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Conversations with Patrice Withers-Stephens

Today we’d like to introduce you to Patrice Withers-Stephens.

Patrice, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I began my professional career 16 years ago, immediately after graduating from North Carolina A&T State University. I was the first amongst my parents to obtain a college degree. Originally, I aspired to be a corporate communications professional since my degree focus was public relations. Once I got into Corporate America, I started to learn more about community outreach programs and immediately became interested. Service back to others less fortunate than me has always been my sweet spot. I have always been involved with community work but had no idea I could make a career of giving back to others in such a meaningful way.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The road to becoming a corporate philanthropist has not been easy. Many view this role as a glamorous job and while it does come with a lot perks, it takes an incredible amount of planning to make things happen. I don’t take it lightly that I get paid to help fund nonprofits, activate employee engagement through volunteerism, and plan events. It took me many years of sacrifice and a lot of grunt work to get here. With my career path you are literally waiting on someone to retire or find a new opportunity.

In the rare case, you may stumble across a company that is looking to establish a community relations program. The point is, these opportunities are few and far in between. Earlier in my career, I started in event marketing and then went on to relationship management before getting my first community outreach offer. Most of the time, employers want you to come with a lot of experience. What I didn’t realize at the time was many of my prior jobs were preparing me for my dream job. I have learned you must work every job to the best of your ability. There’s something valuable to learn from every opportunity. I am forever grateful to a professional mentor who decided she would hold my hand and walk me through the process to become a corporate philanthropist.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am currently a Vice President at First United Bank, where I am responsible for community engagement, sponsorships, and implementation of local marketing initiatives in the Dallas market. I have coined myself as a talented, multifaceted professional with over a decade of experience in Corporate Responsibility & Reputation, Community Relations, Communications, Public Relations, and Marketing. My greatest passion is to be able to serve those with the greatest need, which is why I devote a significant amount of time to charitable organizations. As a leader in Corporate America and in the community at large, I have been sought out for board opportunities and speaking engagements to further the causes of nonprofits. I am currently the Chapter President for the North Carolina A&T State University Dallas-Ft. Worth Alumni Chapter and a board member for Bridge2Greatness, where we provide mentorship, self-confidence building, and educational opportunities for underserved girls. I also recently became a board member for Hunger Busters, which is a nonprofit that provides the third meal of the day to Dallas Independent School District children.

I am most proud of the Patrice Withers-Stephens HBCU Scholarship fund. Through the support of generous donors, I have been able to award nearly $6,000 to five students attending historically black colleges or universities. Majority of the students are first-generation college students. This is a major focus of mine because that is my background. When you are the first, you don’t often have all the tools and resources to get started. The monetary scholarship also comes along with mentoring from me. I stay engaged with the students as much as they want. My first scholarship recipient will soon complete a degree in electrical engineering from Southern University. What sets me apart from others is that I approach every task with a level of intensity that causes people to not forget my contributions. It is important that I not only do well but exceed expectations. I always tell people it is all about the experience. I like to create lasting impressions for years down the road.

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
The best lesson I have ever learned is from my late father, Arnold Withers. He always told me to tell the truth. I have found by simply telling the truth it allows me to operate with integrity. People know that they can trust me and that has served me well. Also, as I continue to progress in my professional life I have learned the value in being authentically me. People will always know where they stand and while they may not always agree, they can at least respect me.

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Image Credits
Professional Headshot Dallas Skyline – Eric Priddy

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