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Another Winning Moment Spotlight: Renee Floyd

“Success is a journey, not a destination.” – Renee Floyd 

Renee Floyd is a mother, wife, veteran, entrepreneur, hero, and mechanic. Of these titles, nothing has influenced the trajectory of her lifea person smiling for the camera more than her role as wife, mother, and soldier. Renee’s story is an inspiring tale of overcoming life’s greatest unexpected circumstances to create winning moments.

Renee had her eldest child when she was still in high school. However, she was determined to ensure she positioned herself and her daughter to win in life. Renee finished high school, joined the military, and with the support of her mother began her first tour of duty overseas in July of 1985. This started the beginning of a military career that would go on to span 21 years of service at over ten duty stations across the world, including combat duty in Somalia and Baghdad, which left her separated from her family for great lengths at a time. Renee met her now-husband, of over 33 years, at her first duty station in Germany and they later had two sons together. 

In the military, Renee became a trained mechanic and advanced to mechanic supervisor over the course of her career. A temporary position change during her first pregnancy expanded her expertise in the maintenance office, which laid the groundwork for what later became her current business- American Oil Changers

a man standing in front of a truck shaking mechanic's hand.In 2004, four years prior to her retirement,  Renee gave deep consideration and reflection about starting a business with skills she already had and could leverage. There was one skill she knew exceptionally well– oil changes. Her research informed her that mobile oil changes were in demand, but didn’t exist. Renee founded American Oil Changers, LLC, a woman-owned-and-run mobile oil change business in 2005. Held back by fear and self-doubt, it took Renee four years before American Oil Changers booked its first customer of many in 2009.  However, Renee stepped away from the business in 2014 to manage a life-threatening illness and later sought treatment to manage her battle with depression. 

Today American Oil Changers operates out of Atlanta, GA, and is currently expanding into the Maryland DMV area. Renee attributes the relationship she built while a site lead in Afghanistan for the business’ expansion to Maryland. Renee was responsible for supervising thea mechanic showing a customer something largest maintenance crew assigned to her contract while she was a site lead in Afghanistan. There she worked with mostly locals and though she was one of few female supervisors, she was embraced for the genuine compassion and humanity that she showed her crew.  

Renee says one of her biggest entrepreneurial challenges was overcoming herself. There was a time when she was clouded with so much self-doubt and worries from how to attract and retain customers to how she might be perceived by civilians, despite her extensive military experience as a mechanic. She feared her qualifications would not be taken seriously because she was a woman.  Renee came to understand that she was simply in her own way. Renee overcame her greatest fears and is now fueled by her calling and purpose to serve. Recently equipped with an Associate of  Applied Science Degree in Automotive and a renewed sense of confidence in who she is and what she is capable of, Renee says she is pushing forward full steam ahead. She describes her winning moment as being able to pull back from the day-to-day operations of her company and lead four teams as the CEO.

Renee advises celebrating your small wins. “Celebrating your small wins will give you the wind to achieve larger goals. Slow down, but never quit. Continue to move forward. If you’re going to fail, fail forward. Always find a way to win.”

Another Winning Moment Spotlight – Oscar Holmes IV

I want to introduce you to the November Another Winning Moment Spotlight – Oscar Holmes IV. His story of trials, tribulations and triumph is a true testament to the adage – “The world waits to reward anyone who dares to insist upon being all they can be.”…

Sugaray Rayford smiling for the cameraOscar grew up in a rural town outside of Virginia. At an early age, he tested into the gifted program. Oscar attributes the rigorous nature of this program to help him to prepare for a life of challenging work and thriving in a healthy competitive environment. Even though his parents never attended college, education was very important in his household and school became his social outlet.

One of his first life challenges came at a young age. At only 14 years old, Oscar was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes. This began a years-long battle and eventual recovery, but it taught Oscar valuable lessons of community and gave him a unique outlook on life. Oscar’s community was vital to his success and recovery. His family didn’t have adequate health insurance coverage for him so his community hosted fundraisers to help cover his medical expenses. Through much determination and effort, Oscar graduated on time, with college credits having matriculated concurrently at the Governor’s School, and as the Valedictorian of his high school. After surviving this health crisis he was in a rush to experience life because he knew firsthand that life wasn’t promised.

Though he could have gone to almost any college of his choosing, Oscar applied to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), the very same hospital that saved his life. It was the only school he applied to. In an effort to catch up on what felt like time lost during his high school career, Oscar graduated college in 2.5 years. Committed to his community, Oscar went back to his high school where he worked for two years as a Spanish language teacher. He later worked for two other public school districts while pursuing his master’s degree from the University of Richmond.

text, letter, whiteboard

Oscar discovered a love for Industrial Organizational Psychology and learned that Organizational Behavior was a similar discipline, but in the business school. He eventually applied to 12 Organizational Behavior Ph.D. programs and was subsequently rejected from all of them. After attending the Ph.D. Project Conference, which is an annual conference geared towards increasing the diversity in Corporate America by increasing underrepresented racioethnic business school professors in higher education, Oscar learned how to improve his application. Not being deterred by the previous rejections, Oscar applied to VCU and got in. However, what was once a safe haven during his high school and college career, quickly turned into an uncomfortable and unwelcomed environment. After two years of lack of adequate support, unconscious bias, and racism, Oscar took an action that would ultimately alter the trajectory of his career for the better. Although unconventional to switch Ph.D. programs midway through, he applied to a program he thought would be better suited for and got into The University of Alabama. Oscar says this was the best thing that could have happened to him. There he found a community of professors and mentors who were committed to helping him maximize his full potential. One coordinator did just that when he talked Oscar out of what would have been a devastating career mistake, graduating early during his fourth-year of his Ph.D. studies to start earning a professor’s salary.

Oscar went on to graduate with his Ph.D. in 2013 and joined Rutgers School of Business-Camden, his first placement, where he became the first African American to earn tenure at the School of Business in 2019. Oscar is currently the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs, an Associate Professor of Management and the Rutgers University Student Executive (RUSE) Director and has taught executive education, graduate, and undergraduate courses in Leadership, Organizational Behavior, Conflict Resolution and Negotiation, and Crisis Management.  His research examines how leaders can maximize productivity and well-being through fostering more inclusive environments and has been published in several top-tier management journals and books. In 2020 Oscar became the first African American to have a top administrative role in the school of business.

textOscar has built a beautiful life of personal and professional fulfillment, success, and accolades. He established  WHConsulting firm established in 2019 and has recently produced his own podcast – Diversity Matters with Oscar Holmes IV – that explores all things diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

He says God, family (first and foremost), and mentorship are what allowed him to have a lifetime of winning moments. There have been so many opportunities that only God alone could have provided. Oscar is thankful for the immeasurable emotional and financial support his family has provided over his lifetime, and particularly thankful for the love and support he receives from his husband.

Oscars’ two favorite pieces of advice:

  1. Form your own personal board of directors, otherwise known as mentors and sponsors, who will save you from yourself. You often don’t know what you don’t know so it’s important to find people in your life who not only have your best interest at heart but who can also advocate and open doors for you.
  2. There will be moments in life where you need to pay your dues. And there are others where you need to ensure you take time for yourself and your family. Those are moments you can’t get back. At your retirement, you won’t wish that you worked more hours. Show up for your family and network. Prioritize yourself. Create multiple streams of income. Do the things that are going to fulfill you.

Another Winning Moment Spotlight: Dr. Mike Wilson

“As a school leader, you live part of your story in those places you work in. You live those stories that take place there and it all has an impact on what we do.” – Dr. Mike Wilson

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera

There is a new type of charter school in Birmingham that opened this year with a large mission to meet. The Magic City Acceptance Academy (MCAA) facilitates a community in which all learners are empowered to embrace education, achieve individual success, and take ownership of their future in a brave, LGBTQ-affirming learning environment. Founding Principal Dr. Mike Wilson sat down with us to discuss how MCAA is making winning moves in the city, state and the nation…

Who is Dr. Mike Wilson

After a 27-year career with Birmingham City Schools, Dr. Wilson took on this new adventure to create an educational haven atmosphere for students. While he loved his time at Birmingham City Schools, with the most recent role at Glen Iris, he was looking for his next challenge post-retirement. When he read the press statement about the opening of MCAA, he picked up the phone reached out to the Executive Director, Karen Musgrove, for coffee and the rest… is history.

The Magic City Acceptance Academy

Dr. Wilson says that the MCAA has given him a whole new purpose and motivation. He now has a new sense of value as an educator and as a school leader. Drawing inspiration from renowned thought leaders and education advocates such as Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone, Dr. Wilson dreamt of building a school environment that could be seen as a best practice in the community, that was inclusive and had a student-first mission. Now his dreams are coming true. For Dr. Wilson, leading MCAA was an opportunity to co-create a learning facility from the ground up, that he could not only just “put his stamp on ”, but also develop with a community of educators. Together, they would design a system to be the best of what education could look like for ALL students.

Why MCAA is Needed Now

MCAA’s purpose is to engage students who have dropped out, are not thriving in traditional schools, or are enrolled in home-schoolMCAA Staff programs. MCAA will provide a brave learning environment and LGBTQ-affirming culture for all. Reaching out to a community of students who are not succeeding in their school environments, Dr. Wilson and his team are daring to not be traditional. They constantly challenge themselves to think outside of the box to be creative as they build this learning space. And their mission has never been more important than now. Findings from the GLSEN 2019 National School Climate Survey demonstrate that Alabama schools were not safe for most LGBTQ secondary school students. In addition, many LGBTQ students in Alabama did not have access to important school resources, such as Gender and Sexuality Alliances/Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) or similar student clubs and were not protected by supportive and inclusive school policies. Most LGBTQ students in Alabama experienced anti-LGBTQ victimization at school and more than 3 in 4 (78%) experienced at least one form of anti-LGBTQ discrimination at school during the past year.

Dr. Wilson expresses those startling statistics are the reason why MCAA is critical right now. He went on further to say “it’s time they said enough is enough with losing kids so somebody needs to do something. It needs to be now, it needed to be yesterday.”

He is determined to provide a first-class education and give kids the best opportunity to succeed. Dr. Wilson aims to teach students how to lead the way in their own education. He wants to put an end to the kids and families suffering because of a lack of resources and support in traditional schools.

Students at MCAA will have school counselors, social workers and a host of resources at their disposal such as built-in time for mindfulness and self-reflection. Teachers will have a chance to have a dialogue with students and families to instill self-worth for students to see they are part of the community as a whole.

Another Winning Moment

The road to opening the MCAA wasn’t without its fair set of challenges. Even though The MCAA is now open in Homewood, it was originally applied to be chartered in the city of Birmingham. The application was initially denied at the state level but was later approved after appeal. It took six months longer than a typical charter approval process. One thing that kept Dr. Wilson motivated during this journey is his favorite qa group of people standing on a playgrounduote: “God doesn’t give me another mountain just to teach me how to climb.”

The MCAA would not be possible without the support of instrumental community partners like Birmingham Aids Outreach and New Schools for Alabama.

Dr. Wilson states education tends to systemically focus on the kids who have the best chance of getting straight As. However, MCAA focuses on every student, every child and gives them a chance. Winning is when a student graduates and feels like they understand themselves and can say they are valuable; I have a place. I belong. MCAA is not about being the highest achieving school academically or having the most winning debate or mathematics team, but it’s about re-engaging kids who have been disengaged from systems. Seeing his students take steps in valuing who they are and knowing they have a place in the community- that’s the greatest thing MCAA can do.

When we asked Dr. Wilson what his own personal winning moment was, he responded that up to this point it had to be the charter commission meeting where they received a yes.

Get Involved

If you’d like to donate and support their efforts, donations can be made here. If you know of a student who would benefit from these resources please contact Dr. Wilson at mike@mcaabhm.org.

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