BY CLYDE HUGHES | AC JosepH Media
ATLANTIC CITY — Cydnee Phoenix said she is “grateful” to work in a position in her hometown of Atlantic City where she gets to have an impact on its future as director of the Worthington campus and community outreach of Atlantic Cape Community College.
Phoenix is serving her first year in the position after working in community engagement at Principle Academy Charter School in nearby Egg Harbor Township.
“I am grateful every day to be a native of the great city of Atlantic City,” Phoenix told Front Runner New Jersey. “My maternal side of my family has been in Atlantic City for four generations. I have lived and worked in several areas within the United States, including the District of Columbia; Maryland (Prince Georges County, Annapolis, Silver Spring, and Baltimore) Philadelphia, and Memphis.
“While I absolutely loved living in each place and made lifelong friends along the way, as the saying goes, ‘there is no place like home.’ If you know me, you know I will always have sand between my toes.”
Changing the World
When asked what led her to a career in education, she quoted the iconic South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela as saying, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
“This was a lesson taught to me and my siblings by our mother, Donna Moore Watts,” Phoenix said. “She emphasized that education would be the window to better opportunities; and was she ever right.
“Because of her encouragement and support, my sister, Billie J. Moore became the Chief Municipal Judge in Atlantic City and my brother, Maajid Muhammad is a successful entrepreneur in Las Vegas.”
Phoenix describes herself as a “proud product of the Atlantic City Public School District” and was taught by teachers she described as “inspiring, brilliant, caring” and committed to their profession.
Those teachers include Alice Cash, Barbara Hudgins, Edythe Greene, Cecil Randall, Lou Graham, and Vernice Morman.
“My career journey allows me to be in a position where education and community engagement co-exist,” she said.
Phoenix replaced another African American woman, Dr. Natalie Devonish, on the Worthington campus, who was promoted to vice president of student affairs and enrollment management and Victor Moreno, now senior manager of campus operations and community outreach.
“The Worthington Atlantic City campus has had major successes under their tenure,” Phoenix said. “I plan to continue the great work they’ve started and explore additional partnership opportunities to expand our community engagement.
“In my role, I am responsible for campus-wide community outreach efforts in both Atlantic and Cape May counties. Even though the majority of my community contacts are in Atlantic County, I have already begun to meet with key partners in Cape May County. I plan to spend a good amount of time in Cape May County to get a better understanding of how Atlantic Cape can enhance its current relationship with our neighbors to the south.”
Now, Phoenix is one of the most visible faces for Atlantic Cape Community College and higher education in Atlantic City. It’s that position as a role model she said she doesn’t take lightly.
“I try my best to live by the saying, ‘To much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48),'” Phoenix said. “I strive to live a life that others, especially my family, can be proud. I call role models ‘Encouragers.’
“I like this term because I want anyone who is observing me and perhaps modeling behavior to be encouraged to believe they can be a much better version of who I am. I want them to see me and be encouraged to climb higher, do more, rise above adversity and become the best version of themselves.”
The Rest of the story
Phoenix touched on several other issues in her interview with Front Runner New Jersey.com.
FRNJ: How did your work at Principle Academy Charter shape you and prepare you for your job on the Worthington campus?
Cydnee Phoenix: “The charter school allowed me to continue my work in the community engagement space. The leadership team was very open to building strategic partnerships, identifying & sharing resources, and developing & hosting community-focused programs that helped uplift the community.
“My commitment to serve was shaped at an early age by my maternal grandfather, Joseph Haynes. He impressed upon my family the importance of serving our community. From a little girl, I knew I would follow in his footsteps. I have been extremely blessed to be able to work in positions where community service and community relations are the focal points of the positions I’ve held.”
FRNJ: Anything else you would like to add?
Cydnee Phoenix: “Absolutely, we are stronger together than we are apart. I am excited to work with an institution that values community engagement and respects diversity. In this role, I get to continue working closely with the community and faith-based organizations, and other social service agencies. A big part of the Atlantic Cape community engagement strategy is to provide educational and other resources to Atlantic and Cape May County residents; I must say, we do that quite well. Atlantic Cape has partnered with local organizations to administer a grant from the Borgata MGM-Resorts to offer ESL classes, we’ve partnered with Southern Jersey Family Medical to host vaccination drives and participated in giveaway drives.
“A very recent collaboration is with the Inlet Community Development Corporation (website: http://www.atlantic.edu/inlet/). The plan is to develop a community-driven neighborhood revitalization plan for the Inlet neighborhood in Atlantic City. The neighborhood planning process will bring together the neighborhood’s diverse communities of residents, civic leaders, and businesses to communicate an inclusive vision for the Inlet. Stay tuned for more to come on this project”
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