to the Executive Director. It was a phenomenal experience that afforded me the opportunity to work alongside a profound manager and strong team. Through this experience, I was able to learn the ins and outs of our organization, what made it strong and what our opportunities for growth were. It also, gave me a seat at many, many tables - as a listener. Through my listening I was able to observe our need for someone, a team, to manage the ways in which we engage with community and how we approach our program's development, inclusive of community voice and experience. This paired with my degree mass communications, experience with social media and personal role as an active community member directly placed me in the position to design a role for myself: Manager, Community and Digital Engagement. In February 2014, with the support of my team, I began as the first member of our region's Public Affairs and Engagement Team.

How did you garner press coverage and media attention? This is honestly an area of growth for me this year. I have appeared in publications including the New Haven Register, however, I have yet to take full advantage of press and media. I enjoy being behind the scenes and while I see media as an key lever - I haven't paid close attention to putting myself in front of the camera. It's more important for me to see a parent, student or teacher at the forefront, being vocal about the wins and areas of growth in their community.

Personal brands attract opportunities. What has been the greatest opportunity you have gotten? Of my many meaningful opportunities, the greatest has been the ability to travel the country, meet and work alongside people from across the world committed to improving the lives of children and families.

What were the steps you took in college that impacted your professional success? I was a very involved college student. Beyond the lecture hall, I served in many positions on student government including Student Body President, I began my journey as a woman of Alpha Kappa Alpha, I planned and organized events in the Bridgeport community - I was always going! This allowed me to understand the power of relationships and community.

What would you say to a young person who wants to work in your industry?

This question brings me to an Angela Davis quote "I'm no longer accepting the things I cannot change...I am changing things I cannot accept." Our generation is responsible for ensuring that our children can live in a world that they're proud of. I would encourage that every young person, not just those interested professionally, stay on top of the issues and commit to resisting silence. Learn about the issues that exist and take your seat at the table!

What can we expect from you in the near future? Along with continued improvement and strengthening of the work of Teach For America, I am excited to roll out my first Young Women's Leadership Development series. I am committed to strengthening the self-esteem and growing the perspectives of young girls and women through goal-setting, positive affirmation and mentorship. The series will roll out in Bridgeport, Connecticut through Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated's ASCEND initiative.

Connect with Duanecia http://duanecia.com | Linkedin | @Duanecia