[Beth Nikopoulos]: My name is Dr. Beth Nikopoulos and I am Director of Student Life and Engagement at our North Lake Campus of Dallas College.
And I am really excited today to have some very prominent leaders of Dallas College as well as the Dallas community.
So I will begin by doing a brief introduction and then when I call your name, if you want to just kinda tell us a little bit about yourselves and maybe what, what inspired you to be with us today.
So I will start with our very own Chief Lauretta Hill, who is Chief of Police of Dallas College. Chief, would you go ahead?
[Lauretta Hill]: Hi. Good morning. I'm excited to be here and share this with this, this screen. Usually I'll say this stage.
But this screen with such wonderful women. I have been at Dallas College for a little over four and a half years now.
I have over 27 years in law enforcement. I started when I was 15.
Usually when I'm not when in front of people, people laugh. So I started very early in my career. (laughs)
So I'm excited to be here today.
I've served in Arlington, Texas Police Department for over 20 years; and I served in Miami Beach Police Department, Miami Beach, Florida Police Department for a couple of years before joining Dallas College.
So I'm excited about the opportunity to share a little bit about my story.
[Beth Nikopoulos]: Excellent. Thank you so much. We're glad to have ya.
We've had the opportunity to work together before, so it's good to see you.
Next, we have Dean Shani Suber, who I still want to say is from North Lake Campus, but I know that she was at Brookhaven and now you're just Dallas College, I think.
But you are in charge of Effectiveness and Enhancement for E-learning, which is of course, a very busy job these days.
So would you share a little about yourself?
[Shani Suber]: Yes, thank you very much.
I do, I have Dallas College family throughout what we used to call the district.
And so it's just been an amazing journey.
So off and on I've been in Dallas College about 20 years in education holistically, to date myself, but I previously did serve in the role of Dean of Online at Brookhaven and then I was also English faculty.
So I am probably along many, served in many roles as adjunct faculty and now administration.
So I am elated to be here and just connect with, you know, women in leadership.
And like we said, the people on our panel and just so many incredible women in Dallas College, so, and in our communities. So thank you for having me.
[Beth Nikopoulos]: Thank you so much. Good to see ya!
And I would also, next, like to introduce Minister Crystal Bates, who I know you work with Friendship-West.
I know you work with voter registration. You do a lot of wonderful things.
So please share with us some of the work that you do.
[Crystal Bates]: Oh, thank you so much. I'm so glad to be here.
Thank you for the invitation and thank you, Dr. Braden, for the invite.
Yes. I've been a member of Friendship- West for almost 20 years and I remember the date, like it was yesterday.
I dated them for a year and I joined on September the 9th of 2001, which was a couple of days before 9/11.
So I don't remember many dates, but I remember that date as if it was a birthday or something.
So I am a member and part of the ministers in training there.
I've been with them for quite some time, serving all over the creation with Dr. Pastor Frederick Douglass Haynes, the Third.
Um, a little bit of my background- In 2008, I got into radio. I was invited - with no experience - to co-host a radio show.
I had some experience in radio starting 2008; many of us shared on here that I am a graduate of Kilgore College.
I was a first generation graduate in my family.
And then I got a computer science degree there and then I went on to UT in Arlington, where I finished with an economics degree.
I was in ninth African-American female to complete that degree at UTA and also a business admin degree as well.
And then, currently, I was serving on the Public Policy Committee with Dallas, with the city of Dallas, but due to the pandemic, we've kinda halted things there.
But I also serve as an outreach coordinator for United States Christian Leadership organization.
I'm also the logistics chair for non-partisan Get Out the Vote, a non-partisan coalition here in Dallas in the midst of the pandemic.
Oh, let me back that. I'm also a proud Coppell Rotarian. I was inducted, I think in 2019 or 2018, I can't remember what year.
But also in the midst of the pandemic when so many crazy, crazy things like locusts, gnats and everything else was swarming the creation, God put me on this vision to activate a local NAACP branch in our area and...I'm still in awe.
Needless to say, I'm still in awe. I fought through the wolves and the forest and everything else, and I was able to collectively gather our community.
And we started - well now, Dallas can celebrate us having DFW metro NAACP because God gave little ol' me a vision.
And so we service the communities of Coppell, Carrollton, Lewisville and Flower Mound.
It's five cities- Coppell, Carrollton, Lewisville, Grapevine and Flower Mound. I think that's it.
And I'm the proud mother of a 25-year-old Mr. Christopher [inaudible], who is a YouTuber, he does some other amazing things.
Oh, I'm so proud of him so...that's enough.
Oh, and my ministry, see-based ministry. Okay. How could I forget that?
[Beth Nikopoulos]: Thank you so much for sharing. I'm the mother of three young adults, I should say.
I did not know it was so hard to live with college students until, until the pandemic. (laughs)
So I've learned the hard way.
So next and surely not least, I am very happy and proud to introduce Dr. April Braden, history faculty from the North Lake Campus.
And of course, she has also served as advisor to our feminist groups who have had various names.
There are some stories behind that. Dr. Braden, I'm really happy to see you.
Would you like to share a few comments?
[April Braden]: Sure. So I've been at Dallas College for three years now. I've been teaching for 10.
I got my BA and my MA from Loyola Chicago in history, and then my PhD in American culture studies and my public history certificate from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
So yeah, I'm actually surprisingly new to female history. That is not my area.
My area is buildings. But for my master's, I wrote a sort of a feminist history of aerobics, focusing on Jane Fonda.
And I also taught a lot of women's studies classes at Bowling Green.
And through that, I've just sort of entered into it.
I have, I'm working on an article now talking about how feminism, historical feminism, is represented on television and popular culture.
So hopefully that'll be done eventually.
But yeah, I'm, I'm very excited to be here and yeah, looking forward to this discussion.
[Beth Nikopoulos]: Awesome. It's a lot I didn't know about you.
I'm gonna go get my leg warmers on so I'll be ready to read your...(laughs) I thought maybe I was the only one who would remember Jane Fonda in this whole room.
So I'm going to read a question and then any one of you can respond or all of you, of course.
So I'm just going to read it and please just, you know, let me know who wants who wants to start.
So we'll try to be as flexible as possible. So our first question is, what do you feel is our responsibility as women in leadership to help the next generation of women?
[Lauretta Hill]: Well, I'm not shy. I'll start. (laughs)
You can't be shy my profession. So there you go.
You have to go in, you have to command the facts, make a decision, and go to the next call.
So I think it's really important because in my field, in policing, there's not many women in executive levels.
There's not many women in policing period, but definitely not, few and far between in, in executive levels.
So I think it's really important for people to see somebody that looks like them.
Because then you can aspire to be in that position.
If you don't see people as -- women, as doctors or lawyers, or chiefs or presidents of colleges, chancellors, whatever that professional role -- a general in the military.
When you don't see people that represent who you are, you may not believe that there's an avenue for you.
And so I think it's very important to be representative, and that we have an obligation to open those doors and leave them open behind us, not shut 'em.
So we don't give out hate. We don't shut doors behind us, but we have an obligation to open those doors because somebody opened them before us, and leave those doors open and be informal mentors.
I'm not a big fan of formal mentors because you don't pair people with people that they don't have something in common with, it doesn't work.
But be informal mentors to people and allow yourself to be used and serve in that capacity because somebody opened that door for you.
And it is an obligation for us to continue to open that door and be, you know, be transparent with people and what it takes to get where we are.
Because it takes a lot to give where you are, it takes a lot for us women, especially African-American women and women of color, to stay where we are.
So you have to be realistic with people in it. So I think that's our obligation- to open that door, keep that door open, be informal mentors and, and reach one, teach one.
[April Braden]: You know, jumping off of that, when we talk about representation, I think sometimes it gets sort of like abbreviated down to just, like, physical appearances.
And one of the things that I wrote down was not hiding my background.
So a lot of students don't understand that many of their professors are also first-gen, like I am, first-generation.
They also don't, they maybe don't think that, well, gosh, I didn't know that Professor Braden also, when she was a child, she was a child of a single mom and they were on welfare for a bit of time.
And like just sort of sharing your own story and it doesn't have to be like, "Oh no, they were poor," whatever.
But just sharing that you too had, had stumbles and it's okay to have a stumble and it's okay to come back from that stumble.
And I think oftentimes once we get to these higher levels, we want to hide that from people, because we don't want to emphasize the flaw that we may have because then it's easier for people to pick away at us.
[Shani Suber]: And I would say, I think all women leaders can help the next generation, I would say through three areas.
The first would be awareness. And I think first and foremost by saying, it's our responsibility to empower women to know that they are leaders where they are currently, title or no title.
So in your home, in your community, in your church.
So the title is not necessarily required because you're leading, you know, it's it's kind of that in order to lead you have to serve.
And that's the place that you start with within yourself.
So we teach them, you know, that you truly teach people how to treat you.
First, starting with yourself and leading yourself.
And then I'll say mentorship, you know, in a, in a way that's well-rounded.
Because if you embrace who you are and be honest with where you are and allow yourself to be vulnerable, then, you can then learn what you need in order to grow.
But you have to be teachable, not intimidated, not, you know, my chapter, you know, 25 to your chapter 30.
There's a calibration that needs to happen. So just honoring and embracing the ownership of future women's leadership and their journey.
And I think recognizing that they're going to learn from multiple people.
So there's no such thing of, as Lauretta mentioned, as one mentor, one person, one, you know, it depends on what area of your life that you want to grow and people that you see that are in that direction that you want to go.
And third, I would say the empowerment piece, because we will seek opportunities to recognize, I think the strengths in women and around us, and then meet them with that genuine support to acknowledge their steps and what they're rooted in, and what they feel most connected and passionate about.
It doesn't necessarily have to be, like she mentioned, what I'm doing, but just be that voice.
And one of the quotes that I like is Muriel Strode says, "I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where the path -- there is no path and lead a trail."
So hopefully our women will continue to move forward and create that path and leave that trail and continue to grow in what they're passionate about.
[Crystal Bates]: For me, I mean, I echo everything that everyone else has mentioned.
Definitely being transparent, not allowing people to think life has been roses.
I mean, you wouldn't imagine what's behind this face and sometimes just being transparent to let people know my struggle may not be your struggle but we all have a struggle, and we have to keep on climbing.
And definitely we juggle so much as women.
You know, everybody's juggling a whole life, and especially as African-American women, we oftentimes are responsible, responsible not only for our household, but we have generational responsibilities, we have community responsibilities.
Also allowing people to see us say, "no," or allowing others to see us say when enough is enough.
Because so many of us find ourselves being consumed and overwhelmed to the point we're depleted and we're no earthly good for ourselves or anyone.
So showing people it's okay to respectfully say, "No, I just can't do it."
And then also, as Dean Shani mentioned, empowering other younger women and allow them their space to be individuals- their own individuality, their own character, personality, their creativity, allowing space for that because trust me, it's enough room for all of us to shine.
It is enough room for all of us to shine.
So allowing those young people to come -- and not just the younger.
Oftentimes, I know, all of us seem to be very young women.
Sometimes even older women need that mentorship and that encouragement, to strive for bigger and greater in their dreams, their visions, their goals.
And so just allow space by everybody and allowing every moment.
When, I talked about my ministry, see-based ministry and that's building attitudes to encourage success.
I love it, just building attitudes to encourage success, and that's the message that we can share with everyone.
And I feel that's definitely our responsibility for other women as well.
[Beth Nikopoulos]: Wonderfully said everyone, thank you so much and I am going to keep on moving.
Our next question is, name a person or people who inspired you along your journey and who helped you get where you are now.
[Shani Suber]: Well, I'll start. I would say for me over the course of my journey, both professionally and personally has, you know, they're a lot of people that have shaped where I'm at now.
And I have tremendous, tremendous honor and respect for so many people, but I would say one outstanding person is no longer here and she's my best friend of 24 years.
And her name was Courntey Chancer Brown.
And so she was actually a pillar of strength and she held steadfast in her faith, her determination to be -- she was actually a student at North Lake in the '90s, but it had its challenges.
And so, you know, we started our higher education, like really going to college, together in different schools but she was actually unable to finish.
So she had Lupus and basically attending classes physically was not ideal.
And as you can imagine, in the early '90s, online education was that dial up.
So it was 20 minutes to load a page and so it had its own challenges.
But I would say throughout her battle with Lupus she always encouraged me to continue- first to embrace my health, my life, and what our journeys were, we were trying to accomplish.
And so I think her encouragement of utilizing the gift of education and finishing school.
So since she's passed on, you know, that's my commitment.
And so when people see me in accessibility, and when you guys see me doing what I'm doing now with online education, it's to honor her and a lot of things that she's been through, and to continue in those years that she didn't have.
So when I look at our students and when I look at our colleagues and as the minister mentioned, you know, I never take those things for granted.
And so when we have an opportunity to be that voice, even though that may not be something that we live per se, to continue to strive in that, and to hold a light to that and bring that awareness is key.
So I commit my life to that. And so I would say not only Courtney, but there are a lot of other people.
All the women in Dallas College have inspired me.
It's just been incredible, no matter what positions they've held, you know, I've seen the strength, I've seen the commitment, and I've seen the heart.
And that is truly what kept me personally a lot of days.
So it was people's faith walk, how they treated people, how they responded in their highs and lows and then their impact.
So I would just say for me, again, it's not one person, it's my spiritual growth its my being a wife, being a mom, and, you know, friends and families and professional life.
So I'm just grateful for, you know, and honor every woman's journey no matter what that looks like.
[Lauretta Hill]: I would say the same thing with, that Dean Shani said, that it's so many people that have shaped it, but at the core is my mom.
She is a woman of faith. She prayed for me the day and I decided that I was going to be a cop because she had no idea why I would do that.
And she's been praying for me ever since -- it's because of my safety.
I'm her baby girl and back in 1993 when I started my journey as an officer, she and my dad were, have always been there for me.
And so I will say my foundation started with her.
So because it did, because she told me to keep these three things in order: God, family and work.
And now of course, I spend more time in some of those areas, depending on where I was in my career, when I'm working midnights it's really hard to go to early service at church.
It's really hard to get to a little league game when I'm working evening shift.
So I may spend more time, depending on where I was in my life, but I never mixed up those priorities, God, family and work.
And so with that foundation, as I started my journey throughout policing and where I am now, when I see other women and other people in my circle, some of them are starting that journey, and I'm a, I got young kids.
I know y'all, a lot of people said they got adults well I started late in life.
I have an eight-year-old and I have a 12-year-old. And so, and my eight-year-old has special needs.
So when you said, Minister Bates about saying no, I still don't know how to do that yet.
I really try hard, (laughs) but I just feel that I owe so many people because so many people have been there for me.
So it is so hard for me to say no and mean it, because I feel like I owe so many people for where I am today; but I do need to learn how to do that.
And I'm going to work harder to learn how to say no, but I just can't name all the people.
Dr. Theron Bowman, it's my old boss from Arlington. He not only professionally but personally, throughout my whole entire career has been there for me, and still is now.
So it's just so many people and you just can't do it by yourself.
It's just impossible to be in our, in this day and time and not have people around you that help you through that journey.
So it's my mom to the core that has been that rock for me.
[Crystal Bates]: I would like to say also, my mom. My mom is a recovered cancer patient.
So she dealt with cancer back, okay I'm 44, so probably over 40 years ago, 42 years ago.
So, the advancement that they have now, they only had radiation then.
And so she deals with a lot of complications as a result of that now.
And not only that, raising, having had a two-year old at the time she was diagnosed with cancer, raising me alone.
You know, she raised two children along with a lot of major health issues and on top of that, she had a sickly child.
I was diagnosed at 10-years old and I was very sickly.
We didn't have a lot of money, so little money we had. She was missing work.
And when I tell you even if 44 it's not a time that I'm hospitalized that my mother is not on that road from East Texas and by my side, like literally.
In 2016 I went in for a routine procedure. They accidentally perforated my intestines.
And like literally they thought I was just about to die because they couldn't find it.
Well, at two o'clock in the morning -- before two o'clock came, my mother had made it before they took me into the operating room to do emergency surgery.
So there has not been a time, literally even as an adult, that I've gotten sick and my mother not, my mother not been there.
And even my grandmother- because of my mother's health issues and my health issues, we stayed in a home with my grandmother for many, many years.
And even with my grandmother, she also displayed that strong black woman.
I remember one time I couldn't walk; and my legs were hurting and I couldn't walk.
My grandmother came over to my house, she said, "Well Christina, you need to put some copper on."
So ya'll, this lady had me taping copper pennies around my ankles, only to find out they long stopped making pennies out of copper.
So my grandmother, my mother, and then I have to mention --and there other people -- but Dr. Jean Jones, who I mentioned earlier.
I didn't even know this woman, like literally another minister in the church was like, "Reverend Jean Jones is looking for you. She wants to contact you."
And I was like, what does she want with me you know, because I was like, I didn't know her.
And literally, it has blown my mind. And at the time, I had just, I lost my hearing in 2008. And I mean, that was just tragic.
So in the midst of a very tragic situation, she reached out to me to co-host her radio show on her radio station.
And since then she's had several shows that she's invited me to be a part of, which allowed me space to evolve, to develop in public speaking and other things that I had already been doing, but she also --- anything she's ever did since we've met, she's always allowed me that platform.
We have a live show going now...The Word of God Heals All Wounds, I probably missed that up.
But, you know, she has really been very instrumental in my life, and then I can't forget my son.
Just raising him as a mother by myself, it was challenging.
He was such a wonderful kid and then he turned into a monster for a while and now God has brought my son back.
And he's just the most amazing son. And even as an adult, he challenges because --- and he teaches me.
Although I'm not a wife and I haven't been married, raising a son has allowed me to learn some things because one important thing I had to learn, and I'm going to share this because I don't know who may be listening to this.
Raising him, I raised in one way but then when he became 18, I realized I had to raise him differently.
Like I was a disciplinary and do this, do this when I say do it, you know all that.
That doesn't work with an adult male, and especially not a black male at that.
And so I've learned so much; he probably doesn't realize how much he sharpens me.
And he encourages me even now to continue to strive to do better.
And he's walking in my footsteps doing some amazing things.
So, so my mother, my grandmother, Reverend Jean, and of course my son, and so many others.
I hate to even heck, name names, because it's so many who have really been instrumental.
And like I said, at times in my life when things were very, very dark, those people, and just so many remain here now just to encourage me.
And the late, I'm just going to say the name, late Shawnda Rondos.
She was from Dallas, Texas. She was a Toastmasters contestant. She won locally, regionally, statewide and went on to compete internationally.
She dealt with lupus, and I didn't know her.
Somebody called me one day- this lady's in the hospital, she's dying and she wants to give up. And I raised up, like, "Give up?"
I didn't even know her. I went into the hospital for chemotherapy, I found out where she was and after my chemo treatment I rolled in the room and the rest was history.
But she encouraged me because when I met her, she was skin and bone.
She had just came out up a coma, but yet, and in the middle of competing for that Toastmasters, she had limbs, she had fingers and toes amputated, but still went on to compete and won internationally.
She was [inaudible] to some Lupus issues and passed just a couple of years ago.
But even though she's not here, she still encourages me. She does.
[Beth Nikopoulos]: I hardly even know how to follow, follow that up with any more words.
I really appreciate the candor and the struggles that you all have had, both health and personally.
And I think this next question you may, some of you may feel that you've answered already.
But really, this is just about the barriers. I mean, I know many of you have expressed being first or being not a lot, maybe one of the first few.
So talk to us a little bit about some of the barriers that you had to overcome.
And how did you, how did you overcome those barriers so that you can be here and be the leaders that you are?
[April Braden]: So when I was thinking about this, I'm like, "Man, I don't have a lot of barriers. Like, I just went out and did it."
But then, you know, I get to thinking and some of you guys may know that I grew up in a really, really small rural area in Northern Illinois. There's about 1000 people.
So if you can imagine, there weren't, there wasn't a lot of access to educational opportunities to begin with.
There were no advance classes, nothing.
I mean, when I was in high school, we had a newspaper come and do a story on our school because our ACT scores were so high and they were like, "We don't understand how it all you poor people have such high ACT scores."
And we're like, Oh, okay. So there wasn't a lot of educational opportunity.
It's not to say that people are uneducated because they are, they're not, farmers aren't dumb.
But there weren't, like, I didn't even know that you could be a professor until I went to college. Which sounds silly.
But like, professor just seemed like a job like you might have like on television, right?
Like, I don't know how you got there but you did it. Right? (laughs)
And so when I think about some of the barriers that I had to overcome, it wasn't just like geographical and economic because even though I grew up very poor, money was never an issue.
You do the thing that you wanna do, money will find its way, right?
Like money is like a checkmark that you have, right? You shouldn't let it stop you.
But it was just sort of like the lack of exposure. And so when I went from a really small town to Chicago, a giant city, like it was just...all of this stuff. (laughs)
And so it's sort of like trying to, to get on the, what is it --- to get my feet underneath me, right?
Like trying to start out at a run. And then dealing with like, ask for help, also, went through a lot.
And even, I didn't even, still didn't even think that I wanted this job until I was a senior in college.
And one of my friends told me like, "You should do this."
Like I was pre-law, I was going to law school. Glad I didn't.
I worked at a law firm. I hated it. It was the worst. Oh gosh, it was so awful.
That's a note for whomever is listening. Being a lawyer is not fun. It is not SVU. (laughs)
So at any rate, I think some of the biggest barriers for me weren't necessarily like someone else keeping me from doing something, but just not knowing the possibilities of what you could achieve.
[Beth Nikopoulos]: Thank you.
[Crystal Bates]: Um, for me, of course, I mentioned that I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at age 10 and just was so sickly.
I would spend two to three months in the hospital. Then in East Texas, health care was at a minimal there.
And so just a lot of challenges with my health and like I said just spending so much time in a hospital.
I didn't even think I would live to see 18. And I definitely didn't think I would graduate and coming from a family who no--- there had not been college graduates.
I didn't have anybody in my ear encouraging me to go to college.
You know, again, I was just trying to finish high school and I didn't think I would manage through that because every year I was always [inaudible] behind due to being sick.
So [inaudible] just challenges- I've had threats of my legs being amputated, I lost my hearing in 2008, I've had --- the Crohn's disease had attacked my skin, my eyes.
It has been such a complicated disease for me. We didn't have much money.
I told you my mother's background. And on top of all that, I go out and get pregnant at 17.
So I was a teen who dealt with a teen pregnancy and having to raise my son, alone and be sick at the same time definitely head its challenges.
So we just had so many barriers there.
And then I knew I was being called to ministry early on, but, so just given that opportunity to minister and share in different spaces was definitely a challenge as a woman and being very young, because I knew early on at age 12 and 13 in the middle of being sick that I was being called.
But, you know, I was a minister of music at that time before accepted my calling to preach and teach.
But also during that time, I was introduced to Langston Hughes' poem Mother To Son.
I mean, it just, it talked about most of that. "Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it, and splinters," and rooms boarded up, you know, and just so many things in that particular poem talked about barriers, and barriers as an African-American woman.
Barriers as a woman in general, a single mother raising a son, financial hardships and challenges.
I've had them all, you know. So yeah. I mean, we've talked about many of them but again, it's too many to name.
I'd have to come back as an author. (laughs)
[Beth Nikopoulos]: Sounds like you should do that.
And I should just say my, my father has suffered with Crohn's for as long as I can remember.
And it is a very, it's a very unusual disease, much like coronavirus in that everybody has a different response to it.
So I can only imagine how challenging that has been.
And I'd like to ask Dean Suber or Chief Hill if if you wanted to add at all?
[Lauretta Hill]: I'll share a little because my journey in policing, there are barriers everywhere for women in policing.
And, you know, in Arlington, Texas, I was the first African-American female sergeant, lieutenant, deputy chief, chief. I'm the second chief in black female chief, black female chief in the state of Texas.
And so so when you have firsts still happening, then you know, there had to be barriers there.
It's not because, like you were saying, Dr. Braden, it's not because we're not smart and not capable of doing it, is just the fact that you have to prove yourself every day, where a male in my profession...it's an automatic.
When they sit in the room with other police executives, oftentimes, if I'm not in uniform, oftentimes they wonder, if she's actually an executive or is she a civilian, and, you know, they don't know.
They, they may assume that she's probably a civilian because it's not that many chiefs around that are, that are female.
And so you're constantly dealing with the fact that it's a good ol' boys club in policing.
Not every department, but there is a there is a thread that runs throughout policing history.
You know, it doesn't have to be right in your face, but you can see by the numbers there are barriers there.
And then when you get into the room, you have to continue to prove yourself daily-on your knowledge, what you know, your interaction.
So I've always been the one, when I come in the room I make noise.
So I just don't -- just only invite me in the room because you need to fill that seat.
Because if you're uncomfortable with me, then that's your problem.
And so when you get in the room as a woman and you break some of those barriers, you're in that room for a reason, your voice matters. Your voice counts.
Don't just be thankful that you broke the glass ceiling.
You know, you have to be a voice because...are we going to keep still having firsts for this, firsts for that?
I still see them now, which is still amazing to me, in some police agencies.
Oh, this is the first female lieutenant. I was like, It is 2021.
How is it that you're just now getting your first?
But we just have to -- it's just so many barriers in my -- when I came to the district and I saw all those women presidents, I was like, Okay -- and then all these women deans, I was like, this is a totally different world for me, completely with all these beautiful, intelligent, strong women leading the district everywhere.
That's just not something I see, I have seen throughout my law enforcement career.
But I just think the barriers that are there, especially in my line of work is, you know, it's you just have to continue to prove yourself over and over; and, when you get there, it's just really hard to stay there, and we have other things going on in our lives.
You know, I'm a mother, I'm a wife. I'm a sister, I'm an aunt. I run a special needs ministry at my church, like I have time -- so I have to make time for that too.
I started the special needs ministry because my child needed a place to go.
He can't stand in the regular sanctuary because he has autism, he screams and flaps, the preacher would never get through a sermon with my child in the regular sanctuary.
So I started a special needs ministry at my church.
That's me not being able to say "no." So... (everyone laughs) I told you I have a problem with it.
But so it's just, you know, just those barriers of just having to -- that are constantly there.
You know they're there and you just have to continue, continue to prove yourself over and over.
But when you get in that room, you have to make noise and you have to let them know, you belong there.
So if they're uncomfortable, it's their problem not yours.
[Shani Suber]: That's true. I would say my barriers included many areas-moving states, several schools.
You can imagine sometimes a lack of confidence that came with that every time you're having to reset and readjust.
But I think that over time when I look back, that's probably why I can deal with change right now.
So I think it actually helped me in the long run, but, you know, that constant change was tough.
But when I was actually preparing for college, I didn't have any money for school.
So I had to basically learn how to ask questions, stand in as many lines as possible.
And, you know, it took a lot, but I had to be patient. And of course there wasn't online registration and learning then.
So everything was the paper book with all the classes and you would get to the front of the line and they would say that a class is full and you're frantically trying to find another class.
So, it taught me a lot of patience.
But I would say, you know, one of my challenges and barriers was I would go to school 8:00 to 12:00 and then I would work 1:00 to 9:00 at night.
And I remember at one point I just thought, I just want to work. This is too much.
I don't have a life. I wanted to quit.
I saw people pushing in their chairs at 5 o'clock and I was still working till 9:00, 10:00 at night.
But something wouldn't allow me to stop. And so I continued and basically knew, Okay, I have to take risks because I had other changes that were happening in my life, so... I didn't even really think I could get to college, let alone through college.
I'm from Louisiana so when I moved to Texas, that was a huge academic shift and I struggled.
So, I think that, you know, between that and then eventually I went back to school, when my oldest son was seven months old.
So I would have, you know, a backpack and then my [inaudible] and people would say, "Why do you have two backpacks?" (laughs)
And so, you know, it's just one of those things that -- you know, I taught by day, I worked 40-hours, I had you know, my family and my husband was a tremendous support with that.
But it was it was one of those things, it was now or never create that legacy.
So when I started as a teacher in K-12, I thought people were staring because I was new. And then I realized that my colleague and I were the first Black teachers at that school.
And so I think getting to a place that people are asking to see your credentials.
And it was a challenge because we were actually the most educated in school, we both had our Masters degree.
But we were certainly challenged in those.
Also in terms of, you know, we were qualified to do that job. And I remember I won't -- I won't say cities but someone said, "Well, that might be, you know, how they do in Dallas, but here..." and I lived here.
But at the time, because they knew I taught in Dallas, which I did the heart of my career -- it's like, you know, it's just interesting how people take your journey and things that you do and then apply it to that particular situation, but not always in a positive light.
So I think that you learn to listen and process before you speak, and you learn when it is appropriate to engage in certain conversations, and I think sometimes if it's, if it's worth that energy.
You know, moving into a professor role is like a dream come true.
And the people I've met, I think, again, it just speaks to particular barriers though.
You know, I started learning all these different things and everyone knows how much I love tech, and one thing led to another and it all came together, which led me into the place that I am now.
But I would just say, I learned what is constantly thought about and that you magnify in your life; and so I learned to reduce those distractions and that noise and lean into what I wanted to accomplish to create that legacy and make an impact.
So my family and friends know me well when they don't hear from me, I'm leaning in, I pull back and I focus and I do my thing.
So, you know, hopefully I have two boys, they're 14 and 18, they're encouraged by that and I've been encouraged in some of their leadership and when they have mentors, sometimes they choose those female and I think that's fantastic.
My son is connected to Marine ROTC and he got to choose his leader and that's who he chose and that made me very proud because he looked at who she was and what she was accomplishing and I thought that was fantastic.
So that was one of my proudest moments, you know, especially as a mom.
[Beth Nikopoulos]: Thank you so much for sharing. I was about to ask how your, your oldest son was doing. I think he's a senior, am I right?
[Shani Suber]: Um, no he's a freshman at --
[Beth Nikopoulos]: Oh, he is?
[Shani Suber]: Yeah, he's a freshman.
[Beth Nikopoulos]: Wonderful. So you understand ---
[Shani Suber]: In Florida so I miss him dearly. (laughs)
[Beth Nikopoulos]: Oh, that's hard, that's hard. And you know, I do want to just say that I'm so amazed.
I mean was a graduate student when I had children. But I, I'm amazed that our students, both men and women who make it through school with jobs and kids.
I mean I've met some students that have three to four children and kudos to them because it is truly a challenge to try to manage and compartmentalize your life and still not miss those important things that you need to have with your family.
So I appreciate you all sharing such wonderful insight.
[April Braden]: I just wanted to comment, I think all of us were showing examples of tenacity.
And I think a lot of females don't appreciate how innately tenacious we are.
You know, society teaches us that we're supposed to stay in certain roles.
We live in a patriarchal society. And subsequently we attribute all of these things like grit and tenacity and, like, strength to men.
And it's really not saying that men don't have that. But when I think back on the women that I see in my daily life and the women in my family, almost all of us have two full-time jobs.
You know, even if we don't have kids, were involved in something else that takes up all of our breadth and all of our focus.
And oftentimes I think women are not used to sort of complimenting themselves or congratulating themselves on those things.
I mean, one of the great things that's been coming out recently is to treat yourself or take care of yourself, or "me" time, right?
And then we like to say that, "Oh, me time is just like taking a nice bath or having a glass of wine."
But I think really we need to focus on me time being like, take a step back, say okay, look at all -- like list all the things that you have accomplished, even if it's just getting up that day and then move forward.
[Shani Suber]: And I want to speak to that too, because I think that one of the things we had mentioned was that balance of what it takes to move in leadership, like you mentioned, compartmentalizing but also transitioning back into your home space.
And so I think that for me I've had, I guess the benefit of all guys in my house and I grew up with two brothers, so I can kind of navigate with that level of strength, probably more than others, but I think it's kind of flowing between those two areas when you are moving between your workspace and then your home.
And like you mentioned, kind of going through those roles because it does typically take, you know, a lot, you know, when you're moving in leadership of strength and determination in order to compete and to maintain and to calibrate at that level, before moving back into the space which is total opposite when you get home.
So it's, it's an interesting dynamic.
[Beth Nikopoulos]: Well, once those kids get a little older too, I have found for myself personally, I'm less afraid to try new things than I would have done before.
And I won't tell you what my age is. But it's taken me all those years to feel like I shouldn't be afraid of things that really maybe simple to some folks, but for some reason may be a challenge to me.
So that's the benefit of being little older, is that you have that hindsight and it's really, it's pleasant, it's a nice change.
So as we move forward, I'm going to move on to our last question because I think this one is a very important one. And I know you all will have great input here.
And that is, give us an example of when you've had to display an act of courage.
[Shani Suber]: I know I'm the talker, again, I'm a Louisianan. (laughs)
Um, I would say, and Beth knows this well and I'm going to word this carefully because I want to be respectful in everybody's journey.
And there was only one thing that really stood out for me. And I would say that it would always rest in my heart.
Because when I sat alongside my students in an uncertain and tough moment, unsure what was to come and leaning on what we were taught and focused on their well-being, it was quite an experience and I'll never forget it.
And I appreciate all the people that, you know, were at our school and I treasure the opportunity to continue to learn and grow.
And one of the things, when I was thinking about this question is John Lewis -- I was reading his book and one of the quotes is just so profound, it talks about our problems initiate a struggle within us, our own souls that take us to the brink of our own experiences.
To find a way to overcome these obstacles, we are forced to break past any false trappings of identity and focus intense, intensely on what is real and what is truly important.
And I think that that experience taught me that it was truly the brink of my own personal experience, of anything I'd ever experienced or what I knew or what I need to do.
And so I think that, you know, that piece -- And for me it was certainly faith and prayer and calm and living in the minute -- that got us beyond that.
And so I think that as you go through different situations that you're like, Okay, am I going to take this leap of faith or am I going to be courageous in a situation, I think it's important to value every day, every minute.
Everyone knows me when I wake up and when I see you guys, I'm welcoming you to the beginning, middle, and end of the day.
And that's, that's really birth from that situation because you realize not everyone has the gift and the joy to see every minute of their day.
So, you know, I use that as a renewing of our day and when we're working and sometimes things get, you know, tense or you're trying to figure things out, or you're so busy, is just to renew that space.
And so I would just say that that particular experience truly just brought me to a point to make sure again, just to appreciate the people that were around me, to also treasure opportunities and to continue to embrace what we have the gift to do in education and our purpose of serving our students and our community.
So we can't ever lose sight of the ability to lead and to guide and to serve.
And that's what I hope any woman listening to this, any guy listening to this, that you just continue to remember, we're going to always reach a place that takes us to the brink of what we know.
And that's where that courage comes in, to move forward and to venture into that wisdom and to learn something new or to do something new.
So, you know, be courageous and do something great.
[Crystal Bates]: Um, for me, of course, my health, my health has presented unimaginable challenges.
And it was always a goal for me that no matter how hard, how I struggled with my health, I didn't want my son to be neglected in any shape, form, or fashion.
I remember one day taking him to school like, literally, the school was across the way here and I could scream and they could hear me, and I remember getting back home and literally within less than five minutes of taking him to school, I fell to the ground with appendicitis.
And it was just scary, living here and didn't have a lot of immediate family very close to me. And then to be hospitalized and my son is at school. I can't even think about trying to survive this.
I have a child at school that doesn't have anybody that's going to care for him. I remember going in for chemo treatments --they would treat the Crohn's disease with chemo -- or going in for some other routine procedure, and I'd get out of that, redress, or go straight to the football field, go straight to piano lessons, go straight to whatever my son had going on.
I never wanted him to suffer due to my suffering.
And then I made up my mind with Crohn's disease I don't have to be sick and dumb.
And so although I don't have the physical strength to do the things that I want, I do what I can.
And as I've gotten older, I've learned to sit down when I have to sit down. J
ust in the midst of everything that was going on last week, I had been really struggling.
Like I said, I hadn't even walk very well for the last couple of months.
It's been --because the Crohn's disease has been bothering my feet and they hurt. And I mean, just the pain.
People will look at me look like this and as Dr. Nikopoulos would probably have seen with her father, we don't look like what we've gone through and I said I don't smell like the smut and hell that I've gone through, or maybe going through.
And it has really, really, really been challenging and a lot of times we look like this. But it could be so much pain behind it.
I mean, I've crawled up stairs. I've crawled across my floors.
I remember when my son was just a couple of weeks old and I fell sick and we had rotary phones then.
I literally had the fall to the floor and it was that old carpet that had the little stuff sticking out and I pulled on that just to get to a phone to call somebody to bring him Pampers.
I remember even when I lost my hearing in 2008, I was trying to maneuver through the basement of UT Southwestern to get to another part of the hospital, and I could talk.
I kept asking people for directions and I was trying to read lips and one person I had asked, she came ten minutes later she saw me again, still trying to ask.
And she motioned to me, It's okay," and she motioned for me to follow her and I just cried because she knew I couldn't -- something was wrong.
And I told, I said, "I can't hear and I'm trying to read lips."
And I remember even during that time having, because the thing, I want to say this real quick, all of our struggles and barriers that we had in life and people are experiencing this with COVID, all my life I always said, "People will never understand what I go through."
I feel like the world going through this pandemic gives people a sense.
Because no matter what you go through, life doesn't go on hold.
You've still got bills, bills due, you've still got other people that depend -- nothing stops.
And so even in the midst of when I lost my hearing, I had bills I needed to call and negotiate because I had financial hardships.
And I remember somebody texted me and said, "Well, I'm gonna come pick you up, take you to get something to eat and take care of whatever you need taken care of."
And I had made a folder that day and I was intending to get in my car, and just go to some random place and write down on a piece of paper, say, "Please help me" to somebody.
And so my health has been quite a challenge. But I continue to push on and I just continue to push on with all the strength in me.
And like I said, just last week with everything that happened with the snowstorm, my iron had been so low.
I had been so scared that somebody's going to find me unconscious because my blood count was so low.
And in the middle of all that I ended up having to go into the hospital and get a blood transfusion.
So I think my greatest struggle is my health, but not looking like what I'm going through.
So oftentimes, when I'm crying out or when something's wrong, most people can't see it, and so therefore they don't understand it.
And so -- but I just keep pushing on because my faith, God has not failed me.
He has not forsaken me, even when I'm on my back.
I remember doing chemo treatments and it would be in the hospital doing work for school when I was working on my master's degree at Baylor.
Unfortunately, due to my health I wasn't able to finish. And that broke my heart because I really, really wanted to get that master's degree.
But my health just wouldn't let me, you know, it just would not let me. So my health has been a barrier, but it has shaped me.
It has made me strong and and I just keep pushing. And as long as I have breath in me.
When in 2016 when they accidentally perforated my intestine, somebody came to the hospital, they said, "Christina, I don't understand how you do it."
I said I think about Jesus on the cross. I think about how he sacrificed, I think about the blood that he shed.
I don't have a right to complain. He paid the price for us all. He didn't give up, he didn't give in, and so as long as I have breath than me, I won't give up and I won't give in.
[Beth Nikopoulos]: I had to take a breath, just for a moment. Thank you for sharing such struggles and accomplishments.
And before we end, Chief Hill, I wanted to make sure that you were back.
[Lauretta Hill]: Yes, I'm back and I just I can't follow that. So...but Crystal, I don't know you, but I do now.
And I am praying for you. And you are, you are the salt and the light that this world calls for.
So you keep being you and you will be forever in my prayers and I'm thankful just again, when you run into women, like, you know, the women that you run into throughout your life, you never know who's going to be put in your path and why they're there, and what you can gain from them or them from you and that's why you always have to be open to the possibility that this may be the person I sent to show you something or this may be the person to show you why not to go this way.
So you always have to be open to be ready for, to learn something new, that new adventure, that vulnerability.
And in policing, those two words usually don't go together very well -- vulnerability and policing -- but it's something about women leadership in policing.
I will say this because there's a whole bunch of people probably going to see this. If we had more women leading some of these law enforcement agencies, we wouldn't not be, personal opinion and professional opinion, in the situations that we are in policing.
How can black lives matter and blue lives matter? Easily. I live it everyday.
And both -- Black Lives Matter is real. I'm raising two boys, okay. I have to raise them different than my white male colleagues in policing.
And so it's just, it's so rich to see you on the screen and the women that I come in contact with daily at Dallas College, that we're doing tremendous things and that we have an opportunity to continue to learn forever and ever and ever and ever.
And I'm thankful that just this day, of course I knew Beth, but I didn't know anybody else that's here today.
And I've learned so much and I feel I can take pieces, pieces of what you said, and I will be using them.
I always use stuff, I repackage it. I'm a recycler when people tell me stuff.
I don't try to reinvent, I don't try to start certain things new. I just kind of recycle it because if it's good for you it's, it's probably good for me too.
[Beth Nikopoulos]: Thank you so much for words of wisdom. And I can only imagine Chief Hill what it's like to be a woman in police.
I appreciate you being a trailblazer there, and I do hope that more of our students will take that opportunity and will see it as a life's goal as well.
I just want to say thank you to all of you for sharing wonderful inspiration and insight, for taking that time to be with us today.
I sure would like to have lunch with you all because I feel like I have met some wonderful, wonderful folks and I'm privileged.
I got a chance to -- I knew several of you before today. Thank you so very, very much for spending time with us today.
I appreciate you all and I certainly hope to see you very soon for real, for real, in the community or back on a college campus.
Thank you all so much and we will see you soon.
[Shani Suber]: Thank you for having us. This was awesome. Thank you.
[All]: Thank you.
[Lauretta Hill]: Bye.