I’Tita-Nefartari Alexander, director of operations and programming at Miami’s DIBIA Dream, began her career a decade ago as a 10th-grade English teacher. She has since gone on to become an Instructional Coach and Peer Reviewer with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Her passion for education and adolescent literacy extend far beyond the classroom. She currently serves on the Professionalization of Teaching Task Force, and the Young Educators Committee of United Teachers of Dade.
She started working with DIBIA Dream in 2014, developing curricula that focuses on financial literacy, health and wellness, STEAM (Science, Technology, Education, the Arts and Mathematics) education, leadership, and mentorship. Her work with DIBIA Dream inspired her to co-found ACT Nation Inc., a youth and leadership development agency aimed at activating the next generation of progressive leaders.
INDULGE spoke with Alexander about her success thus far and her vision for the future.
What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
“Never compromise integrity. I believe women are created with a divine gift of persuasion. We have an uncanny ability to create organizational shifts by building relationships, strategic planning with an attention to detail, and transformative thinking. A knowledgeable, strong, charismatic leader who stands firm on personal core values, which she has taken into the workplace as a moral compass, is an asset to any organization. Stand steadfast on the notion that ‘integrity holds more power than position.'”
What are the best ways to encourage and assist women to become leaders?
“We need to begin debunking the belief that an individual is either born a leader or not. Leadership skills, like any other, can be explicitly taught and developed. I believe the school system has an opportunity to impact generations by making leadership development and social-emotional education core content in the K-12 curriculum. We have to be radically innovative in how we teach critical thinking and life skills that are essential for a successful trajectory. After these skills, development must be an ongoing process, even through adulthood. Children especially need to see consistent role models in action. As community leaders, it’s our responsibility to teach them how to develop and embrace the emergent leader within. My desire is to see them promote other children to become leaders as well.”
How has being a woman complemented your entrepreneur journey?
“I found my purpose at the intersection of my innate talents and my passion. My feminine energy is a force without force. With this, I realized I had a passion for children and education, more specifically, the marginalized and disenfranchised, the forgotten and hopeless ones. I believe, as women, certain characteristics are ingrained in our DNA, which serves our ambitious endeavors. The work I have chosen to do requires an ability to nurture and develop people, concepts, curriculum, initiatives and organizations from the seedling stage to the harvest. The ability to do this work, shrouded in wisdom and being led by the heart, has put me in rooms where I can aggressively push the vision of a generation of children winning in life.”
How do you achieve work-life balance?
“I’m currently a one-woman juggling act between Miami-Dade County Public Schools, DIBIA Dream, ACT Nation and a social life that’s not missing any meals! Having a firm handle on to-do lists, meetings, projects, follow-up emails and events has helped me alleviate stress and maintain order and balance. When you are not organized, you will find that things will begin to spill over into spaces and times they were not intended for. I also have hard-line boundaries around work time and personal time, which would not have been possible without first becoming organized. I’m intentional about creating an atmosphere at home where my fiancé and I leave the world outside. We use our space to reconnect and recharge for tomorrow’s journey.”
What has been your biggest lesson learned?
“Fear is the opposite of faith. It will rob you of every opportunity provided to you, if you allow it to consume you. Fear, self-sabotage, negative self-talk and procrastination are all cankerworms, which will devour your harvest. Do it while afraid! Take the leap; it’s worth it!”
Who helped you become the person you are today?
“My mother is my first teacher. She laid a solid foundation for my sisters and me to develop as women and as leaders. When I entered the field of education it did not take me long to realize my professional success is directly linked to the professional support received from those more knowledgeable or experienced than myself. My organization, ACT Nation, and others I work for have been the benefactors of me being well supported and directed”.
What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?
“My work with today’s youth revealed not only a deficiency in leadership but also a hesitancy to lead. Children, much like adults, are in constant need of ongoing sustainable leadership development and outlets where they can lead. I believe through continuous culturally relevant development, students are made conscious of their influence sphere and how to scale that influence. As leaders emerge, they begin to find ways to address community, national and global concerns through entrepreneurial enterprise. As we continue to develop leaders, we hope those leaders will go on to do the work needed for the advancement of all humanity with the use of decision-making skills.”
What is your advice for other aspiring women entrepreneurs?
“Success is a journey, different for each individual bold enough to pursue it. We as women must understand that every experience on this journey of entrepreneurship is designed to teach, prepare and mold you for the next level. Be involved with every step in building your brand, no matter the size. Appreciate your humble beginnings because they are designated to teach you how to manage and preserve your business as it grows. The process will consist of failures; I encourage you to embrace them as a birthplace of growth. Use it to fuel your perseverance. As you navigate through the process, actively seek guidance and feedback from mentors and industry leaders. Never stop asking questions or reaching out for help, and keep educating yourself as technology and industry standards change. All these experiences will mold you into a solid female entrepreneur, which will command respect in any field. You may question, Why am I doing this? On those days, remember your passion and talents have led you to this point of fulfilling your life’s purpose. Press on!”
What makes you bounce out of bed in the morning?
“My belief that when you have a dream in your heart, nobody can stop it but you. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve heard ‘No,’ I’m encouraged by my unwavering faith.”