SYNERGY 2020- A Collaborative Guide to Economic Discovery

Page 1

Issue 2 | 2020

SYNERGY A collaborative guide to economic discovery

Reinvent yourself Learn how to get out of a rut and put some vigor back into your lifestyle.

Protect And Serve Follow Captain Paris Owens' career from police officer to community influencer.

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C O N T Spotlight

Black Greek Experience........................12 Story by: Heaven Taylor-Wynn

Diaunte Jenkins

Consulting Firm Tips............................58

Performer, dancer, director, Diaunte Jenkins now tacks on entrepreneur.

Story by: Sophie Lancaster


Story by: Shareen Baptiste

Reinvent Yourself.....................................86 Story by: Michelle Bloom-Lugo

Heaven Taylor-Wynn, Staff





Greg and Winston Bradley

Nicole Johnson

Greg follows in his father’s footsteps and finds succes through business and faith.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer Nicole Johnson, she’s using her story to help others. Samantha Chery, Staff

Samantha Chery, Staff

Paris Owens

Protect And Serve.


Wealthy Mindset.......................................50



Paris Owens has overcome many struggles and barricades to become the first black captain at the Gainesville Police Department. Learn about her journey. Virginia Grant, Staff

Spotlight Nyimah Boles Robinson.........................16 Story by: Samantha Chery

Struggles to Success...............................44



Story by: Catisha Turner


Pablo Casilimas.........................................52

Two entrepreneurs grow their businesses with CareerSource North Central Florida.

Story by: Staff Writer

Staff Writer

E N T S Spotlight


Alexi Wilcox



Alexi Wilcox always wanted to do something big in his life. Now, he’s found the way to do it. Jacki Donaldson, Staff

Naima Brown


Education has always been a strong motivater in her life, now she educates others. Voleer Thomas, Staff




Professional Social Media

Gwenuel and Cynthia Mingo Partners in life, Dr. Gwenuel W. and Cynthia Mingo have worked for 56 years to better the world.

You never know who is looking at your social media and what you post. Here are ways to keep it professional. Erika Dawkins, Staff

Jacki Donaldson, Staff




Being A Good Leader

There are many ways and paths to being a good leader. Here are some things to consider and tips to get you there.

Leah Cohen

Leah Cohen fights to create a fair food system. Her struggle is hard, but it must be done.

Heaven Taylor-Wynn

Heaven Taylor-Wynn, Staff


Matthew Bowman





Matthew Bowman is a man of many hats. See his career as a pilot, consultant, farmer and more. Jacki Donaldson, Staff

Seyi Falade


Seyi Falade is shaking up the industry as she breaks down sexist leadership roles. Staff Writer


Growing Our Own Corn Four University of Florida administrators discuss the culture and community of Gainesville. Antonio Farias, Guest Writer

STAFF Heaven Taylor-Wynn Heaven is a young media professional who aspires to cultivate dialogue and amplify voices of color as an entertainment host and correspondent. Staff Writer

Jacki Donaldson Jacki has been writing and editing since 2004, when a scary breast cancer diagnosis lead her to start blogging about health and wellness and then happily spiraled into a career in publishing.

Erika Dawkins Erika is the founder of It’s Only Write Communications and the head of social media for Allstar Financial Group. She currently resides in Columbia, South Carolina.

Staff Writer

Devoun Cetoute Devoun is a real-time reporter at the Miami Herald and freelance print desinger. Designer

Staff Writer

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Voleer Thomas Voleer is a College of Journalism and Communications alumna from the University of Florida. Thomas is currently a photojournalist and reporter at WCJB-TV in Gainesville. Staff Writer

Samantha Chery Samantha is a second-year journalism student at the University of Florida. She is a staff writer, copy editor for PRISM Honors Magazine, and she contributed to The Independent Florida Alligator and Zion Magazine. Staff Writer

Sophie Lancaster Sophie is a Wealth Manager with Heritage Wealth Management. Securities and advisory services offered through Cetera Advisors LLC, member FINRA/SIPC, a broker/dealer and a Registered Investment Adviser. Staff Writer

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Javan Brown (center) leads the My Brother's Keeper (MBK) program at Santa Fe College. He connects mentors like Hakeem Abdulmalik (far left) and Edgar Jones (far right) with opportunities to support young black males in our community. Abdulmalik, a computer science major, teaches robotics and coding to third graders. Jones graduated SF and is a working professional, but continues to volunteer with MBK.

Mat ters

There are young men in our community who could use your personal support and professional guidance. Learn how you can become a mentor with My Brother’s Keeper at Santa Fe College. For more information, visit



The Bradleys:

Story by: Samantha Chery

one and the same W

orking as a consultant in

also participated in. For Winston,

of his father, he said he learned that

Atlanta, Greg Bradley was

helping the community he was born

honesty, integrity and respect are

living the life he always

and raised in came naturally.

necessary to succeed in business.

wanted — until he recognized the

Both father and son also loved the

“I respect him more than I respect

different life that he needed.

historically black institutions they

any other person,” he said.

He said God urged him to leave the

attended; Winston graduated from

While a lot of his affiliations mirror

corporate world and buy the local

Bethune-Cookman and Greg graduated

his father’s, the pair had different life

Gainesville Allstate agency that his

from Florida A&M. At their respective

experiences as well. Winston Bradley

father, the Rev. Winston Bradley,

schools, they said they proudly pledged

spent most of his life in Gainesville.

retired from about 20 years ago.

to the same fraternity, Omega Psi Phi.

He briefly lived in Cocoa, Florida,

Greg’s fate has resembled his

Out of all their commonalities, Greg

and a friend’s offer to become an

father’s many times throughout his

said their Christ-like values were

Allstate agent brought him back to his

life. Winston was a member of multiple

the most important. Because of his

hometown. In contrast, Greg Bradley

boards at Santa Fe College that Greg

Christian upbringing and the example

traveled nationally and internationally


Greg & Winston Bradley


and put on my heart to do, I will not be able to die a good death,” he said. “No matter how much money I make, no matter how many positions I have, it’s not going to matter.” But he didn’t move back immediately. In October 2017, Greg attended Leadership at the Peak, an intense weeklong program he described as

What do I need to do to die a good death?

“Myers-Briggs on steroids.” After days of hiking, yoga and dieting, the participants had to write notes to their future selves. After deep reflection, Greg was certain that Gainesville was where he needed to be. Although living close to family was a perk of coming to Gainesville, Greg cites God’s plan as the sole reason why he decided to move back to his to pursue his dream of becoming a

best for his future and was going to be

hometown. As he began to plan his

leading business consultant.

successful in any endeavor he pursued.

return to Gainesville, Greg learned that

After graduating from FAMU, Greg

“I wasn’t ready to move back to

the Allstate office that his father retired

Bradley worked as a financial analyst

Gainesville because at the time, I was

from and offered to sell him years

for Hewlett Packard in California.

25. I just moved from California,” Greg

earlier was on the market. This was

Once he gained enough experience,

said. “I had just learned that the world

further confirmation for him, and he

he applied and was accepted into the

is not black and white. I had learned

took advantage of the opportunity to

business program at his top-choice

that the world truly is a melting pot.”

purchase the Allstate agency.

school, the University of Virginia, on a

Greg graduated from UVA and

When Greg’s father learned the

full scholarship. As Greg was entering

continued to pursue his dreams

news, he was surprised and happy for

UVA, his father was considering

of corporate success. To continue

his son, who now uses his experiences

retiring and offered the Allstate agency

enhancing his business and leadership

in problem-solving and building

to his son. But Greg declined because

skills, he participated in the Leadership

relationships to excel in his new

he had other plans and the first step

Atlanta program. This program

position. Greg never thought he would

was in reach.

provided useful information for his

move back to Gainesville and resisted

Reverend Bradley remembers being

career, but there was one question

many times. Now that he has, he

supportive, “I wanted him to do what

asked that provoked him: “What do I

admits to be happy and excited to see

he wanted to do.” The Reverend wasn’t

need to do to die a good death?”

where God will take him on this new

upset about his son’s decision because

”Then I realized, if I don’t go back


he knew Greg was doing what was

to Gainesville, what God has told me



Reflecting on Black Greek Experience through the NPHC. They are the

through leadership as well. He

following: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity,

shared he was challenged to “learn

Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority,

how to communicate with other

Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.,

organizations on a business level to

This story includes interviews from two

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Delta

develop comprehensive plans for the

presidents of National Pan-Hellenic

Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Phi Beta

betterment of my local community.”

Council Greek-lettered organizations at

Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Sigma Gamma

At UF leadership is essential

the University of Florida:

Rho Sorority, Inc., and Iota Phi Theta

wherever you turn. These young black

Christyna Conway is a third year

Fraternity, Inc.

leaders are charged with not only

architecture student at the University

On the campus of a predominantly

uniting their various organizations

of Florida. She is the president of the

white institution, black Greek life can

with one another, but managing their

Iota Lambda Chapter of Alpha Kappa

sometimes go overlooked in the grand

chapter. Rooted in sisterhood and

Alpha Sorority, Inc.

scheme of things. However, when

brotherhood, things aren’t always that

Keith McIntosh is a fourth year health

speaking to any member of these


science student on the pre-dental track.

organizations you’ll learn there’s an

Conway said leading a group of more

He is the president of the Zeta Phi

undying love, loyalty, and pride in their

than 30 women has been interesting

Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity,

hearts for the organizations to which

for her.


they’ve dedicated their lives.

“You have to learn how to lead


Christyna Conway joined Alpha

with grace but how to also separate

oward University was the

Kappa Alpha as a college sophomore.

business and relationships,” he said.

birthplace of this governing

Shortly thereafter she took advantage

And relationships are key in this

body on May 10, 1930.

of the opportunity to grow her

entire experience. It can be difficult to

Its stated mission and purpose is

leadership skills.

relate to students on a campus like UF

“Unanimity of thought and action

“I immediately was driven to be on

where most don’t look like those who

as far as possible in the conduct of

the executive board,” she said.

are members of these organizations.

Greek letter collegiate fraternities and

She explains she was encouraged

According to McIntosh, he finds the

sororities, and to consider problems

by older members in her chapter

most value in the interconnected

of mutual interest to its member

to pursue their public relations

community that supports and uplifts

organizations.” Since its inception

committee. Although it’s not the path

one another.

the National Pan-Hellenic Council

she saw for herself, she ultimately

He said “[the] Black Greek student

has strived to unite historically black

unlocked her creativity as a result.

[experience] enables me to have a

Greek-lettered organizations. It’s the

The architecture major said she

home away from home.”

governing body that was designed to

learned she cares deeply about the

Despite their different colors,

foster brotherhood and sisterhood

brand of her sorority, and with that she

calls, letters, and signs, each Greek

and serve as conduits by which action

applied her skills to enhance it to the

organization is striving for the same

plans could be formulated to influence

best of her ability.

goal. These groups are founded on

social action and change in the black

She said “I am a creative, with much

the bases of scholastic achievement,


more range than I ever knew I had.”

sisterhood or brotherhood, service,

At the University of Florida, eight of

Similarly, Keith McIntosh

and community and continue to strive

the nine organizations are represented

uncovered new things about himself

to fulfill their founders’ missions.

Story by: Heaven Taylor-Wynn






lot of professionals tend to think the things they do and post on their personal social media accounts, separates them from the eyes of potential hiring managers or their current employer simply because they set their account to private. What many don’t realize is that employers are using creative ways to get a closer look into who you are on social media. Some employers will go as far as having the hiring manager or HR staff do research to determine if they have any mutual friends with the potential new hire and contacting the mutual friend on social media to give them a closer look into the things you post on social media. This can also apply to business owners, as potential customers may also be scoping out the owner to get a better idea of the person behind the business. Here are a few tips to help you keep it professional on social media:

Stay away from certain topics. Posting things that spark an argument vs. a discussion can make you look combative to potential employers. Political opinions are another big part of this. While your post may have 100% positive intention, that doesn’t prevent someone from hijacking your post and turning it into something it was not intended to be.


Keeping your social media professional Don’t put everything on social media. As hard as it may be to hold back, every meme that may be funny, may not be

Story by: Erika Dawkins

Check your privacy settings. Set your privacy settings that requires your approval before someone can tag you in something or before something

professional. In instances where you can’t keep it to yourself, it is better to share it to your story vs. giving it a permanent place on your profile. This includes unsavory photos of yourself or others and using offensive language. If you wouldn’t show it to or say it in your place of employment, don’t share it.

can be shared to your profile. While you’re editing these settings, check to see whether you allow cross-site posting (for example, if your Facebook account is set to automatically post to Twitter) and turn these settings off to ensure one ill-considered post does not turn into many.

Complaining about work.

Keep a close eye on the people you accept as friends or are currently friends with on social media. If you have some rather questionable acquaintances on your Facebook page (let’s say that person who primarily has pictures featuring illegal activities, or someone who posts unbecoming stuff on your page) remove them.

Don’t post comments complaining about your current job. Whether you are posting about dreading going to work the next morning or how ready you are to get away from the office for the day, it does not set a professional tone for those reading it.

Clean up your connections.

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making of Good Skin. “I became an ingredient-phobe and an ingredient whore,” she said. “I can tell what an ingredient is because I learned her bible for ingredients.” In addition to retail, she also worked in supply chain management and trained beauty advisers across Florida to experience the full scope of beauty Story by: Samantha Chery

sales. While Robinson may seem to have the setup for a picture-perfect business, her life leading up to Good Skin was riddled with bumps and

yimah Boles Robinson sees

beauty industry.


2020 as a good year for Good

She began her career as a seasonal

As a former sharecropper’s daughter,


associate for Bath & Body Works,

she grew up poor in Harlem during

Robinson, 35, launched Good Skin,

but her passion for natural beauty

the crack epidemic of the 1980s. The

a homegrown black skin care line, in

products blossomed from working as a

apartment her family lived in was

September of 2018. With the collection

store manager for The Body Shop

across from a five-story crack house,

of products now in a few stores across

The brand’s founder, Anita Roddick,

and the playground adjacent to the

Florida, the businesswoman hopes to

inspired Robinson to use simple and

building was littered with cocaine vials,

expand the brand to Washington and

straightforward substances in the

New York by the end of 2020. “I always wanted something that was naturally based that I could use but wouldn’t harm my skin,” she said. Based in Gainesville, she set out to address skin problems specific to women of color. Five years and dozens of trial formulas later, she accomplished her goal by creating rejuvenating concoctions that heal skin and leave a lasting glow, she said. To craft the products, such as antioxidant gel cleanser and bioactive facial oil, she infused her 16 years of experience from different sectors of the



she said.

about being a woman of faith in

her latest book, “Gleam,” and continue

As a result of sexual abuse she said

entrepreneurship,” said Petra Pindar,

her search for new stores to stock with

she endured as a child, she dealt with

founder of A Few Good Thoughts.

Good Skin.

low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts

“That was good for those who

For now, her bathroom mirror at

in her adolescent years.

wanted to start businesses or who

home is covered in Post-it notes with

Much more recently, after she

are in business and trying to find the

positive affirmations, and she keeps

stopped working for other beauty

balance between their faith and their

a card on her dashboard with her top

brands in 2018, her monthly income

work and how to make that effective.”

five goals.

dipped below the federal poverty level,

Pindar has been able to appreciate

She said, “There are many days that

and she had to rely on savings, her

the businesswoman’s transparency.

I’ve cried, but they’ve been tears of

work at Robinson Financial Group and

“As someone who’s always giving

joy because I see how far I’ve come

strict budgeting to stay afloat, she said.

advice, I don’t necessarily have a ton

mentally and emotionally.”

she found therapy in journaling and saying positive affirmations, which later led her to write self-published books, “Prettiest of Them All” and “Real Beauty in the Raw.”

There are many days that I’ve cried, but they’ve been tears of joy

But in the midst of her struggles,

She wanted to empower other women to make real change in their

of people that I can just call up and be

lives, so she started motivational

like, ‘Hey, I need your help. I need your

speaking at churches and community

perspective,’ and she’s just immediately

events catered for young women.

like, ‘I’m available,’” Pindar said.

In April 2019, she shared advice with

Although Robinson has slowed down

members of A Few Good Thoughts, a

as she prepares to give birth in January,

local women’s ministry.

she hopes to get back to business soon

“Nyimah came and talked

afterward. In 2020, she will release

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ver since he was a kid, Alexi Wilcox wanted to do something big. Big like Roy Donahue “Don” Peebles, the real estate entrepreneur, author, and political activist that Black Enterprise named one of the “Business Trailblazers and Titans of Black America.” And big like Tyler Perry, the actor, playwright, filmmaker, and comedian that Forbes has listed as one of the highest-paid men in entertainment. Alexi defines big as taking bold steps and not letting the world dictate how he thinks, acquiring the skills to help himself and others, and doing what’s right for the community while paving the way for others to do the same. Idols like Donahue and Perry inspired the Gainesville native and one of three children who lost his mother when he was 11 and moved around a lot in his early years (he attended seven elementary schools, three middle schools, and two high schools). But the credit for overcoming adversity goes entirely to Alexi, the 29-yearold previous executive director of the local Park Meadows Health and Rehabilitation Center, a 154-bed skilled nursing facility. After his mother passed and without a relationship with his father at the time, Alexi moved in with his grandparents while his brothers went to live with other family members. Alexi’s grandparents expected him to work hard in school and stay out of trouble, and they allowed him to chart


Story by: Jacki Donaldson

his course after he graduated from Gainesville High School in 2008. Alexi went right into a summer program at Santa Fe, where he became a student leader and earned his Associate of Arts degree. He then spent a year and a half working on his bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Florida (UCF) before returning home due to financial issues. After he regrouped, he went to Florida A&M University and graduated with a degree in healthcare administration. Currently, Alexi is back at UCF, where he is pursuing his Executive Master of Health Administration degree — and working full-time at a sub-acute skilled nursing facility. Alexi manages a multi-million-dollar budget and oversees a team of 225 employees, ranging from nurses and therapists to professionals in food and nutrition, environmental services, and administration. He spends a portion of his time in public relations, visiting at hospitals and attending community events, but what he finds most rewarding is connecting with his clientele. “You don’t know their life until you sit with them,” he said. “I visit with them a few times a week, and I grow from their stories and use their experiences to create a better system.” One way Alexi works to improve life at his facility is by investing in his employees. “I believe in getting the right people on the bus and finding

their seats later,” he said. “I focus on people, product, and then profit. I don’t always look for the most experienced person; I look for personality and passion because you can’t be in healthcare and not have passion and drive.” Alexi also works to enhance the quality of life for his clientele. His greatest accomplishment to date is opening the doors to Park Meadows’ previously locked memory care unit as studies show that keeping patients confined leads to behavioral problems. “Opening the doors was the best thing I could have done so far in my short career,” Alexi said. “People are out and about, they seem happier, and they are more involved in activities. Another accomplishment was improving the overall operations at Park Meadows. Giving back to the Gainesville community is also important to Alexi, who is a partner in Black Men United, an organization that sponsors annual backpack drives, youth seminars, and networking for the employed and unemployed. He also brings the



3.565 x 9.625

community inside his workplace. This year, he offered free back-to-school haircuts at Park Meadows for struggling families. He is also affiliated with American College of Healthcare Leaders (ACHE), Florida Healthcare Association (FHCA), and National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE). Alexi aims to one day become a CEO or COO for a healthcare organization.

been building a relationship4c for the past several years. Alexi values the wisdom he has gleaned from everyone who helped to raise him — his mother, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and his father. “I took a piece from everyone,” he said. Alexi does not claim to have figured out everything during his almost three decades of life. “I am not perfect,” he said. “But I try to manage my imperfection well.” And he is bold in what

He also strives to maintain a healthy work-life balance. When he is not busy caring for others, he enjoys cooking and traveling, and he also cherishes time with his village, which now includes his father, with whom he has

he asks from God. “I ask what He wants me to learn and not to let me come out without the tools to help myself and others,” Alexi said. “Because that would be a waste.”


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Diaunte Jenkins





erformer, scholar, dancer, choreographer, creative visionary, director, man of Kappa Alpha Psi, Diaunte Jenkins now tacks on another title-- entrepreneur. The 20-year-old college student is the founder of his own dance company. Growing up a male artist in Liberty City in Miami proved challenging, bringing about several trials and tribulations for the budding performer. With strict parents who valued business and education, he continued to strive toward his making his passion palatable to those in his inner circle. Jenkins’ love for dance and the arts stemmed from his involvement in church during his youth. He was the lead singer, actor, and choreographer for various performances and productions. Today, he’s a sophomore at the University of Florida working toward a bachelor’s

degree in fine arts and the founder of a dance company. When he left Miami Northwestern Senior High School’s Performing and Visual Arts Center he had no intention of leaving his love for the stage behind. When he arrived at UF, he failed to find a dance organization that met his creative desires despite the existence of over a dozen registered dance groups. “I felt that there was no dance org on campus that I could call home and provide me with the tools and styles that I enjoyed,” he said, “then why not create that myself.” Jenkins’ company United We Dance Entertainment, LLC first came on the scene in the Fall 2018 semester, then as a student organization. The collective began with 10 dedicated dancers who heavily supported his vision for the group. He continued as a

student organization for some weeks until his goals outgrew the university’s guidelines. “I didn’t want my vision and creativity to be limited to fit the rules and regulations provided by campus,” he said, “so I decided to just be an independent dance group.” When the movement started gaining traction, he took steps to grow the company. After an audition in January, the company now houses 26 dancers and continues to grow. He officially registered as a limited liability corporation in the earlier part of March in an effort to reduce limitations of the company’s growth. This way, the company is sustainable and has longevity wherever he may choose to relocate when his time at UF ends. Jenkins is not new to this, he’s true to this. His impressive resume includes training through PAVAC,

Diaunte Jenkins


company in Gainesville who’s also a college student. He aims to not only set an example, but also, empower creative youth to chase their dreams. “I feel that my company would grant (youth in the local community) all the tools they will need no matter the age to prepare them for the entertainment industry,” he said. Through this process, he’s learned to be resourceful, manage his time well, and develop meaningful relationships. In the meantime, he’s gearing up for the company’s first showcase production that’ll take place in April.

Ballet, West African, Jazz, Modern, Contemporary and Hip-Hop training from the renowned Traci Young-Byron through the Young Contemporary Dance Theatre, and scholarship acknowledgement from the Alvin Ailey

Extension Program. According to the 20-year-old, he hopes to afford others the same professional training and opportunities he had whilst blazing the trails as the one of a founder of his own dance

SECURE YOUR VOTE IN 2020 ELECTION DATES presidential preference primary election

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You may request a vote-by-mail ballot by contacting our office in person; by mail, phone, fax or email; or through our website ( Any voter can vote by mail. Requests for a vote-by-mail ballot must be received no later than 5 p.m. on the tenth (10th) day before an election. Follow the instructions included with your ballot to complete and return it. Mail your ballot early: Vote-by-mail ballots must be received by the Supervisor of Elections Office no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day. Vote-by-mail ballots can be returned by mail or hand delivered. Mail ballots will not be forwarded, so make sure we have your correct mailing address. You may track the status of your vote-by-mail ballot at

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Story by: Jacki Donaldson

att Bowman was born in

Officer in the Army, urged him to

the Navy. “I told him I’m not going to

the low country of South

give it a try. “My focus was on making

do it,” Matt said. “And then he started

Carolina and a month later,

money,” Matt said. “I wanted to go into

listening to my vision and talking to me

his dad enlisted in the United States

pharmaceutical sales and move to

about aviation. He told me I could do

Army. Matt went on to live with


something big and make a lot of money.

his family all over the world, from

‘Now, you are talking,’ I told him, and

Germany to Puerto Rico and up and down the entire East Coast. When the kid who attended 11 schools in 11 years thought about settling down as an adult, one city came to mind: Miami.

“ instead of selling drugs, I ended up drilling holes in the sky


He wanted a house on the water, a

instead of selling drugs, I ended up drilling holes in the sky.” Matt transitioned from Army ROTC to a Navy scholarship, earning $3,000 per month while in school and also partnering in several entrepreneurial

nice car, and plenty of money. Matt did

Money did arrive for Matt, but not by

ventures, like a nightclub and a

eventually land in Miami but not until

way of pharmaceutical sales. A man

sandwich shop, and balancing his

he’d accomplished many impressive

named Captain Ron Beasley, a two-

academics and leadership pursuits (he


time Navy Recruiter of the Year started

was involved in Student Government

Matt’s first stop was Florida A&M

calling looking for Matt’s college

and was president of his residence

University (FAMU), where he spent

roommate. Eventually, unable to get in

hall). After graduating from FAMU in

three years in Army ROTC. He didn’t

touch with the roommate, he started

1992, he was picked to fly Navy jets.

love the experience, but his dad, an

engaging Matt about opportunities in

His dad, who had always wanted to


Matthew Bowman


fly, was ecstatic. Matt, who moved to Pensacola to train, was pretty thrilled as well. “I knew I wanted to do something exciting with my life, and the Navy provided it.” In 1994, Matt became a winged navigator. He went to Seattle for two years for flight training on the Prowler and then spent the next 15 years off and on doing cruises all over the world — Iraq, Hawaii, Persian Gulf, Bahrain, and . . . Miami, where he served for three years combatting narcotic terrorism in South America. With his wife, Crystal, a pharmacist he met during his last semester at FAMU, Matt had a house on the water, a fancy car, and money. He did not stay in Miami, though.

“ You have to test,

ourselves.” In the spirit of helping, Matt gives to young people through BEYA Stars and Stripes Mentoring Program,

validate and gather market feedback.

which offers an invaluable experience to middle and high school students and

engineering majors from local colleges and universities who engage with

He moved to the Pentagon and served

nearly 100 flag officers of all services

as the Acting Director of Diversity for

in inspirational conversation, guidance,

the Navy, and in 2011, he retired to

and mentorship.

Micanopy, where Crystal’s family lives.

Matt Bowman is a lot of things —

With three kids in tow (daughter Moria

pilot, consultant, farmer, entrepreneur,

was born in 2005, son Matthew in

husband, father, mentor, and more —

2009, and daughter Margaret in 2011),

and he is grateful for those who have

Matt set out on an exciting new path that he is vigorously pursuing today. Matt, now 48 years old, works as a government consultant by day and as a farmer during his free time. He owns a winery in Micanopy, where he makes and sells sweet wines and hosts events. He also farms an organic garden and is in line for a hemp license so he can begin growing and selling to retail outlets. Matt hopes that as an African American man, he won’t be left out of the fast-growing marijuana business,

inspired and supported him. “I owe it which is currently dominated by white

to them to make something of myself,”


he said.

Matt is committed to furthering the

Matt has surely made something of

African American experience in his

himself. And his road to success, which

sphere. “Gainesville Black Professionals

is nowhere near the end, is nothing

(GBP) is one of the most important

short of amazing. “This journey has

entities I support,” he said. “Gainesville,

exceeded my wildest expectations,”

of any city I’ve ever been to, is most in

Matt said.

need of change. GBP helps folks seize the opportunities that are here. Help won’t come from anywhere other than

Being a good leader


what does a good leader look like? Story by: Heaven Taylor-Wynn


n today’s fast-paced work

environments leaders, executives and managers aren’t often challenged to assess their performance. Most people have a work routine they’ve developed and they tend to follow it religiously. Consequently, folks do get complacent in their day-to-day cycles of managing company processes and overseeing operations. While production and operations are important, the key to ensuring a company is operating at its fullest potential is focused and intentional leadership. Workplace leaders are

ultimately charged coaching the

most knowledge about the job. Let’s

employees to the finish line. Is it possible that you’ve gotten too bogged down with the monotonous routine of work to consider whether you’re reaching your fullest leadership potential? Here’s a list to consider and help you get back on track.

not forget though the importance of developing rapport and relationships with your employees. As their leader you ought to be learning as much from them as they are you. Don’t pass up the opportunity to broaden your horizon and truly get to know who you work with.

Have you learned something from your employees?

It’s no secret that the longer you work at the company the more likely you are to hold a higher position. That being said, under normal circumstances the team lead would probably have the

Do you know your leadership style?

If the answer is no, it’s time to change that! There’s so such thing as one size fits all leadership, so why not figure out what fits. The same way you wouldn’t



purchase an ill-fitting shirt is how you ought to approach leadership-once you find your style, work with it and find things that complement it. A better understanding of how you operate can help you adjust to better serve your colleagues and inform your communication skills with coworkers. Transformational leaders encourage an environment of intellectual stimulation. Transactional leaders offer combinations of reward and punishment to elicit positive performance and establish chain of command. Servant leaders encourage collective decision-making and power-sharing models of authority. Autocratic leaders demonstrate control over subordinates and rarely consider suggestions and share of power.

Laissez-Faire leaders tend to take a hands off approach to allow the employees to govern themselves autonomously. Democratic leaders favor encourage participation by asking team members’ input before making a decision. Bureaucratic leaders adhere strictly to rules in heavily regulated environments. Charismatic leaders play up their charm and personality. Situational leaders are able to use a range of styles to apply based upon the situation.

How are you empowering your employees?

Great leaders are confident in their ability to develop the employees who work under them. As a result, they ought to be able to empower those they lead to govern themselves and their task autonomously. Good

things happen when employees are empowered! They’re more likely to make decisions in the best interest of the company and the clients & customers.

Can you communicate effectively?

As previously stated, there’s no one size fits all approach to leadership, at least not one that actually works. In this case, as you leader you’ve got to be able to get through to your employees. This may require a shift or compromise at some point from something you’re used to. You can’t achieve success if you’re unable to motivate, instruct or discipline those who you’re in charge of. Bad communication leads to poor outcomes. A key component of communication is remembering that active listening plays a big role.





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UF Leadership

Growing our own

corn A


services, what inspires him, he replied “I keep in search of and doing in the service of others, so what continues to inspire me is the need to help others, particularly in Gainesville, and of course including students.” In response to my question about what the good people of Gainesville should know about UF, he noted, “There is a wealth of talent and resources at UF including deeply caring people who want to share and Story by: Antonio Farias

s the inaugural chief diversity

and one of Curtis’; most treasured

officer at the University

achievements, is the Career

of Florida, I came here for

Progression Program, which sends UF

help. … Any problem you can think of, there is someone here to help find a joint solution in a spirit of respect and collaboration.”

We have to continue to invest in our Gainesville citizens

the people, and for the richness of

service employees to school while on

this community. I recently sat down

payroll so they can level up on trade

with four senior African-American

skills that will increase their earnings

I recently asked Dean of the College

administrators at UF in order to get

and employability for life. As he put it,

of the Arts Onye Ozuzu what advice

their perspective on the community

“We have to continue to invest in our

she would give to someone thinking of

centered values that drew me to

Gainesville citizens, and grow our own

becoming an educator. “Education’s



promise of change is

Curtis Reynolds, vice president

When I asked Eddie Daniels,

one of orienting our awareness of how

for business affairs, oversees the

assistant vice president for business

we perceive existence (our own and

strategic direction of a broad portfolio of business services. I recently asked Curtis what continues to surprise him about UF and its relationship to Gainesville. His response embodies the generous spirit he brings to his work. “What surprises me is just how nice of a community Gainesville is – and that after all these years, there are still undiscovered surprises. Equally surprising is how much we want to be connected to Gainesville, be it through job creation or research that betters the lives of our citizens.” One means to accomplish this,


clear she models the true spirit of servant leadership. “Strong women of faith keep me grounded. I look to others and ultimately ask, Lord, what is my assignment? How can I have an impact on as many young lives by expanding access to UF? Education pushes you to work with people different from you, and it is this particular level of the educational experience you take back to your community, which is critical for the community to flourish and grow. With knowledge our young leaders create new contexts for old and spawn innovation.”

we have...a willingness to roll up our sleeves to build a stronger Gainesville.


Along with all my colleagues and the amazingly diverse students, faculty, and staff, we have hope and a willingness to roll up our sleeves in order to build a stronger Gainesville for all. As engaged citizens of Gainesville we all have a responsibility to challenge and inspire one another to do our best work and be our best selves. Go Gators!

beyond our own) – and in the process

in flux, so there is no better time to

of learning we embody hope.” Her

engage us as

approach to education

citizens of Gainesville – don’t let

reflects the decades of work she has

old conversations dictate the new

put into making the dance curriculums

conversations that need to be had.”

across the national higher education

Zina Evans, associate provost

landscape inclusive of West African

and vice president for enrollment

dance, jazz, and hip-hop forms. In

management, oversees the offices of

terms of community, she noted “With

admissions, student financial aid, and

so many recently hired faculty in the

the registrar. When I asked her to share

college of the arts, our identity is

what keeps her centered, it became



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Passion in helpinG Others



Story by: Voleer Thomas


elping people is the top priority for one Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce employee who has worked for the chamber for almost 20 years. Pauline Williams has worked at the chamber as an Information Specialists since 2000. There, she has helped hundreds of professionals and business owners navigate the world of business and economics in Gainesville. Williams was born and raised in Trenton, Fl and moved to Gainesville after she graduated high school. During her career, each job she worked for had a common theme—helping others. Williams volunteered at Metcalfe Elementary School and was offered a job as a teacher’s aid for six months. Afterwards, she worked as a bank teller for four years

at what used to be known as ‘Citizens Bank’ (and is now SunTrust) helping people with financial spending and mortgage lending. After working at Citizens Bank, Williams worked for First Federal Savings & Loan as a teller and a loan closing processor for eight years. She later worked at Humana Health Plans for eight years until the office closed in Gainesville. The Chamber of Commerce was in the same center as Humana Health Plans and she

I like people. I talk to a lot of people on the phone from all over the United States of America and the world.” Williams said the chamber serves as a business advocate for businesses in the community. She said the chamber currently has over 1,300 members and she loves connecting business owners to other like-minded individuals. “As the businesses join the chamber, I process their applications,” Williams said. “That gives me a chance to

knew someone that worked there and they came down and asked her, “I hear the office is closing, do you want a job?” Williams sent in her application and the rest was history. “I started working here and 19 ½ years later, I’m still here,” Williams said “The reason I’ve stayed here for so long is because I like what I’m doing.

know exactly what they do so that way I can tell everybody else. If someone called in, I can refer them.” In addition to helping businesses, she also has the opportunity to assist individuals on personal matters as well. Williams remembered when she helped a family member reunite with another family member who was in a

Pauline Williams

nursing home.

person he was talking about.

She received a call from someone who had a brother in a nursing home and he knew that he had a sister living in Gainesville. They had not seen one another in years and when he told Williams who he was looking for, Williams knew the

“I contacted her and she and her brother connected,” Williams said. ”That made me feel good. I like helping people. I’ll go out of my way to try to find people in situations like that.” Williams has a place on her desk where she stores notes and letters


from people she has helped. “In all the positions I’ve had, I’ve always given 100%,” Williams said. “I love people and I love helping people.” During her years at the chamber, Williams has seen many people come and go but she said she will remain the same. “People ask me, ‘When are you going to retire?’” Williams said. “It’s not in my vocabulary right now. I’m in pretty good health.” Williams said she loves the staff at the chamber and that the job is a great motivation for her to get up every day. “It gives me a reason to get up in the morning knowing that I’m going to come here and maybe make somebody’s day,” Williams said.

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Alachua County LIBRARY District





$500 and

Story by: Xoe Miller

5 years later I

never knew that I was different.

Zoey but with an “X”, and I legally

time, and my grandma would make us

To me, all families looked the way

changed my full name a year ago. I

delicious meals and all the desserts

mine did. I was five years old. How

grew up with two younger brothers,

you can think of. She’d spend a week

was I supposed to know that being

now 20 and 17, and a single mother

preparing for us and would plan our

a biracial child in an all white family

who served 20 years in the United

entire holiday there. For Christmas

wasn’t normal? How could I know

States Navy. My family has always

she’d have a stack of newspapers and

that people would see me as a threat?

played a big role in my life. When we

magazines that she had been saving for

Then again, I’d like to think why would

were kids, my mom used to wake us up

the last few weeks. One by one she’d

anyone think of such things in the

at 3 a.m. and we would drive 12 hours

call my brothers and I into the dining

first place? Nonetheless, I grew up in

to visit my grandparents in Florida for

room and would have us pick out our

a loving and accepting family, even

the holidays. She said it was the easiest

gifts for each other. Then one by one

though as I grew older I soon found out

way for her to travel, because we’d

she’d take us to the store to get the

that the world wasn’t so thrilled.

sleep most of the time. We’d always

toys we picked and would help us to

My name is Xoe, pronounced like

make it to my grandparents by dinner

wrap them. Pop-Pop would take us out


Xoe Miller


sheet of paper. You can guess what she was so surprised about. The varsity girl still played on the team and continued to bring her biracial child to practices. I know, I’m still confused to this day. Instances like this always happened. People always assumed that I would behave one way just because of my name. That’s not fair.

to Florida and everywhere I went the

also take my brothers tubing but I was

bullying seemed to follow. I was bullied

too scared to go. We’d come for the

because I looked different from my

summer and grandma would plan the

mom...from my family. My brothers and

entire three months. Trips to the park,

I look different, I was always told. To

feeding the ducks, going to the library

some, that’s not OK. To make matters

once a week, the movies every Tuesday,

worse, who I am as a person didn’t

grocery shopping at 7 a.m., beach

stereotypically match the name I was

trips that were just as early, Disney,


Sea World, Animal Kingdom, Epcot,

My mom didn’t name me when I

Universal Studios, and the backyard

was born, my god mother did. I was

pool were just a few things we’d do.

Jameisha Jashae. My mom gave me

She taught us how to swim and float

my father’s last name, and I carried it

in the pool, and called us her little fish.

until I was 21. The bullying became

This is the world I grew up in and is the

less physical as I got older but it got

only place I’ve ever belonged.

more mental and emotional. If you ask

Fast-forward to today and things

me, there were times I’d rather it be

have changed. Once I started going to

physical because the pain and scars

school, as early as pre-school, I started

don’t last as long.

to get bullied. I remember his name

When I was 15 I was called the “N

to this day: Michael. He was the kid

word” for the first time by an older girl

from Tennessee who used to pull my

on the varsity volleyball team. When

hair and throw things at me. Every

I told the head coach, she contacted

day. There were also twin sisters who

the athletic director who then spoke

would join in from time to time, as if

to me. The athletic director called my

when Michael got tired they’d indulge

mom afterward and told her that she

on the routine. I’ll never forget the time

was very “surprised” by me. She said

it was my birthday and the two girls

I conducted myself so well and wasn’t

approached me on the playground. “It’s

expecting it. At the time, my name was

her birthday, we’ll leave her alone for

Jameisha. I had never met the director

today.” From Tennessee, to Virginia,

before. All she had was my name on a

on the boat and we’d go fishing. He’d

When I was 15 I was called the ‘N word’ for the first time As rough as all of that sounds, the bullying and constant character assumptions from people that were three times my age, all of that wasn’t the main reason as to why I changed my name. I had my dad’s last name until October 2018. If I had it my way, I would’ve had this done five years ago. My dad is an absentee parent. When I was 16, I was living in Virginia and I had about enough; enough with everything. I wanted to change my name because I felt like Xoe is who I always had been. And I always wanted my mom’s last name. So I reached out to my dad and he called me for the first time in 10 years. We spoke, and after he accused my mom of “putting me up to this” and crying, telling me he’d “do whatever I want,” I sent him the paperwork for him to sign so I could change my name. In Virginia, you had to have consent from both parents if you were under the age of 18 in order to legally change your name. It’s very cheap and easy to do as long as both parents sign the documents. We were moving in a year but that was plenty of time I thought. That was the last time I ever spoke to my dad. I sent him text



voicemails. I even went as far as sitting

history, so my middle name came from

world. People thought I changed my

down on the computer and watching

my great grandmother’s maiden one.

name because I’m ashamed of who I

his online status to see when he was on

And finally, my last name.

am, and that I needed to talk to God

Facebook. Once that little green circle

I said earlier that my two brothers

before I made my decision. Funny

popped up next to his profile picture I

and I were raised by a single parent,

thing is, He and I have been talking

would send him a message, asking if he

our mom. I played sports when I was

for a very long time and I know that

had gotten the paperwork or had sent

little and continued all throughout

if He’s not ashamed, then why should

it back already. Nothing.

high school; three of them. My jerseys

I? Many were upset when they found

After a year, time had run out and we

always had “Byers” on the back and

out I changed my name. To them, I’d

moved to Florida where it cost $400

I was always in the front of the line

always been “Jameisha” and they hoped

just in court fees to change your name.

or in the classroom when we’d be in

I was happy with what I had done. I’m

After awhile I decided to go back and

alphabetical order. “Byers” is on my

nowhere near close to figuring out

look at the Facebook messages, to see

high school diploma. My mom has

who I am, but changing my name was

if he ever got them. I never knew if

always gone above and beyond for us.

a big step in doing so. I’m the happiest

he ever got the regular text messages

She gave us everything we wanted,

I’ve ever been. I finally get to be Xoe

I sent because he didn’t have an

needed, and then some. She’s paying

and a Miller. Some asked about what

iPhone. So I opened the messages and

my sorority dues. Because of her I

I was going to do when I got married.

under my 10th one, it said “read on

will graduate from the University of

Simple answer: hyphenate it. I learned


Florida, the 7th best public university

to never let anyone tell me who I am, or

Once I turned 18 I didn’t need

in America, without a single penny in

that my name defines me. You should

parental consent anymore. But I also

debt. So one thing is for certain, her

always be judged on your character

didn’t have the money. So for three

last name might not have been on my

first, not on your skin color or how

years I saved up over $500 to start

high school diploma but it definitely

your name sounds. I didn’t become

the name changing process. It was a

will be on the diploma I get in May. I’ve

Xoe, I always have been.

long and expensive one but I made it

always wanted to be a “Miller” because


through. On October 3, 2018 I legally

that’s the family I grew up in. They are

changed my full name. I always liked

the people who made me who I am.

the name “Zoey” but I wanted it to

Just because my skin color is

be unique and different, like how

different than my family, doesn’t mean

Jameisha was. My mom picked out

I’m different. My family is normal.

the spelling, Xoe, and it worked out

And I know I’m lucky to have such a

because since she didn’t name me the

great support system. They are the

first time, she got to do so the second

foundation of who I am. I owe my mom

time. I feel like everyone’s name has

my life, because she’s given me the

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Bringing us closer PAD106165-0095



I learned to use all my time to my advantage.


Struggles to Success

Story by: Catisha Turner

time to practice my presentation for Professional Communication, they were my audience, and they pointed out my “umms” and “ahhs”. When I was preparing for the spokesperson role for Crisis Management, they grilled me on the list of questions I’d likely be asked. And when it was time to study for written exams, they used my notecards to quiz me and learned words that most 9 and 12-year-olds will not soon need or recognize. I also learned to use all my time to


hen I started the

Over time, I figured out how to arrange

Executive MBA Program,

my schedule and my priorities so the

I repeatedly questioned

program fit with my life. Instead of

my own sanity. With 17+ years of

doing homework after my kids went

leadership positions, I knew the

to bed, I did homework when they did

program was the best fit for where

homework. In fact, they were often

I was in my career. But I still had

part of my homework! When it was

concerns. I asked myself several questions: How would I still have time to spend with my family? How could I effectively manage my time so that I kept up with the workload at my job? Would I be able to excel in subjects, like stats, that gave me anxiety in undergrad? Would I be able to spend time with my friends? Why in the world did I wait so long to go back to school? Would I still have a life? Thankfully, all my concerns were eventually addressed. By the end of that first weekend, I felt energized. I was in a learning environment, and I felt lifted by the determination and focus I saw in the rest of my cohort.


my advantage. Occasionally, I’d study on my work lunch breaks or while waiting in the parking lot for my girls to get out of dance practice. I read articles while getting my hair done or while waiting in the doctor’s office. I did class assignments on most week nights, but weekends were my focused

Catisha Turner


to; there was engaging, challenging discussion happening between the professors and members of my class as we talked about what we were currently experiencing in our jobs or had experienced previously. We were learning from each other as we were learning from the faculty. It was a beautiful thing! Still, I had to learn how to study all over again. It took a bit of time to figure out what worked for me, but I did. Many of my classmates used all electronic means for studying, but I found what worked best for me were manual and mechanical in nature – highlighting articles, working the assigned problems and using handwritten index cards for studying. And I shared with my co-workers, with my times to get classwork done. However,

back to school after 18 years, it was

kids, and whoever else was willing

the work didn’t consume my whole

like the proverbial riding of a bike,

to listen to the things I was learning.

weekend. I could spend either the

but this time I was more focused and

Discussion with others helped

morning or evening studying, and then

skilled. I was so grateful that I’d waited

reinforce the material and incorporate

the rest of the time with my family. I

to go back to school after being in the

the curriculum into my thinking.

still had time to spend with friends.

workforce for many years, because

The curriculum has helped me grow

Moreover, I gained friends and

the material was not hypothetical

professionally in many ways. From the

a solid support network through

for me; it was what I was living and

very first class, Professional Writing

my team. The fantastic thing about

breathing each day at work, so I

with Professor Barnes, I changed the

the program’s setup was that I was

“ I changed the way

overwhelming workload with my team. We were able to work through and discuss assignments together, and through that discussion, I was able

I developed and presented information

able to share much of the initially

to gain understanding of topics that

way I communicated with my team, my peers and others in my organization. I went back and looked at some of my old emails and was appalled at some of the things I’d previously put in writing. Because of the Professional Communication class with Professor

previously had me stumped. We each

could take what I learned on Friday

Limon, I changed the way I developed

had our strengths and weaknesses, but

– Sunday and apply it when I got to

and presented information to large

we were committed to one another

work on Monday. One of the things I

groups and became more intentional in

and to submitting quality work on each

appreciated most about the program

the delivery of my message. One of the

of our assignments. The teamwork

was that the dynamics between me

primary reasons I’d decided to join the

aspect was key in helping to overcome

and the professors had changed from

MBA Program was to close the gaps in

my initial fears.

when I was an undergraduate. I

my financial and technical knowledge.

As for the initial hesitation of going

wasn’t sitting in a room being taught

I now have a solid understanding of



business financials and investment

every class added something valuable

staff, by the curriculum, and in large

tools and can better connect what I

to my personal and professional

part, by my EMBA19 cohort. My

do as an Operations Manager to the


cohort has been one of the most

strategic and financial goals of my

The information I gained helped

supportive groups I’ve met in my


me become a part of conversations

career, and I leave this program with

One of our earliest assignments,

where I would have previously been

friendships that I did not anticipate

the Firm Analysis in Alba’s class,

excluded or overwhelmed. I am

when I applied. They helped keep

helped me to take an objective

a more knowledgeable and well-

me afloat when I had personal

view of all activities in my firm and

rounded business woman because

and professional challenges and

clearly identify our strengths and

of my participation in this program,

encouraged me to push forward and

weaknesses. When a non-compete

and it’s not just head knowledge. I

not set limitations on what I could

became a possibility, I knew from

have legitimate tools that I can use


my Business Law class what was

to implement change and increase

Despite some initial fears, I know

reasonable, what was enforceable,


this program was the best fit for me

and what proper consideration

In my career, I’ve often questioned

because I was able to learn and excel

should look like – thanks Professor

what my role should be or if I was in

in a group of my peers, bolster my

Thomas! And there were tools from

the right place; I leave this program

business knowledge and professional

Organizational Behavior on goal

knowing that no matter where I

potential, and develop connections

setting and communication strategies

land or what my title is, that I am

that will benefit and inspire me for

from Crisis Management that I

undoubtedly a stronger leader. It’s

years to come.

implemented with my team. Virtually

been reinforced by the faculty and

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More Than Affordable Housing What images come to your mind when you hear “affordable housing”? Perhaps tall apartment buildings or poorly maintained homes in a neighborhood littered with crime and drugs. Affordable housing is not synonymous with “the projects” or “low-income”. Over time, housing communities change hands which may result in mismanagement of the property, lackluster maintenance, and an overall decrease in the property’s beautification. As indicated by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), affordable housing refers to housing that does not cost more than 30 percent of a household’s income. Gainesville Housing Authority (GHA) aims to provide aesthetically pleasing, safe environments for Gainesville residents seeking housing. Such efforts can be seen in the redevelopment taking place at Woodland Park in East Gainesville. GHA Executive Director Pamela Davis desires to redevelop and improve GHA’s current properties and add more landlords and diverse housing options to their portfolio. GHA is doing more than providing safe and affordable housing for local residents, they are committed to assisting their residents obtain opportunities for job placement as well as entrepreneurship. In 2012, Davis implemented GHA’s Job Training and Entrepreneurial Program (JTEP). JTEP helps residents develop a plan and identify the resources needed to start a business. In addition to case

management services and developmental and financial support, the program also provides its participants encouragement and moral support to pursue their dreams. As a result of this program, GHA resident and 2005 Eastside High School graduate, Michael Powers, Sr., overcame adversity as a single father and achieved his dream of opening his own barbershop, Winner’s Circle Cutz, in the Pine Meadows apartment complex on Oct. 19th. Previously, Powers worked out of his residence to support himself and his household. Since launching JTEP, GHA has supported the development and/or growth of 15 businesses and has been integral in the success of its residents becoming self-sufficient. To add to the positive efforts of JTEP, in March 2019 Gainesville Housing Authority was one of four housing authorities awarded a $2.3 million grant to help their residents obtain job placement through HUD’s Jobs Plus Initiative grant, locally known as Strive4Success. Through this grant, GHA residents receive professional training to help them compete in the Gainesville job market. To learn more about Gainesville Housing Authority’s properties, programs, or to become a landlord, visit their website



developing a wealthy mindset

Story by: Sophie Lancaster


s a Wealth Manager, it’s my purpose to help people achieve their personal financial goals.

Many people want to be rich, however, I would rather be wealthy than be rich. Richness is defined by a number, a quantitative measure. Wealth, on the other hand, is attaining a position that allows you to live your purpose. Wealth is not defined by a number in a bank or investment account, but It is defined by having enough resources to fulfill a purpose. Our perception and mindset determine our behavior. Below are five behaviors that will help you develop a wealthy mindset. 1) Live for purpose and not for people Financial freedom is living a life free from the unreasonable expectations of others. There are many people who buy possessions that they cannot afford for the sake of status. Change your mindset! Don’t strive to wear or drive a number and don’t make sacrifices to buy expensive things that you can’t afford. Think before you buy. Ask yourself these three questions; Can I afford it? Do I really need it? Will it help me achieve my purpose? If the answer is no to any of these questions, then don’t buy it! Asking these questions and being honest SYNERGY MAGAZINE

with yourself will help you reduce unnecessary and impulsive purchases. 2) Be a lender and not a borrower

reducing your spending, take that surplus and split it between paying off debt and building an

Make it your goal to be debt-free. Avoid frivolous spending and be careful not to cosign for debt you cannot afford. If you are already drowning in debt, there is hope. The way out of debt involves discipline, dedication and action. After

emergency fund. Once you have achieved your emergency fund goal, dedicate more of your surplus towards debt. Be diligent and practice selfcontrol and you will see yourself climb out of debt. 3) Live for the moment while saving

Wealthy Mindset

for tomorrow. Just because you earn it doesn’t mean you have to spend it all. Living on 100% of your income is a recipe for disaster. Life happens! Cars breakdown, health issues arise, and unexpected expenses pop up. Try to live on 70% of your income. Over time, as you become a better financial manager and pay off debt you will be able to live on much less. A budget is your best tool. It will help you determine what you need to survive and what you need to thrive. Survival expenses are the cost for modest shelter, food, insurance and

household. Your budget is not only your roadmap but it’s your GPS to guide you towards achieving your goals. 4) Giving is not an option, but a priority Giving is an essential part of our existence. It contributes to the good works that are done in this world. I recommend constantly giving at least 10% of your income to a good cause. There is a universal law that exists under the sun. It is the law of sowing and reaping. This law cannot be explained intellectually, but it works. The biggest blessing in giving

the same money that you use to rent, you can use it towards homeownership. As a renter, you have an expense that will never end, but as a homeowner you have an investment that appreciates in value and can be paid off. Think about that. After the mortgage is paid off, your investment will return a lifetime of “free” housing. Based on this point, I believe you should buy instead of leasing a car. Leasing provides no investment benefit at the end of the term, whereas buying will provides you ownership. Mutual funds, stocks, bonds and real estate can

transportation. Thriving expenses are lifestyle costs that are not essential but add to your quality of life. These expenses must be prioritized in goal setting. Your budget will empower and help you prepare for the needs of your

is the joy you experience in making a difference. 5) Be an investor! Wisdom says invest. Investing is putting up your money for a set time to get a return. Instead of renting, you can invest by buying a house. With

be used for retirement, college, legacy and other long-term goals. Investing creates wealth that will not only benefit your life, but it leaves a legacy.

Leading the way to



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pablo Casilimas



Building a brand is a long-term game Story by: Staff Writer


ootex is a Content

was an extremely powerful

the Art of Biz, where they

Marketing Agency

medium for a brand to tell

share the stories of distinct

that is made up of a

their story, and that it was only

entrepreneurs, their successes,

blend of talented creatives and

becoming more relevant. He

failures and the lessons they’ve

marketing experts in order to

bought his first camera with

learned along their journeys.

give clients the highest return

$1500 he had saved up during

At its core, Rootex operates

on their marketing dollars.

an internship and started

on the principle that if we can

Pablo Casilimas founded

creating videos for non-profits

help our clients serve their

Rootex in late 2015 while he

and UF departments to build

target audiences, our clients

was an undergraduate student

his portfolio and brand.

will thrive and we will too as

at the University of Florida. He

In 2017, Pablo met his

a result. If you’re in business,

started it because he had an

mentor Marty, who taught

it’s because you’re either

undying curiosity to answer

him the importance of being

fulfilling a need or solving

the question: What makes a

a great leader and the power

somebody’s problem. At

business succeed rather than

of being a great listener. Pablo

Rootex, it’s our mission to help

fail? He knew that if he could

used the principles he learned

your organization connect with

figure that out, he could help

from Marty to assemble a team

as many of those people as

numerous other businesses

of the most talented creatives


thrive while growing his

and marketers he could find in

Our agency follows the same

own. From the start, he had a

the area. Pablo and Marty now

advice we give our clients,

conviction that video-content

have a podcast together called

“Building a brand is a long

Pablo Casilimas

term game, and we’re not looking

specialty is video-production and

mentor or resource there to help us.

for quick, easy wins - we’re looking

photography, but we also provide

Not only that, but there are some

for long-term, mutually beneficial

graphic design, copywriting & web-

ingenious innovations, products and

relationships. “, says Pablo.

development. For increasing sales and

technologies being created right here

The reason most of our business at

exposure, we provide fully automated

in our backyard.

Rootex comes from repeat clients and

Ad, PR and email campaigns.

In February 2019, Pablo met

referrals is because we always make Even with all of the growth Rootex has experienced, Pablo still makes room on his schedule to give free consultations to businesses in need of direction and

If you’re in business, you’re either fulfilling a need or solving somebody’s problem.

an effort to over-deliver for our clients.

we continue to sponsor community


Sven from Global Village, at Startup Week Tampa Bay. After a five minute conversation, Rootex and Global Village had a verbal agreement to partner up and create Innovate Gainesville, a coffee-table book showcasing the top thought-leaders, innovations, tech,

events because we believe in giving

Before deciding what will benefit a

startups and developments in the area.


client most, we always begin by asking

The book is projected to launch in

Rootex is thriving today because

questions and doing research on their


we consistently help our clients cut

business and target audience. We then

through all the noise. Our clients are

come up with a marketing strategy and

like family, and after they’ve hired

begin to execute.

us once, they typically work with us

Since Rootex was founded, we’ve

again. We help our clients grow their

always believed there was something

businesses through content creation,

special about Gainesville. We found

social media management and PR

that whenever we reached a roadblock,

campaigns. For content needs, our

there was always an entrepreneur,

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LinkedIn Tips and Tricks

make linkedin work for you M

any people assume that LinkedIn is simply a place for those seeking employment, however, it is much more. LinkedIn is a tool that can be used to position yourself as a professional in your field and thought leader in your industry. LinkedIn holds more than 500 million professional profiles, giving you an unlimited supply of network connections. So, whether you’re using LinkedIn to recruit other professionals, build your professional network or brand yourself as a professional in your field, use these steps to make it work for you.

Story by: Erika Dawkins

additional insight for others. Follow Other Professionals and Professional Organizations in Your Industry This is exceptionally important in your quest to keep up with industry news. Following other professionals and professional organizations in your industry gives you access to the knowledge they share, as well as, articles and industry updates. It’s very important to keep tabs on industry trends and reports. Keep Your Profile Up to Date Even if you aren’t currently seeking employment, it is important to

that you are knowledgeable and engaging. Engage with Others It’s not enough to simply, create your LinkedIn profile and leave it out to dry. It’s important to like, comment and share content so your connections see that you are active. If you come across a great article shared by one of your connections, comment letting them know you enjoyed the article. This opens up the opportunity for dialog and you may be able to provide

keep your profile up to date with your current employer, education, licenses & certifications, and skills & endorsements. These are all things that will help anyone who happens upon your profile to find out more about you. Remember, LinkedIn is not like other social media outlets, all of this information should be directly related to yourself and your career Optimize Your Profile LinkedIn has a very intelligent search tool. You are able to search a keyword in various categories, including jobs people and groups. This is why it


As a professional: Write Articles Writing articles on LinkedIn helps you stand out as a professional in your industry. It is a great opportunity for you to create relevant content to share with others, whether you’re sharing information you just learned or information about things you’ve learned about the industry over the years. This is a great way to show others that may be interested in working with you or your company

LinkedIn Tips and Tricks

is important that you use keywords that pertain to your field when you write your headline, about you section, and your job descriptions. Adding these keywords will help when someone is searching for a professional with your experience or knowledge.

As a business: As a business owner, it is also just as important to maintain your presence on LinkedIn as it is for a professional. One of the key things to do as a business owner when using LinkedIn for recruiting is utilize the Career Pages. As a part of a businesses Career Page, they have the opportunity to create a personality and display their

company culture through the Life tab. This option allows you to tell a little bit more about what it’s like to work for your company vs. just what your company does. You are able to add modules about why someone would want to work with you, your company social responsibility, a note from the CEO, etc. This section also allows you to add pictures of your employees at work or at company events, link industry related articles written by your staff, and add employee testimonial. This option is vital to a company seeing great talent.







I’ve hired a

Story by: Shareen Baptiste

consulting firm, now what? A fter reading last year’s article

what services the contract entails and

is key that this liaison has excellent

featured in SYNERGY, “Top

what it does not, as well as the budget

organizational, communication and

5 Reasons Why Businesses

from which the consultant(s) will

coordination skills. Selecting one team

Should Outsource Professional

operate from in order to execute the

member to serve as a liaison reduces

Services,” you decide to hire a

requested services. In the beginning

the occurrence of miscommunication,

consulting firm. You did everything

as the business relationship forms,

ensures continuity in the flow of

by the book – you did your research,

the consultant(s) may need to meet

information and ideas, and facilitates

drafted a contract and even onboarded

often, so this individual needs to be

responsiveness, quicker decision

a specialized consulting firm. Now

responsive and accessible. One aspect

making and a stronger bond between

what? Here are some best practices to

to being responsive is providing

both parties.

engage your consulting firm effectively.

documents and information the

2. Communicate your preferences.

1. Select a liaison. Designate one

consultant(s) need within the agreed

Write down your preferences and

team member who will liaise with the

upon timeframe. Additionally, the

go over them with the consultant(s)

consulting firm.

liaison should have the authority

within one of the first few meetings.

This individual will need access

to make decisions on behalf of the

Doing so establishes clear boundaries

to the scope of work portion of the

business or open access to the

and sets precedent for how all parties

contract, so he/she has an accurate

business’ decision maker and his/

wish to be engaged. Preferences

and comprehensive understanding of

her calendar. Last but not least, it

include, but are not limited to the


Consulting Firm Tips


3. Present historical knowledge. It

share what you know you do not want.

Communication - how do you wish to

is always best to provide consultants

A consultant’s job is to help carve out

be contacted and how often. Identifying

with an idea of what was, in order to

the most efficient path that will help

your preferred communication

guide what will be. This process can

your business progress from where it

platform and style in advance

take place in the form of presenting

stands today to what you would like

shortens the firm’s learning curve and

written standard operating procedures,

for it to achieve tomorrow, so every

encourages speedy responses.

sharing old articles, photos and videos

bit of guidance helps ensure that both

Level of involvement - when do you

and even explaining how events/

parties work towards the same, desired

wish to be engaged. Providing this

programs/activities/milestones were

end result.

guidance makes clear which types of

previously achieved. Providing access

5. Be honest. As the saying goes,

decisions the consultant(s) can make

to historical knowledge gives the

honesty is the best policy. So to

without you and in which ones your

consultant(s) an idea of what worked

build trust, communicate honestly

involvement is mandatory.

and what didn’t, helping them decide

with one another. If a peg in the

Blind spots - these are areas

what to maintain, improve upon or

process is not working, speak up.

of potential pitfalls. Giving the

discontinue. Historical knowledge

If you do not like the piece that

consultant(s) a heads up indicates

provides the consultant(s) with a

the consultant(s) created, provide

that you would like for them to create

more comprehensive picture, which

constructive feedback. If you do not

processes and put in place measures

allows for better and more consistent

like the methods implemented, provide

to avert failures from blind spots and

storytelling. Quick tidbit, if properly

alternative options. Not even the

better position both parties for success.

negotiated upfront, the consultant(s)

best consultant(s) have mind reading

However, do not forget the

may even assist with documentation,

capabilities, so provide open and

concept of reciprocity. Inquire

which would serve your business long-

honest feedback in real time so the

about the consultant(s)’ preferred


he/she/they may pivot accordingly.

communication and learning style.

4. Share the vision. Presenting

Ultimately, you sign the checks, so it is

Accommodating each other’s

historical knowledge is not enough,

important that you and your team are

preferences leads to more fulfilled

you must share your vision for the

happy with the end result.

interactions, better collaboration and

future – even if you do not have the

improved outcomes.

whole picture, share what you know or




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r. Gwenuel W. and Cynthia Mingo have been working as a couple to make the world a better place for 56 years, and the 80-year-old Gwenuel, who goes by “Mingo,” and the 77-year-old Cynthia, both retired educators, are showing no signs of slowing down in their mission to serve others. Cynthia, originally from Tallahassee and a graduate of Florida A&M University (FAMU), volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida, welcoming families, giving hugs, and helping out wherever she can. She also educates students about African-American history. “I visit schools, churches, and wherever people need me,” she


said. Through a cooperative-learning traveling scavenger hunt she created and continually upgrades, she teaches students about science, math, and more. Cynthia also helps children in the United States and the Bahamas to build spiritual foundations. Mingo, a native of Key West who graduated from FAMU (where he met Cynthia) and earned his Ph.D. degree, is also active in the community. He serves as president of the FAMU Alumni Association for Alachua County. He attends Mt. Olive A.M.E. Church, where he is a trustee and sings in the choir. With his Series 6 Securities License, he educates people about money management and insurance so that they can protect their families.

Story by: Jacki Donaldson

Gwenuel & Cynthia Mingo

Mingo and Cynthia’s contributions in retirement are an extension of the light they have been spreading for more than five decades. Before arriving in Gainesville in 1971, the now-Micanopy residents were serving and teaching for the greater good. Mingo departed FAMU as a ROTC graduate and then served his country in the United States Army as a commissioned officer and left his service as a captain after seven years of active duty. Except for his time in Vietnam, Cynthia was with him throughout all of his deployments, with her first teaching job in Germany. Cynthia continued teaching and spent

Year. Cynthia, who retired after 38 years as an educator, is known for her nurturing spirit in the classroom and for turning around discipline issues. “I treated students with love like I would my own children,” said Cynthia, who was firm but fair with students, built strong parent relationships, and positively channeled the energy of her most challenging students. “At Prairie View, we put on a play with the kids who were making poor choices,” she said. “I gave the student with the most problems the job of pulling the curtain in the play. ‘Do you want that job?’ I asked him. ‘Yes,

While Cynthia was working with elementary school children, Mingo was at UF, first as a counselor coordinator for students living in Hume Hall and then as the director of Upward Bound Program preparing high school students for college and in Student Support Services Program ensuring that first-year college students had a solid foundation during their first year on campus. Mingo’s success in his roles stemmed from his love for helping students. “I have a passion for helping people,” he said. The Mingo’s children have followed in their educational footsteps.

her career in elementary education. She taught at Glen Springs Elementary School, Stephen Foster Elementary School, and Prairie View Elementary School and twice won Teacher of the

ma’am,’ he said. I shared with him that to keep the job, he had to follow directions and pay close attention. He did, and his behavior became completely different.”

Daughter AnneMarie (Ph.D.) teaches at Penn State and just completed a visiting professorship at the University of California Santa Barbara. Son Gerald is a certified teacher in the New York



educational system. The family of four also serves their community together, often doing mission work in different states. Mingo, Cynthia, and AnneMarie went to New Orleans with a church group to assist with recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Mingo also helped with clean-up after the storm in Quincy and was a part of the group lead by their Pastor, Rev. Helen Johnson Robinson, in preparing hot freshly fried fish, grits, and sides for more than 500 victims. Mingo helped to park the many cars, and the blessings just kept flowing on the people. Even under the circumstances, the people and the

Together, they also manage a vacation rental house in Key West. They use the business foundation they learned at FAMU in their successful business venture. Mingo and Cynthia, who love to travel,

volunteers felt the spirit of God working among them. The Mingos cherish their family time. They take a trip together every year, honor Christmas and Kwanza family traditions, and have a family phone conference almost every first Sunday to discuss their goals and ambitions.

thrive. For example, Cynthia ministers at churches and choreographs a local dance group for women her age. She also enjoys cooking for large crowds. Mingo does calisthenics and stretching exercises every day and does a lot of work in the yard. One can also find Mingo four out of seven days working at


Helping people and seeing where they’ve gone and what they’ve done is amazing.


both officiate track events at campuses all over the country. They also have individual interests that help them

his church. The Mingos credit their happy 56year marriage to praying together. “You can’t be fussing at each other when you’re praying,” Cynthia said. And they thank God for the opportunity to serve together. “We know our work is not about us; it’s about Him,” Mingo said. And the rewards they receive are abundant. “Helping people and seeing where they’ve gone and what they’ve done is amazing,” Mingo said. And the lovely couple plans to keep moving forward. “We will keep going for as long as we keep waking up and breathing,” Cynthia said.

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SEYI FALADE Cornerstone Barricades Women leaders are on the move and assuming leadership roles in industries that were once “men only”. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with one of these women and this is what she had to say. What is the name of your business and what type of business is it? Cornerstone Barricades is a Maintenance of Traffic provider. We lease traffic safety equipment to general contractors during road construction in order to create safe work zones. What made you decide to go into business for yourself? I didn’t. My father, Christopher Falade, started Cornerstone Barricades after retiring from Florida Department of Transportation. He worked at FDOT as a Civil Engineer for over 22 years. His work with FDOT provided superior experience and understanding of Maintenance of Traffic, a niche field within Civil Engineering. He had maintained a few licenses and an Advance Maintenance of Traffic was one of them. In the summer of 2016, I began working for the company full time after consulting and spearheading the initial launch. When my parents asked me to advise them on the Cornerstone venture it was a natural response to invest my time to insure its success out of


love for them. I enjoy working hard and seeing the fruit of my labor but my favorite part of owning my own business is job creation. As someone who has experienced unemployment and underemployment, I know firsthand the importance of work and having a job. It brings me internal satisfaction to have work to assign my crew laborers.

Do you feel that you have faced unique challenges as a female business owner? Yes, in the form of second guessing me or my abilities. It’s subtle but it’s also because Cornerstone is a relatively new company. I do believe that being a woman in construction affords me the unique opportunity to stand out. It’s easy to remember who I am and what I do because there aren’t many women in my field. Now that you have been in business for a few

years, do you still feel this way? When I first started I felt entirely out of my comfort zone. Construction was a new field and I was learning the language and the dynamics of how things work. Overtime, I have grown accustomed to being the only woman in the room at times. Truth be told, these days I am just focused on getting the job done. Give me the details, where we need to be and when? What does success mean to you and how do you measure it? Success has evolved.



With a growing staff, my main concern is consistent work. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction knowing that the folks that work for Cornerstone can put food on the table for their families. What keeps you motivated? Seeing the business come to life keeps me motivated. There are still goals that we have yet

to reach. Thankfully, we have surpassed a few milestones that cause us all to feel accomplished. I’m also motivated by coaching and helping other entrepreneurs. I co-teach a graduate elective course titled The First 100 Days: A Step by Step Approach, at UF Warrington College of Business for aspiring entrepreneurs.





Butterfly N

May 2016. The next year, she founded Blossoming Butterfly, a nonprofit that financially assists people fighting breast cancer and raises awareness for Story by: Samantha Chery

buckets of ice to try to function,” she

her chest on a January morning


in 2015, but she didn’t think it

There were times where she felt like

was breast cancer.

giving up, but she said the support of

Now, she’s using her story to

her friends and family kept her spirits

improve the lives of those braving

high. She also prayed and fasted.

similar situations.

“I was having a personal

Johnson, who was 32 years old at the

conversation with God, and he

time, had never needed hospitalization

reminded me that ‘You are a caterpillar

or surgery. Despite an extensive family

going through your metamorphosis

history of cancer, she brushed it off and

stage, and when you’re done, you’re

didn’t tell anyone.

going to blossom like a butterfly.’

Then the knot grew. Health care

“I didn’t really understand, but it

professionals thought it was a cyst, but

made me feel better because when

after a biopsy test, Johnson received a

you think about a caterpillar, they’re

call from her surgeon. He confirmed

not the cutest little creatures,” she

what she once denied.

said. “But when you think about the

“Immediately when you hear that

butterfly, how beautiful it is and how

you’re diagnosed with breast cancer,

it’s multiple colors, you’re just in

you think it’s death, and you think it’s

amazement when you see it.”

the worst,” she said.

She was declared free of cancer in

there was no treatment available to specifically target the cancer cells associated with the triple-negative breast cancer she was diagnosed with. Consequently, Johnson had to be treated with Adriamycin, often called the “Red Devil” of chemotherapy. As a result, her hair fell out and her nails turned black. She couldn’t work for nearly a year, which caused her to fall thousands of dollars behind in rent and car payments. “I developed neuropathy in my hands and feet where I couldn’t walk for a week without putting my hands in


Since then, Johnson, now 37, has helped five breast cancer patients pay their rent and utility bills. She has also hosted monthly Breast Therapy support groups that serve as a haven

icole Johnson felt the knot on

Unlike other types of breast cancer,

the disease.

for anyone affected by breast cancer. While Johnson is passionate about her work, she said she wants to do more. Insufficient donations and sponsorships have limited Blossoming Butterfly’s marketing efforts and have restricted the organization from completely covering everyday costs for breast cancer patients. In an effort to advance Blossoming Butterfly’s mission, she hosted a fashion show fundraiser called 50 Shades of Pink at the Gainesville Woman’s Club on Oct. 12. The celebration surpassed Johnson’s expectations with about 200 people in attendance. Adrian Miller Sr. said his favorite part of 50 Shades of Pink was “when she said ‘yes.’” Now Johnson’s fiancé, Miller has

Nicole Johnson


community. “It’s more than just the month of October,” he said. “Breast cancer just doesn’t go away after October, and it doesn’t just come October. It’s yearround. It’s a part of everyday life, and the more we spread awareness about it, the more people ... will hold themselves more accountable in being checked for it.” In the future, Johnson wants Blossoming Butterfly to become a huge corporation with services such as onsite nurses, a transportation system supported her vision for Blossoming

was proud of Johnson’s success with

Butterfly from the beginning.

50 Shades of Pink and Breast Cancer

“She always wanted to be that person

Awareness Month presentations she

to say, “Hey, I went through this, I lived

delivered to local churches and youth

through this, and I know that there’s a

groups in October.

need for this,’” he said.

He hopes that her growing network

In spite of the financial obstacles that

and outreach will lead to more

Blossoming Butterfly has faced, Miller

donations and a more educated

to and from treatments and housing for breast cancer patients and their families. “I’m no longer afraid of the diagnosis. I’m not afraid to die,” she said. “I’m just afraid of not reaching enough people, so that it can somehow help until we have a cure.”

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Naima Brown

Bridging the gap toward success D

r. Naima Brown’s love for teaching has opened doors in her life to make an impact on those around her. Brown grew up in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in a housing project with a single-parent mother. The power of education was instilled in her from childhood. “From first grade through eighth grade, we did not participate in the neighborhood school system,” Brown said. Brown’s mother made sure her and her sister were at the bus stop by 6:30 a.m. to go to a magnet school called Fitler Academics Plus School. “I think that helped me to pursue college because the school focused on going to college even at that young age, which is something that my peers in the neighborhood didn’t have.” Brown said that they were teased for catching the school bus every day to go to school because everybody else in the neighborhood walked around the corner to go to school. Brown’s love for education and teaching brought her to Florida in 1990 to pursue a degree at Florida A&M

Story by: Voleer Thomas

University as a first-generation college student. When she made her decision, she said, “College would be a route to get me to where I wanted to be—Florida.” Brown received a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Florida A & M University in 1995 and a Master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Florida in 1997. Five years later, she earned a Doctoral degree in Sociology from the University of Florida.


Brown appreciates her mother for being the driving force to pursue her collegiate endeavors. “She has always been a big proponent for education,” Brown said. “That is why it’s so important for me to help students because I know that potential lies in every single person and you just got to remove barriers to help them.” Brown started teaching sociology at Santa Fe College full-time in 2000. “As a faculty member, I love connecting with the students,” Brown said. “Interacting with them, engaging with them, sharing resources, and helping them to make the college experience relevant to their lives and where they were going.” Brown has traveled to Africa, Europe, South America, Asia, and the Middle East. “I love teaching,” Brown said. “I developed really strong relationships with my students. I loved studying abroad. I lead trips around the world for the college. I helped to establish relationships with other institutions on behalf of the college.” Brown loved sociology because the study of how the social world impacts



individual attitudes and behaviors intrigued her. The president of the college was fascinated by her ambition and her passion to make sure students get the best experience college has to offer. He asked if she could serve as the interim Vice President of Student Affairs. Brown turned down the offer twice and wanted to remain a teacher at the college. “I’m a teacher,” Brown said. “This is my strength. This is my skill. This is what I do.” The president insisted and asked, SYNERGY MAGAZINE

“How many students do you impact in a year?” “About 500,” Brown responded. And he said, “What if you could impact 18,000? Think about that.” Brown remembered all the things she did not know about but had learned along the way, such as graduate school and studying abroad. She decided to embark on a new journey in her life and became the VP of Student Affairs in 2013. Brown has learned a few lessons ever since that transition. “Meet people where they are,” she

said. “Realizing that some people are bringing a past with them like I took.” Brown remembered how her father was murdered in a drug-related incident two days after she turned 17 and shared how trauma can affect people. “[I know] that type of trauma and what it does to a person,” Brown said. “I know that people come to college because they want something better and we just have to meet them where they are and be that bridge to get them to where they’re going.” One of Brown’s strategies for success is her faith and putting God first. “Every single day I pray that God use me for his glory,” Brown said. “God is everything. I admit that I am nothing without God, I can do nothing without God. I look at my life, it’s not me--it was God.” Brown also said that treating people with dignity and respect will get you further in life. “Treat everybody right,” She said. “Don’t look down on anybody. It’s not what you say but how you say it.” Another tip is to always have an inquiring mind and to do the research. “Trust but verify,” Brown said. “Listen to people but verify on your own and do your research. Don’t just believe anything.” Brown said she misses teaching but she enjoys making an impact on students’ lives outside of the classroom. “I love activating people,” she said. “I like to make material relevant to life. I think that’s a strength that I have. I can take what I read and I can bring it to life and I can help you apply it and understand it in different ways.”

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Fighting for a fair food system


hose voice is missing? This question confronts Leah Cohen daily. As a soldier in the fight for food justice, Cohen is an amplifier for the voices of those in the food system who are too often ignored and subject to discriminatory practices. Everyday food consumers are rarely faced with the direct consequences of their choice in food sources, with the exception of the direct impact the food has on their bodies. Food travels through an expansive network of individuals between the time it leaves the farm and lands on a plate. This system benefits some and disadvantages others. Significantly. Corporate entities, for example, benefit from the current structure of the food system in a major way. Whereas the case is not the same for SYNERGY MAGAZINE

farmworkers. This is just one sector of stakeholders Cohen’s work strives to support. As the General Coordinator of the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP), she’s entrusted to support food system stakeholders who shoulder a disproportionately high share of the negative impacts and a disproportionately low share of the benefits of how the food system operates. This includes farmworkers, small and mid size family farms, food processing workers, ethical food brands, independent grocers and retail workers. Cohen says many of the disparities in the food system result from racism that’s taken place since the founding of the United States. “The food system in its current model uses cultural structures to

Story by: Heaven Taylor-Wynn

Leah Cohen

divide and exploit different groups for profit,” Cohen said via email. This then forces organizations like AJP to focus on others disparities like access to resources affecting groups like small and mid size family farms. What is the Agricultural Justice Project? The website for the Agricultural Justice Project explains its goal is to transform the agricultural system. It seeks “empowerment, justice and fairness” for each individual who labors from the farm to the time food is available for retail.

Farmworkers are just one group that is subject to unfair treatment.

In 2018, the USDA reported there’s been an agricultural shift to larger farming operations that’s been taking place for about 30 years. While family farms continue to dominate U.S. farming, by 2015, just over half of the value of U.S. farm production came from farms with at least $1 million in sales. (1) This ongoing consolidation places power in the hands of fewer people than before. Large farms have corporate connections and supply grocers and retailers like beloved national chains. Smaller, ethical farms are snuffed out, overlooked and struggle to appear on major chain shelves. Consequently, this profit-driven economy enables the exploitation of black, brown, immigrant and native people who labor intensively with little return. One way AJP endeavors to improve conditions for their stakeholders is through its’ Food Justice Certification program. The certification identifies

farms that meet strict social justice standards set forth by AJP with an emblem printed on the farm’s products. The first and only Food Justice Certified operation in Gainesville is The Family Garden managed by farmer Jordan Brown. Cohen oversees the certification program and supports farms like Brown’s by advocating on its behalf to encourage restaurants and grocers to buy from fair and local farms. Food justice for all While there are groups that benefit from the current state of food system,

sector against sector that is part of the problem,” and an approach that addresses each sector is necessary. In her work, Cohen is intentional about how she represents those she wants to support. “I don’t want to perpetuate a single story about a group or a person,” she said. “I aim for the messaging we put out about people who work in the food system include their full humanity, not just ... the stereotypical traits attributed to them.” According to AJP, the spread of cultural divisiveness is among the root causes of food system injustices. Cohen

Cohen said there’s also a whole lot of people who don’t. Farmworkers are just one group that is subject to unfair treatment. A 2018 report from the National Center for Farmworker Health revealed 30 percent of all agricultural worker households had total family incomes below the U.S. government’s poverty guidelines. And 27 percent could not speak any English at all. (2) A report from Farmworker Justice revealed 48 percent of farmworkers lacked work authorizations. (3) However, considering the population of undocumented farmworkers, some may not felt comfortable answering accurately. Being mindful of these statistics, this is a vulnerable group that may be easily taken advantage of. Farmworkers and other stakeholders can also be subject to the following: low wages, poor health, toxicity exposure, poor water quality, lack of food and labor rights. “It is the same factors affecting all these groups (of stakeholders),” Cohen said. Farmers are pitted against farm workers the same way employees have historically been pitted against unions. She explains “it’s (the) pitting of

says the culture of divisiveness is part of what has led to the skewed power dynamic and other disparities that exist. “(Stakeholder) voices are critical,” she said. “They have to be okay with what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.” Supporting fairness and justice Consumers have a choice. Whether the rise to the occasion is a decision they must make. What can you do? Here’s what Leah recommends: Get educated! Hungry for Justice: Whose Voice is Missing? is the awareness campaign designed to educate the masses about the real consequences of food injustice and how it affects AJP’s stakeholders. Support a fair and just farm. Money talks. Use your dollars to support ethical farming practices by purchasing from the only Food Justice Certified farm in Gainesville. Sign up for community-supported agriculture, or CSA. It’s a system allowing consumers to subscribe to the harvest of a certain farm. Open a dialogue with your local grocer about supporting Food Justice Certified farms.







small beginnings

Big Endings P

aristamika “Paris” Valencia Owens is the first black woman to serve as Captain of the

Gainesville Police Department (GPD). On December 3, 2019 in a ceremony at GPD headquarters, hundreds of family members, friends, colleagues, and community leaders gathered to celebrate this moment in history. Actually, in this case - HERstory. In the weeks to follow social media was ablazed with photos, posts, and congratulations for the new captain. Remarks described Paris as consistent, fair, selfless, determined, committed, wonderful, loving, deserving, patient, stellar, forward moving, and progressive. -the posts boasting with compliments from childhood friends to leaders in the community went on for weeks. The consistent congratulatory note to Paris was, “You earned it!”. Overwhelmingly, it appeared that those who love, know, and respect Captain Owens believe that her hard work, tenacity, and dedication led her to this moment. Paris was raised by her mother and father in East Gainesville. Her immediate family included her three aunts, two sisters, and a younger brother. In this blended and loving family she learned responsibility, compromise, and the value of hopes and dreams. She describes her mother as being independent and demanding respect. SYNERGY MAGAZINE

Story by: Virginia Grant

“She didn’t play with us,” recalls Paris. But she also fondly remembers her mother’s softer side, her desire to please

for the role in policing the community but it naturally bleeds into the captain’s personal life as well. Hearkening

and make others happy. As children do, Owens observed her mother in action and appreciates the value of service that she picked up from her, it’s a key trait that she believes has propelled her to success. The gift of serving others is critical

qualities from her mother, Owens says, “I love to cook, because I love to make people happy. I love bringing a bowl of chili to someone and seeing their faces light up Paris learned to cook as a child, and even though she was raised in a two-parent home, both parents

Paris Owens

often worked long hours and she and her siblings were responsible for coming home, cleaning the house, doing

Sometimes you choose your career, but sometimes it chooses you.

homework, and starting dinner. She also loves to bake and owns a small business called “Kreationz from Paris”. As a child, Paris learned the importance of “Community Policing”. She recalls that East Gainesville had a lot of drug activity when she was young. Her father, Danny Grant,didn’t tolerate it, he was visual, vocal, and vigilant in the community and would not allow the criminal activity to occur in front of his house. He was often the one to call the police to report suspicious activity. Mr. Grant, does not feel that his activism

influenced or led to his daughter’s decision to become a police officer, but he does feel that it influenced her style of policing. He recalls, “She was always with me, I taught her to treat people with respect.” Grant was tough on crime, but believes that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. He was the first example Paris had of leading with compassion and humility. Paris attributes her work ethic to her parents’ teachings and expectations. She began working as a teenager and remembers shortly after high school, balancing college courses at the University of Florida, working full-time

response and encouragement she hoped for and instead was discouraged from pursuing such a goal. After being laughed at, she naturally felt some self doubt but fortunately for Paris, the GPD officers patrolling Publix continued to push and recruit her. She left her undergraduate studies to pursue a career in law enforcement, enrolling in the Police Academy and subsequently being sworn in as a GPD officer in July 1994. Her first assignment was in Patrol Operations. Paris continued as an officer until 2000, when she left to return to school full-time. She earned a degree in Health Science Education and as she

at the Sheriff’s Department and parttime at Publix. During this time GPD was providing security for the local Publix stores and would often attempt to recruit promising leaders. She wasn’t interested, she doesn’t recall why, but does remember that after a few months of working two jobs and going to school, that she wanted more for herself. she told someone at the Sheriff’s department that she was interested in becoming a sheriff. She did not get the

considered applying for grad school, GPD was heavily recruiting and looking for talented officers. She received a call from a female officer and couldn’t say no to the opportunity of joining the law enforcement industry again. So in 2002, she returned to the police force to serve. Paris readily admits that being a police captain wasn’t her dream job. “Sometimes you choose your career, but sometimes it chooses you,” she expresses. In her case, she shares that




the officers and leaders that she served under had a great impact on her career path. She remembers constantly being encouraged by others. “She pushed me,” Paris recalls as she speaks of retired Lieutenant, Alena Lawson. Lawson served as the first African-American female Lieutenant for GPD. “She challenged me to think more globally, and to not limit myself.” As Paris assumes her role as the first


African-American Captain for GPD, she admits to feeling indebted to her team of officers. She remembers the challenges she has faced as a woman in a male dominated field and more specifically as a black woman in a white male dominated field. She’s clearthat it is her responsibility to mentor, encourage, and inspire the 300 plus officers that serve the Gainesville community. “I must be vocal and an advocate. It is my job to

keep their hopes and dreams alive.” She vows to do this by being fair, providing an open door policy, supporting effective communication, and encouraging officers to take advantage of training and continued education. While protecting the hopes and dreams of others, Paris shares that she has some dreams that she would like to pursue as well. “I would like to open a small bakery that carries baked goods, a variety of treats and baking supplies.” Her love for cooking is something that she shares with her mother and has passed on to her daughter, Kalyn Renae. Kayln is a graduate student at Florida A&M University, pursuing a graduate degree in Social Work. She is very close to her mother, admires her success, and values the sacrifices she has made as a single parent. “My mom works very hard, she’s a great person and an amazing parent. She supports and encourages me in everything that I do and I want to do the same for her. I want her to enjoy this moment.” This moment could have been derailed many times. Captain Owens had many opportunities to stop growing, stop moving, stop learning. She had many reasons to say no, to say I’ve had enough, to say I quit. She’s faced challenges both professionally and personally. She’s experienced hardships on the job and off the clock. But there was a little voice in her that kept saying, “If I don’t do it, who’s going to do it?” She believes it’s this voice that will keep her moving, developing and achieving greater success. And when that voice is quiet, she will have the voice of her many supporters pushing her on, including her sister, Tara, reaffirming, “This isn’t the end for Paris!”

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turning passion into profit



Story by: Staff Writer


egan Martin and Charlotte Mendez both know how difficult it can be to find work you love and have time for your kids. As Gainesville business owners, they’re turning their passions into profits and championing workforce cultures they believe in. With help from regional workforce board CareerSource North Central Florida (NCFL), they’re growing, giving back, and encouraging entrepreneurs like themselves. Growing up, Megan remembers her frustration at her adopted mother’s inability to style her hair. She dreamed of owning a salon that could style as many hair types and textures as her siblings had. As an adult, she attended three cosmetology schools to earn the multicultural hair education she wanted. She worked in several east coast salons until returning home to Gainesville, where she jumped at the opportunity for more family time and control over her work. Megan enrolled in CareerSource NCFL’s Portfolios of Income and Small Business Workshop to learn business basics including finance, budgeting, branding, sales, and marketing. Capitalizing on her skills and passion for beauty, Megan opened Salon 50 and 2, a multicultural salon that caters to all hair types and textures. She credits the salon’s success to a passion for lifelong learning and is eager to use her

experience to empower others. The salon is closed on Saturdays because Megan doesn’t want her employees to miss weekends with their kids like she did. Megan is excited to grow her business and train new team members who are eager to join the beauty industry. “I didn’t think that I was at the point where I thought I could employ more people, but CareerSource helps business owners,” she says, referring to her plan to soon bring on administration and social media interns. Through the CareerSource NCFL Internship and On-theJob-Training programs, eligible businesses can offer workbased learning experience to job seekers while also offsetting training and hiring costs. “As an entrepreneur, being around other people who have that spark keeps your fire going,” adds Megan. Megan also helps aspiring entrepreneurs find their spark, mentoring at programs similar to the one that inspired her.

According to Megan, “success is couture,” and the first step to starting a business is to do what makes you feel happy and successful. When Charlotte Mendez left social work she knew she still wanted to make a living helping others. Growing up in a family of housekeepers, she knew a cleaning venture could be successful but realized the model needed improvement. “My mom was a cleaning service provider all her life and the only thing she wanted was to get her GED,” says Charlotte. Inspired by her mother’s story, she started Cleaning Genie. The company offers job seekers with barriers to employment a place to grow their skills, while still maintaining time for other important areas of their lives, like family and education. Charlotte says many of her employees have faced difficulty getting hired because of their age, or are homemakers who need schedules that allow them to be with their children. Her

Megan Martin & Charlotte Mendez

mission is to hire the ‘hard to hires’ and offer them a chance to be successful. She frequently uses the CareerSource NCFL career centers’ skills testing programs, which help her evaluate her employees’ skill sets. If they have difficulty reading or using technology, for instance, she creates a work plan that helps the individual overcome those challenges. Charlotte’s commitment to helping

career fairs at no cost to the employer. For Charlotte, that means reduced time looking for employees. After struggling to learn to run a business by herself, Charlotte enjoys volunteering with Startup Quest® Bootcamp, an eight-week entrepreneurial program based on the nationally-recognized Startup Quest® curriculum. She tells attendees that “learning doesn’t stop when you start a company, it begins,” and believes anyone can benefit from the business mindset. “Employees sometimes don’t understand what’s going on behind the scenes,” she says. Charlotte’s message for women like her: “I should take my own advice! Do not doubt yourself. It’s hard as a woman. It’s hard as a minority. You have to not doubt what you want to do, and dream big.”

her employees grow has helped her business grow, and in turn, requires more staff. She loves that CareerSource NCFL provides access to tools and resources that many small business owners lack. CareerSource, who works hand-in-hand with the Greater Gainesville Chamber and the North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce, provides concierge recruitment services and customized

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reinvent yourself


o you ever wonder how is it

figure out what’s next, celebrate what

that some people seem so

you have accomplished already. Your

lucky when it comes to finding

achievements are 100% the product

a great job? Are these people truly

of what you have put into them. Ask

lucky? We may never know, nor care

yourself “Am I in the same place I was

to examine the steps, setbacks and

in last year”?

sacrifices taken by these folks. I can

Leverage where you are now, keep

tell you however it’s not always as easy as it looks. Some work probably went into that “lucky” streak. Before you think too much about them though, take a moment to think about your own successes. What

Am I in the same place I was in last year?


have you achieved personally or professionally? I would bet it took

moving forward and manifest your

some work and might have even been

career success in 2020. You always

accompanied by some disappointments

have options to reinvent your situation,

along the way. While you might still

bloom-again if you will, but know it

feel far from your goals, consider that

takes time, small steps and a plan not

someone may want what you already

void of setbacks. When it comes to

have? While it may not have been

your career you are the master of your

easy and while you are still trying to

career destiny. Make a commitment to


Story by: Michelle Bloom-Lugo

Reinvent Yourself

educate yourself and become, as much

think about your skills and whether

of knowing the right people and being

as possible, a subject matter expert in

you are a good fit for that role.

in the right place at the right time

the career paths that interest you this

Apply to roles where you can

is a timeless career success secret.


demonstrate why you are the

Get to know people outside of your

Read more about industries,

candidate they seek beyond a doubt.

immediate circle. It’s so easy to go

products and services that are

Use good fishing skills to figure

back and forth from work every day

important to you. Join groups in your like-minded individuals. Could you imagine how great it would be to land a job with a company that provides a product or service that you are a

educate yourself and become, as much as possible, a subject matter expert

community and network with other

consumer of or that you whole heartily


and not deviate from the same routine. Step out of your comfort zone and meet some new people. Volunteer in your community, join interest groups you just never know who you might meet. Let’s not overlook your immediate circle of friends and acquaintances,

believe in?

out where the right job leads are

either. If they don’t know your career

Let’s unpack together what you

swimming in abundance and don’t

plans, they can’t assist you either. Now

need to do today to get started in your

waste your time elsewhere.

if you find someone in your network

career journey. The following tips and

Your resume is a ticket into an

that knows of someone working in

resources will reveal some secrets to

exclusive job club. If it doesn’t say

your dream job or someone who

career success that are often hidden in

the right things in the right ways it

actually works in the type of job

plain sight.

doesn’t matter how good you are at a

you seek, ask for an “informational”

Begin by asking yourself the

specific role, you will not be invited to


following three questions:


This means you just want to speak

1. What career role would get me

Resumes usually go through an

to the person about what they do for

closer to my definition of success?

Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

information purposes. It’s not an

2. Do I have a plan that outlines the

before it is viewable by an actual

actual interview but you might want to

steps necessary to get on the right

recruiter. The ATS scans your resume

treat it as such. What you learn from

road towards my desired outcome?

for words that would indicate you are

this informal job lead meeting will

3. Do I have a strategy that allows

a good match. So, it behooves you to

perhaps add something important to

me to compete with everyone that

know what those words are. The job

your already existing career research

wants what I want?

description is filled with these words

plan. Invite the person to meet you for

Finding your next great job is no

so when you read it note how skills are

coffee/tea or ask if you can speak with

easy task, and not because everywhere

described and what they are intended

them after the workday.

you look there isn’t a job listing or

to fix.

Ask intuitive questions about what

posting. It seems like now a days there

Now in addition to utilizing key

skills are needed to get a job like theirs

are more job boards than ever before.

words, there are also many resume

or at their company. This encounter

Finding a job description that you think

templates out there, it can be pretty

might add to your research about the

describes you is not the challenge.

confusing. There are also resume

company, especially revealing things

The hard part is getting yourself

styles specific to certain jobs. Do your

not in the company website bio or

noticed and invited to interview. This

homework and find the one that best

mission statement. Share with them

is the true obstacle in today’s career

promotes your skills, experience and

what you feel are your professional


doesn’t need constant revision. See

superpowers. Your new friend may

So, what can you do?

a career coach to help you articulate

eventually become an important

Fish in the right pond – Applying for

your value and transferable skills. A

reference in the immediate future or

a job is not about sending out as many

good resume is a game changer in

somewhere along your career timeline.

resumes as you can and applying to

landing an interview.

Visit her blog, bloom-againcareers.

anything remotely interesting. Really

Network. Networking is the power

com to learn more.


Captain Ryan Woods of the Santa Fe College Police Department greets then presidential candidate Paul Broadie II, Ph.D. during his initial visit to the college. Dr. Broadie will become the fifth president of Santa Fe College on February 1, 2020.

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Articles from SYNERGY 2020- A Collaborative Guide to Economic Discovery

4 min read

Passion in Helping Others