By: LaTisha I. White, Risk Manager, Geography Division, U.S. Census Bureau
To Whom Much is Given, Much is Required (Luke 12:48)
Each year, Black History Month reminds me of the rich heritage, sacrifice and contributions of African Americans. My Black history began in Prince George’s County, Maryland. As a young girl, I was heavily influenced by my mother, who began her government career as a GS-2 and a high school diploma. She retired as a GS-15 without a college degree as a Budget Analyst after 35 years of service. This was no easy feat. My mother taught herself software applications and budget strategies most people study in college, chasing her career goals tirelessly all while caring for three children. She was not only my mother; she was also my mentor, supporter, and best friend. Unlike my mother, I went to college right after graduating from high school. I earned a bachelor’s degree in social work and graduated valedictorian of Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, class of 2001.
I went on to pursue a master’s degree in social work at Howard University, and I graduated at the top of my class. My educational history is rich in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) culture and community involvement. At Livingstone College, I became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, the nation’s first African American sorority. As president of my chapter, I led numerous community services events, including Each One Read, Buckle Up Awareness, and tutoring programs at the local middle schools. Alpha Kappa Alpha’s mission is to cultivate and encourage high scholastic and ethical standards; promote unity and friendship among college women; study and help alleviate problems concerning girls and women to improve their social stature; maintain a progressive interest in college life; and to be of “service to all mankind.” This mission has carried over to my career.
My first job (in my chosen profession) was as a program director with Linking Communities for Educational Success, Incorporated, in the District of Columbia. This role entailed ensuring we recruited mentors and tutors from American University for at-risk students living in Ward 7. Our American University tutors and mentors were from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds. I wanted to expose the students to diverse individuals who were pursuing high academic goals and had grown up differently than they had to broaden their thinking and promote diversity within Ward 7. (My team also recruited lawyers, business owners and other professionals to serve as mentors.)
In 2006, I followed in my mother’s footsteps, joining the federal workforce full-time as a program analyst in the Human Resources Division of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Workforce Development Office.
The Census Bureau strongly supports inclusion and diversity. One of my first assignments was to help reduce the number of days for new employee orientation without compromising quality. Toward this end, I worked with presenters from various Census Bureau divisions and backgrounds to streamline their presentations and tailor them to the digital world.
I’m currently a program analyst in the Census Bureau’s Geography Division. In this role, I work closely with division chiefs, assistant division chiefs, team leads and nonsupervisory staff to assess risks to our support program. The skills I learned from my mother, social work, and sorority have been invaluable in helping me carry out this role.
When I joined the Geography Division in 2008, I was the only African American in my area. I viewed that as an opportunity for me to learn about new team members and vice versa. We work together to fulfill the mission of the Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce.
In 2018, I was appointed to a two-year term as chief of the Geographic Project Management Branch during the 2020 Census. During this time, my team and I implemented diversity and inclusion activities including team-building and cross training exercises. We provided all employees opportunities to grow and learn.
“To whom much is given, much is required.” My mother’s perseverance set the path for me to become the well-rounded federal career professional and mother I am today. I too have three children currently forging their own paths. My oldest child is in her second year of college at an HBCU, and my twins are honor students in their sophomore year of high school.
Black History Month to me means legacy, creativity, pride, and strength. Without my Black history, my ancestors, and the work they put in before me, I would not have the resilience to accomplish all the goals I have in my academic and federal careers. I live by the famous quote by the late great Dr. Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Black History Month is not only something to be celebrated – it is a forever feeling.
This blog post is part of a series showcasing the diverse African American leaders from across the U.S. Department of Commerce in honor of Black History Month.
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