Personality: Joi Dean

Spotlight on Partnership for the Future board chair

8/24/2023, 6 p.m.
Joi Dean believes she has been given much in her life and working with Partnership for the Future (PFF) is …

Joi Dean believes she has been given much in her life and working with Partnership for the Future (PFF) is a way for her to give back.

The Florida native says her parents, Curtis and Doris Taylor, both were long-serving educators. They stressed the importance of education and, perhaps more importantly, taught their daughter that she was smart and that she belonged.

“My parents instilling this confidence in me as a child was important as I was often the only person who looked like me in my classes,” Mrs. Dean said. “This self-assurance showed me from an early age that I belonged in every room — from the classroom, to the C-suite, to the boardroom.

“My mother was an educator for over 30 years,” she says. “She believed that teaching was her calling, and poured into her students with the understanding that she was playing a part in shaping their future.”

Helping to shape the future of young people is part of PFF’s mission. The community-driven program was founded in 1994 by Alan Kirshner to support high-achieving high school students and empower them to reach their goal of attending college. Beginning with 12 students from Richmond Public Schools in 1995, the nonprofit’s website says it has helped more than 700 students prepare for college and the workplace since then.

Mrs. Dean lived in Virginia from 1993 to 2000, studying at Hampton University and William & Mary Law School before moving to New Jersey. She returned to Richmond in 2012 after marrying her husband, Andre Dean. The couple and their daughter now live in Glen Allen.

She joined PFF’s board of directors in 2018 and began a two-year term as its chair in January.

Mrs. Dean says she is proud of how the year-round program responded to the challenges of going virtual during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and of the wealth-building initiative PFF launched in 2021 to help participating students graduate with low-to-no student loan debt.

However, challenges remain. In particular, Mrs. Dean says that any organization involved in educational equity such as PFF will have to face the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s June decision on affirmative action, but PFF “will continue to prepare our young people with the skills necessary to be successful in college and beyond.”

Opening up worlds of possibilities is important. Mrs. Dean says reading “Vernon Can Read: A Memoir” a few years after graduating law school had a big influence on her at a time when she was unclear about her future career path.

“It showed me that you can have a multifaceted and successful career by being open to different opportunities and not being afraid to take calculated risks,” she said, adding that making deliberate choices also is a big part of reaching her goals.

“Intentionality is important to me because we do not have unlimited time and should make the most of the time that we have here on Earth,” Mrs. Dean said. “I believe it is my responsibility to leave things better than I found them.”

Meet this week’s Personality, Partnership for the Future’s Board Chair Joi Dean:

Volunteer position: Board chair, Partnership for the Future.

Occupation: Chief executive officer, Richmond Metropoli- tan Transportation Authority.

Date and place of birth: April 18 in Miami.

Where I live now: Glen Allen.

Education: Hampton University; William and Mary Law School

Family: Husband, AndreDean; daughter, Gabrielle Taylor Dean.

Partnership for the Future is: A community-driven college preparation and workforce development program dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty for young people by providing training and educational opportunities that will fuel their future success.

Mission: PFF equips high-achieving high school students for success in college and beyond.

Brief history: PFF was founded in 1994 by Alan Kirshner, former executive chairman of Markel Corporation. Alan assembled a group of local business and community leaders to create an organization to support high achieving students in the Richmond community achieve their dreams of attending college. Our program began with 12 students from Richmond Public Schools in 1995. PFF combines college access with workforce development through paid summer internships at local corporations and nonprofits. As one of our founding community leaders, Dr. LaVerne Spurlock shared, “The goal was to make strong children stronger.”

How I became involved with PFF: I joined the board of directors in 2018.

Why this organization is meaningful to me: I am the daughter of two educators and the importance of education and helping others was instilled in me as a child. PFF allows me to channel my passion for young people and provide resources so that they can achieve their greatest potential. I am fortunate to be a part of an organization that works to change the trajectory of young people in the Richmond region.

Why I accepted position as board chair: I truly believe in the importance of giving back and serving the community where you live. I accepted the position of board chair in order to give whatever, time, talent and treasure that I have to PFF. Serving as board chair allows for me to leverage my resources in the Richmond region with greater intention and to support our executive director and CEO in executing the mission of our organization.

No. 1 goal or project: To change the trajectory of the lives of the students we serve through educational equity. Our goal is to not only get our students to college but position them for success through college and beyond.

Strategy for achieving goals: PFF recently embarked on a Wealth Building Strategy to ensure our students graduate from college with low to no student loan debt and have the cultural and social capital for upward economic mobility. This includes guiding our students to highly selective and competitive colleges (inclusive of HBCUs) and the creation of a college success program to support students while in college. All PFF students are required to open a Virginia 529 college savings account and PFF has a dollar- for-dollar match for funds saved for both our high school and college students.

No. 1 challenge facing PFF: The ramifications of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on affirmative action will certainly be a challenge facing all organizations involved in educational equity. PFF, however, will continue to prepare our young people with the skills necessary to be successful in college and beyond.

Proudest moment for PFF: Emerging from COVID-19 stronger than ever. The Class of 2023 began their PFF journey in the spring of 2020 shortly before the pandemic shutdown the world. All programming and operations shifted to virtual programming which had a huge impact on our students. Our Reaching for the Stars Closing ceremony is our official sendoff for our graduating seniors and the energy in the room at this year’s graduation was electrifying. Our students celebrated their accomplishments in front of their family, friends, and staff from their internships. One hundred percent of our graduates will be attending college in the fall and they collectively earned more than 15 million dollars in scholarships. Additionally, the vast majority of our 2023 graduates will be attending college with low to no debt. Our organization has been very intentional in advancing our Wealth Building Initiative since its launch in 2021 by significantly increasing the percentage of students attending highly selective and competitive colleges and decreasing the average projected student loan debt by over $10,000 per student since then.

How this program operates: PFF is year-round and emphasizes coaching and development activities during the academic year and work internships and life skills training during the summer.

A student is a good fit for this program if: The student is a high-potential high school student from challenging circumstances in the Richmond region and is interested in a year-round program that will emphasize coaching and development activities during the academic year and work internships and life skills training during the summer and will equip them with tools and knowledge that will sustain them through both college and their careers.

How a student signs up and begins this important journey: To qualify for the year-round PFF program students must apply in the second semester of their Freshman year in high school, have and maintain a 3.0 GPA, and attend or be zoned for one of our partner schools which are listed on our website. The application process includes an essay and interview. The application process typically opens up in February/ March and students are notified of their acceptance in April/ May. Our program team hosts both in-person info sessions at partner schools and virtual info sessions for students and parents. To learn more about our application process please follow us on Facebook or Instagram @partnershipforthefuture or contact our senior director of programs, Reshaud Rich, at Reshaud.Rich@partnershipforthefuture.org. Also, our website www.partnershipforthefuture.org provides information about our program.

A business and school can partner by: A critical component of our program is our paid summer internship program. We are always looking for businesses to host our students as paid interns. Our high school interns are placed with the same company for two to three consecutive summers and receive year-round training from PFF staff as well as ongoing support during the summer to ensure their success. To learn more about this program or to sign up to host an intern, please contact our director of internships, Chevonne Braxton, at Chevonne.Braxton@partnershipforthefuture.org.

PFF also has sponsorship opportunities for businesses looking to support our year-round program and community outreach activities such as our Keys to College series. Our Keys to College program is designed to support other college bound students in the Richmond metropolitan community actualize their dreams of a college education. Schools can partner with us by sharing information about our Keys to College series with college bound students not currently enrolled in our program.

Upcoming events: Partnership for the Future is working on securing a date for our annual 2023 Keys to College Summit (formerly Boot Camp) in the fall. Please follow us on social media @partnershipforthefuture or visit our website for more information about this event and upcoming Keys to College workshops which are geared towards first generation college-bound students and their families in the Richmond Metropolitan area.

How I start the day: I start my day with prayer with my family.

Best late-night snack: Gelati Celesti’s Chocolate Almond.

The music I listen to most is: Old school R&B/hip-hop and gospel.

Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: I love to listen to and play music. I think I would have loved to have been a DJ.

A quote that inspires me: To whom much is given, much is required.

At the top of my “to-do” list: Planning a fall vacation.

The best thing my parents ever taught me: My parents, Curtis and Doris Taylor, very early on taught me to choose excellence and that I was smart. I always knew that my parents wouldn’t tell me something that wasn’t true. So whenever anyone questioned my intelligence directly or indirectly, I was always clear that I was just as smart as they were or maybe even smarter. My parents instilling this confidence in me as a child was important as I was often the only person who looked like me in my classes. This self-assurance showed me from an early age that I belonged in every room from the classroom, to the C-suite to the board room.

The person who influenced me the most: My mother, Doris Taylor.

Book that influenced me the most: “Vernon Can Read” Vernon Jordan and Annette Gordon-Reed.

What I’m reading now: “Unapologetically Ambitious” by Shellye Archambeau. The book is based on the premise that all women can be ambitious and gives concrete approaches and takeaways to help the reader to achieve her ambitious goals. My primary takeaway is to be more intentional about future planning.

Next goal: My overall goal is always to do my best and operate from a place of excellence whether it is in my professional or personal life. I believe it is my responsibility to leave things better than I found them.