NCCU Interim Chancellor joins StepUp Durham board

An interview with Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye on his inspiration and hopes around partnership with StepUp Durham

How did you first hear about StepUp and what inspired you to join the board? 

I first heard about Step Up and its role in assisting individuals with employment and skills training from the Executive Director, Ms. Syretta Hill. She spoke passionately about the nonprofit organization’s purpose and its mission to restore the lives of those who are struggling economically. She also told me of the need for additional community partners such as North Carolina Central University.

As citizens and neighbors, I believe we have a personal obligation to reach out and assist others in our community, especially those faced with major challenges.  Everyone deserves the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. NCCU’s motto is “Truth and Service.” These values have been a cornerstone of my life and are beliefs I have shared with my own children. They also are demonstrated daily across campus by our students, faculty and staff. 

I was inspired to become an active agent of change as a member of the StepUp Board of Directors because of my investment in the Durham Community and my desire to enable NCCU to become a resource and potential employer for clients of the agency.

What StepUp initiatives are you most excited about in 2017?

One of the main StepUp initiatives I am most excited about for 2017 is Step2.  Its focus on the personal development, financial awareness and career pathways will no doubt have a transformative impact on the lives of participants. Through training and individual empowerment workshops, this program will succeed in enhancing the skilled talent her in Durham and provide a resource for the Triangle Region’s workforce. We are exploring the potential of providing NCCU facilitators for these training to foster a stronger partnership between the university and StepUp. Ultimately, this is a win-win for the organization and our university.

What StepUp participant stories have resonated with you the most?

The testimony of Ms. Jajuanna Chavis exemplifies how the right combination of persistence, perseverance and talent – along with the insight and resources provided by StepUp – can transform individual lives. Ms. Chavis spoke about the guidance she was provided through her search process, including interview preparation, networking advice and options for a new career path. As she said, StepUp invests in your success if you are “willing to do the work.” I understand that Ms. Chavis story is just one of many that highlight the positive influence StepUp has had on those it serves.