Paying It Forward: The Fabric of a Strong Community

Deborah Scott Thomas

Deborah Scott Thomas is being honored as a Women Veteran Leaders Champion of Change.

Educator, Civil Rights and Women's Rights activist Dorothy Height once said, “Without community service, we would not have a strong quality of life. It's important to the person who serves as well as the recipient. It's the way in which we ourselves grow and develop.” She couldn’t have been more correct.

Growing up in Alabama, I was always surrounded by people who gave back. It was what my mother, father, teachers, church members and next door neighbors did, so it’s only natural that I continued that legacy throughout my life. Community service is something everyone can and should do. It is just as important as the air we breathe.

Volunteerism and education go hand-in-hand. As a graduate of Alabama State University, I’ve made it my mission to always help Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). I created and led the development of the National Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Entrepreneurship Conference at Alabama State University in 2011.

The HBCU Conference brought together higher education, government, and corporate professionals while giving conference participants opportunities to develop relationships with established companies. The conference sessions offered information on entrepreneurship and business development, grant writing and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and career preparationlaying the foundation for future leadership.

Later that year, I also participated in the White House Initiative HBCU Week. The conference was tied to President Obama’s and the Department of Education’s initiative to have the best educated, most competitive, and diverse workforce in the world by 2020.

I also presented and participated in the Working with the Small Business Community session panel where the role of small businesses in creating employment and growth opportunities for HBCU graduates was discussed.

Mentoring up-and-coming businesses is another passion of mine. My company graduated from the 8(a) program in 2005, and now I am committed to helping others reach the same success. My goal is to assist them with learning the best practices of the business world, such as building and maintaining a successful brand and securing contracting opportunities. It is a wonderful feeling to know that my experiences can help shape the success and affect change in business leaders. My motto is, “My success is your success and your success is my success.”

Oftentimes, people don’t know where to begin when it comes to community service, often asking themselves, “What can I REALLY do to help?” My answer is to look into your background to find what you are passionate about.

Not only did my childhood shape my desire to give back, but also my college experiences and 30-plus years in the United States Air Force National Guard. Reaching back to help others is what builds strong communities. We are all standing on the backs of the millions of selfless people who volunteer every day and that volunteerism is what made us who we are today.

Deborah Scott Thomas is President & Chief Executive Officer at Data Solutions & Technology (DST) Incorporated. She founded the company in 1994 and has served government and private clients for the past 20 years.

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