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Spotlight on Commerce: Michelle Rogers, Economic Development Specialist, U.S. Economic Development Administration

Guest blog post by Michelle Rogers, Economic Development Specialist, U.S. Economic Development Administration  

My key responsibility is to support the Partnership Planning program in the U. S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Chicago region. In this capacity, I review all documentation for technical grant management and implementation, including proposals and the subsequent grant awards for our Public Works, Planning, University Centers, Technical Assistance and Economic Adjustment programs.

I was born in Wayne, Michigan, and I received my formal education and desire to learn while attending St. Mary’s Elementary School. Later, I lived in Odessa, Texas, and Los Angeles, California and living there affected my growth and determination to serve. These places taught me how important it is to be selfless and to strive toward improving the lives of people and communities around me. It was there that stewardship, determination, resiliency and a thirst for education were instilled in me. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance, as well as a Master of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management with honors from Davenport University.

The person that influenced my life most is my mother, Rochelle Davis. She was raised in a two-parent household with eight boys and six girls who were taught to worship, embrace learning, and work hard. She studied and earned a bachelor’s degree in Nursing and a master’s degree in Theology. She worked as a Registered Nurse and Pastoral Counselor. She taught me and my two brothers at an early age to first give honor to God, to listen, and to not judge. On weekends, I attended charm school and during the week I climbed trees, rode dirt bikes and jumped fences with my brothers.

As I grew, I realized my mother taught and encouraged me to utilize all my gifts. It was my mother who taught me the value of family, the meaning of friendships, and the importance of having integrity.

Still today, she encourages me to have balance, to be thankful, and to be a blessing to others despite perceived struggles. I am thankful for a God-fearing husband and an amazing family that I would move mountains for.

There are two quotes that resonate and keep me focused on my work and professional goals:

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” - Colin Powell.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” - Vivian Greene.

To me, being an African American means a lot of unknown heroes carried the torch for me. Their tenacity to fight for equal rights and justice for all mankind allowed everyone to benefit from the opportunities that exist today. It would be a disgrace to my heritage if I did not take advantage of all the things Dr. Martin Luther King, Sojourner Truth, and the first African American Pilot Denise Coleman fought so hard for. It is symbolic for me as a former track runner who ran relays and passed the baton. Our ancestors ran their race and they passed the torch to us, the future trailblazers and leaders of tomorrow.

Being a career civil servant means it’s my turn to carry the baton. It is my privilege to serve and I do not take it lightly. I strive each day to improve the lives of people I interact with, not just at work, but as a way of life. I try to live by example for my children and admit when I make mistakes so I can learn from them. As I look back on my life, my career path veered along the way. The straight path was interrupted by marriage, child rearing, relocations and the unfortunate passing of loved ones; but I remain vigilant and continue to serve each and every day because that is my passion.

My advice to youth interested in a Federal Government career would be to be flexible when opportunities present themselves and be open to travel. Think of the opportunity as a journey that will broaden your scope of knowledge. Do not prevent yourself from gaining valuable training and experience in job categories or geographic locations you never considered. Remember, you may not finish in the same position where you started. Whatever agency you are with throughout your tenure, the goal should be consistent – contribute to the growth and solvency of the agency you serve, be better than you were when you began, and teach and inspire someone before you go.

Most importantly, before you begin to pursue your secondary and graduate degrees for your desired careers, arm yourself with information and speak to others who hold the roles you aspire to have.

Once you take your oath to serve, live it, hit the ground running, work hard every day and be results driven. Surround yourself with caring, knowledgeable, positive people who will not only sharpen your saw, but who will encourage you to be your best self. Embrace your strengths and weaknesses because, in order to grow, you must identify and understand how to improve both!

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce African Americans during Black History Month.