[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Hello, and thank you for tuning in. The Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion Community Leader Series brings a diverse group of community leaders to Dallas College who excite, inspire, challenge, and share teachable moments, from their lived and professional experiences. Speakers introduce fresh perspectives on career education, social issues in our local environment. These unique perspectives support our institution's strategic priority of redesigning professional development to create a diverse and inclusive high-performing work and learning environment. The goal of our Community Leader Series is to strengthen community relations through increased local engagement and the elevation of diverse voices and perspectives. To kick off the Community Leaders Series produced by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Dallas native and Dallas College alumna attorney Vonda Bailey, will share her journey and lived experiences, homing in on the impact the Mountain View campus had on her professional career ascension. She will also discuss how she has leveraged her lived and learning experiences to civically engage throughout the greater Dallas communities.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Hi Vonda, I'm so happy to have you here. And really, quite honestly, I'm very excited to share you with the Dallas College community because you and I have known each other our entire lives.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Yes, we have, and thank you, Jasmine, for inviting me. It is truly an honor to be here today.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Thank you, and so I would love for you to just be open and share different parts of lived in, your professional experiences as well as your educational experiences, and your roots here at Dallas College. So to kick us off, please just walk us through a little bit about how you have arrived at your current position in your career. And tell us a little bit about your background and your career trajectory.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Thank you. Well, as a little girl, I always knew I wanted it to be an attorney. I used to stay up late and watch that show, Perry Mason. And I said, oh man, I'm going to crack the case just like he did. After the experience, being a single mom, everything like that, it's like I gravitated towards the family law arena. After I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to go to college, but I knew I didn't want the debt that came along with it right away. And so my dad gave me the sweet deal. He said, if you go to a community college, I'll pay for you to go to any four-year university you will want to go to. So I thought that was something worth taking, right? So I looked at all of the colleges. I didn't want to be too far from home, which is what landed me at Mountain View College, and the experience was phenomenal. I had some of the best educators. It was a one-on-one type of situation. Almost reminded me of some of the area Dallas area schools that I attended. Well, that we attended. I really liked that experience, you know, to feel like someone really cared about your education and wanted to spend the time to invest in you. That was the experience I got to Mountain View, which just had me hit the ground running once I got to the University of Texas at Arlington, which eventually paved the way for me to attend law school at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston, Texas. And now I'm a practicing family law attorney. I've been doing that for the past eight years.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] That's beautiful. I loved that, you know, full disclosure. We both went to Adelle Turner Elementary School. Yes, we did after you transferred in from TG Terry. We're happy that you did, and you continued ongoing to Atwell where we both went, and then you went on into Carter. And of course, those schools who were at the time predominantly minoritized mostly of black students, and you continued on with that tradition by attending a historically black college and university for law school. What was that experience like?
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] It was great. You know, when I attended Mountain View, Mountain View was pretty minoritized as well, and that in itself was beautiful. There was beautiful to me because when you attend the schools that we attend it, and you see nothing but people that look like you, you know, you have the tendency to wonder, how would it be in the real world? What is it going to be like? So Mountain View was my introduction to that experience. And then from Mountain View going to UTA, it was a different culture shock, right? Because you have people that were coming in from different parts of the world, and I was able to get to know them. They welcomed me, told me all about their culture. I learned about different foods different spices. It was just a great experience. So to go from that to an HBCU, it just reminded me of home. It reminded me of the things that I learned in experience as a young child. But it also reminded me of the times I had Mountain View because my teachers, well, educators, they were so one-on-one, and it was the same thing in law school; literally took you under their wings. Hey, this is what you can improve on; these are the things that you can do better if you need assistance in your writing, whatever the case may be. I'm available during these times, even after office hours. I mean, it was just an overwhelmingly great experience.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] That's amazing. How was the exposure of learning about different cultures and languages? How, what kind of impact that have on you?
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] It had an amazing impact on me. I remember a friend of mine, well, one thing that I learned at UTA. I wondered why the populations of, the population of students that were from India, they never would really leave campus. I was always curious about that, and I've never been in the type of person that type of person to make assumptions, so I made friends with them because I worked at the library on-campus at UTA. So I struck up a conversation with this guy, and he was telling me, you know, when they're coming in on student visas, they can't work off-campus. So that's why you always see them on campus working, and, I mean, they worked in a plethora of different areas in the school. So just cultivating their relationship with him. He introduced me to some of his friends. I learned all about the different gems that were on the top of their head. I learned about the prayer, with the ash, and everything like that. It was great! I learned about culture. Obviously, some of their attire that they were wearing, which, those dresses are great. I actually asked one of them, and I said, "Hey, you think one of your parents back home can get me something made?" They were like, yeah, just give me your measurements. I say, well, never mind on that, we don't need those measurements. But it was a great experience. I really love Indian food. I had never experienced Indian food prior to going to UTA. So I loved it. It had the right amount of spice, the right amount of heat. You know, just like I said, the experience was just phenomenal.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] That's really great. Yeah, that exposure is priceless.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Oh yeah.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] You know, it's almost like traveling outside of the country. But even if you have the means or you don't have the means, you still get that exposure, and that's something that college allows everyone.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] I agree.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Yeah. We're all, especially a Dallas College. We're all very, extraordinarily proud of you. I personally am very proud of you, especially as it relates to having roots at Dallas College. You didn't take one or two courses, you were there for your entire associate's degree and staying that journey for two years, and it impacting you. Thinking back on your earlier schooling and your leadership experiences. Can you share a story or a defining moment in which you felt like and you knew you were meant to lead?
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Oh, so many that just instantly stands out in my head, but I remember when I was younger, maybe around fifth or sixth grade, there was a young lady in my class who would always get picked on. She would always get picked on, and it was something different. It was the way her hair looked. Then after that, it was the clothing, it was the shoes. it was always something different. I never liked that. I, it is almost like I took on the feelings of her, and I felt like I had to protect her. And it's probably to my detriment still to this day, or maybe it's not to my detriment, maybe it's a blessing, right? I feel like it's my job to advocate for other people. There are some people that truly do not know how to defend themselves, and although you can't help everybody or anything like that, I believe that when something happens in front of you that, you know, is wrong or that needs improvement. and, you know, you have the I don't want to say the power, but you have the influence to change their situation. I feel like you should interject yourself. I remember when I saw this happening, it was on a playground at school. I immediately jumped in there, immediately jumped in, defended her, and she was "Vonda, thank you so much!" And I was like, you know, I don't want to say you get picked on. I didn't like it. So in that moment, I knew then I was meant to lead, and just after that different things that would happen in my life when my parents will wake us up early on Saturday morning so make sure that we're feeding the homeless. or getting clothing together for our spring cleaning or a fall cleaning to donate to shelters. I just would always take the leading role like I want to do this. I wanted to be in the front. I wanted to make sure that I was, you know, the person who was telling you how much to scoop on the plate, and I wanted it to be the one to hand it to people or, you know, give the direction of, this is what I want you to do, this is what I want you to do. Not necessarily a dictator, but taken on that leadership role because I learned that about myself early on.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] That's great. You mentioned that not everyone has the tools to really stand up for themselves or just defend themselves. Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for people who find themselves in those circumstances?
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Absolutely. The first thing I would say is be fearless. If you're doing something that's right, you have to be fearless, and you have to understand that failure is a part of the process. But it's not permanent unless you start working towards whatever it is you want to do. But you have to make sure that you get rid of the fear element. The fear element will keep you from doing things that you know are positive, that you know will make a bigger impact. It would keep you from doing that. And you have to have confidence. You'd have to be confident within yourself. You have to know and literally tell yourself, every day, "I can do this." I can do this because what happens is when you go from I can do this, you go to I'm doing this. Then you're able to have their testimony and say, I have done this. The more you encourage yourself, you build up their confidence; you get the negativity out. You always think positive. Positive is what you get out. I'd tell people all the time. I don't believe in Plan B. I make Plan A and like, well, Vonda, what if plan A fails? I say think about it. Plan A never fails, and I learned this at Mountain View College. Plan A never fails. What happens is something may go wrong, you get a hiccup, a mistake is made. So you don't change Plan A; you modify it. You make modifications to it; therefore, you're still on track for plan A. You just have to work out some kinks, and you just keep moving forward.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] It's almost like, you know that the fear exists and you're still persevering in spite of the fear.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Absolutely.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Yeah, that's beautiful. Some people do get stagnate just based on the fear, and they don't go for it. and what I always say is that the answer is already no if you've already told yourself no.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey][ I believe that wholeheartedly.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] That's great. So in your words, what does leadership look like to you? What does that mean?
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Leadership looks like being able, first of all, to be a good listener. I believe it starts there. Too often, you want to be in a leadership role, but you really don't understand the dynamics of what it takes to be a good leader. You have to be able to listen, follow directions, read the instructions, know the assignments, to be able to plan and execute it. So you have to be able to be a good listener. Then as I just I'm leading into it now, I just use the word plan. You have to be a good planner. You have to be organized, writing things down, taking notes, knowing what the data is that you're looking for. so they may require you to do a little research, whatever the case may be. After planning, I say being able to delegate, going out to other people, knowing their strengths, and you may not know their strengths. Right away. But in an engaging conversation with talking with someone, you can easily pick up on some of their strengths and to be able to delegate, delegate that duty to that person for their specific tasks. I think all of that goes into leadership. You have to be able to and be an effective listener. and you also have to be able to take constructive criticism because that's going to come with it as well. You're going to have people that don't necessarily believe in what you want to do. They don't see the objective the same way that you do, and quite frankly is not your job to show them the objective through your lens. It's okay to have different objectives long as the end goal is reached and you have that commonality that this is what we need to do. It doesn't really matter how it looks, but these are the players, these are the things that we're going to get done, as long as they had in result is what you want is a successful project.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] So, how do you go about leveraging influence to help people to understand that they should buy into something, even if they don't necessarily see or understand your vision?
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] The first thing I tried to do, and that's a great question, and thank you for that, because I think it translates in so many different areas of our lives. The first thing I tried to do is be transparent. I believe transparency is key if you're able to be open, upfront with people, and be vulnerable. If there's something you really don't know or something, you really don't understand. It's okay to say; you know what, I really don't know the answer to that now, but I'm going to go look into it, and I'm gonna see what I can do to get the answer for you. If you don't know the answer, being able to turn the person to someone else that you know can readily assist them, right? So I believe transparency is very important. I also believe that being, what's the word? You want to make sure that you're also being relatable in what you're doing because everybody does not have the same experience. You never want to make the assumption that the way they you do something or the way they somebody else done something is wrong or anything like that because there hasn't been your experience. So if someone comes to you with the suggestion, you might not necessarily agree with it. Or if I presented suggests suggestion that you don't necessarily agree with and you express that, "Hey, I don't necessarily agree with that." I want to have a conversation with you be able to see where we're disagreeing so we can build from there. Because you're just not going to agree on everything all the time. And I believe communication is key. You have to be able to have those hard conversations because that's what's essentially going to get you to the goal that you're wanting to get to. And I think after you encompass, it may be a few more things on missing where I like to do things in threes. I think once you encompass those three things, you won't necessarily sway someone 100%, but you will at least get them to thinking with the information that you've given him, the feedback, they're able to digest that and possibly see things from your perspective. I don't want to say see things the way that you see them, but from your perspective, for sure.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Yeah, that's really fundamental, especially when we think about the different ideologies of people and their beliefs or their past learning experiences. Some people are on different journeys. I mean, some people are learning, other people are unlearning toxic traits and practices, and it's important to meet people where they are.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Absolutely.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] One thing I heard you didn't use his time, but I heard it in your iteration of the three things, with one being communication and one being relatable, was humility. What role does humility play for you as it relates to being a leader and meeting people where they are?
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] It plays a huge role, you know, especially when in-law practice, it's easy to get caught up in the legalese of everything. And so when I'm consulting with someone, and I'm explaining something to them, I don't want to use the words that are in the Family Code. I want to give very specific examples with very simple language because you have to be able to, as you stated, meet people where they are. If you want someone to understand what it is you're trying to convey, you have to be willing to say; you know what, let me scale back a little bit. So it plays a huge role with me, and it translates to everything that I do, even with a simple Facebook post. I don't want to talk over anyone's head. I don't believe that is efficient when you're trying to reach a certain goal or you're trying to, as I stated, convey a certain message to someone; using simple language, being able to be relatable, explain things in the simplest form, so that people can't say, "Ah, I got it." So that way, when you do make a post, or you do want to get a group of volunteers together, you're reaching everybody at or at different levels. So for the simple terms, the person that may not understand way up here, they do! They, everybody, gets it. So that's what I've always prided myself on. Humility is huge for me. Very huge, and I think it has a lot to do with upbringing. I mean, you know, from going to school in Dallas. I believe it's a part of a culture almost that you can appreciate being relatable to people.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Yeah, I know our days, and the Girl Scouts helped too.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] It did, it did [laughter].
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] So, when you think about your career path and you foresee your career path and your desire focusing on family law while in law school? I know you mentioned you thought you were going to do "crim" [criminal] law. How is that pivot?
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] You know, it was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be because I just knew I was sold on practicing criminal law like I gave the, I opened up talking about Perry Mason, well then after that with the whole, what's the name? OJ Simpson trial and everything. And I was like, man, I want to be the next female version of Johnnie Cochran. He did an amazing job as a litigator, and then I followed him after that. Well, when it was time for me to look for a job after I graduated from law school at this time, I had my son. He was maybe four or five years old at that time. I needed some money. I went to so are working. I went to the district attorney's office, and nothing was available. I said, Hey, you know, what about starting my own firm? But with criminals, no one was calling me for criminal. People were calling me with issues related to what I experienced as a single mother, going through the family court system, child support, child custody. So I say all the time, it found me. So the pivot was easy because then phones were ringing off the hook, everyone was like, Vonda, I have this issue going on, and I have this issue going on related to divorce. and then, you know, every now and then, you, someone will sprinkle in adoption in there, which is a very heavy time for a family law attorney. The pivot wasn't hard at all. You know, I believe I'm walking in my calling. I enjoy very, very much.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] That's beautiful. I was just attending a Leadership Institute recently, and we worked through this exercise on the four behavioral and communication styles with people; and for those of you tuning in who've never gone through an exercise like that, please definitely check out opportunities that are similar to that. Because I learned that there are four different types and. one is a Doer, where another person is a Talker, another person's a Thinker, and then you have the Guardian, and you do the self-assessment, and I did a self-assessment, and I was squarely in the center of all of these. And so I learned that I could just flex really easily and be able to meet people at their communication styles, without any work really. But even within that, I honed in on, I can do that, I can flex all the time, but who am I really, when I think about my personal core? I'm more of a Guardian. And it sounds like your Guardian too. Because the Guardians are those people who really sacrifice a lot of their personal self for a greater cause because they've been called into that work. They didn't go out seeking it. So can you talk to us a little bit more about your being a Guardian and recognizing that this is your life walk?
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Oh yeah. You know, as you were speaking about that being a Guardian, the first thing that popped into my head, I recently did an interview where I was talking about my son and my husband, they like to miss with my thermostat at home, right? I like to keep my bills at a certain amount because I'm extremely frugal.
[ Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Yes, yes.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] I'm extremely frugal. So, they kept messing with it, and it was making my electricity bill go through the roof. So I ordered some boxes off of Amazon. that was a lockbox. So I kept them out of the box, and so the interviewer asked me what was the importance of it. and I took him completely left. I said I live the bare minimum. I don't have cable or anything like that, so I can provide more resources to the community in which I serve. and he said, 'What do you mean by that?" I said I can't live a very flashy lifestyle doing all the things I want to do, spending money that I could be safe, right? I can't leave that type of lifestyle and commit myself to funding Bar scholarships annually, which is what I do every year for third-year law students at two law schools to assist them with Bar-related expenses while they're studying for the Bar exam? I can't afford to do both! I also can't afford to give back to local, little league football teams; If I'm living that type of lifestyle, I can't commit the time and energy that I need, worrying, worrying about me so much, to all of these different organizations, and donating to my time to food banks, giving food to food banks, right? Helping package those things. You know, just being active in the community. If I'm so worried about me, I cannot do and commit to these other things. so that was the first thing that came to my mind. I'm extremely selfless. Extremely selfless. So I'm constantly thinking about other people taken on the Guardian role, not so much of a motherly role. Maybe in certain situations, if a young child or something is involved. But for the most part, I like to help people. I liked to protect people. If there is a need for me, some sort of resource I can, excuse me, I can provide even if it's just a referral to the dentist that we went to school with or something like that. Vonda, I need a referral for someone to help do my headshots. That's me! I'm like that hub; I guess you could say. And so, I take pride in it. and I take it as a very serious position. Although it's not something that I necessarily signed up for, it's the way that I was created, and I just love giving back to people and making sure that I'm doing what I can within my power to protect and help others like I need to.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] That's really beautiful. You know especially thinking about third-year law students because the struggle is real when it comes to BARBR [bar preparation program] if you don't get locked in as a one L with those BARBR fees and just studying for the bar, you know because so many people study all day and they still need to eat and engage in self-care. So that's wonderful that you provide scholarships to students.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Oh, yeah. And it's been great for the past five years. We just awarded the fifth year of scholarships, so it puts us a little bit over fifty thousand scholarships that we've given. And in addition to those scholarships, we also give each one of our recipients are $250 gift card. so they're not plagued with having to worry about "Oh, how am I going to afford to buy me something to eat?" You at least have these $250 cards to purchase meals at your leisure.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] That's beautiful. Thank you for doing that for people; seriously, that's amazing.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Absolutely.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Seriously, That's amazing. So, I know you mentioned that you are career journey has not been easy; we love Austin. Austin is Vonda's son. It has not been easy, though, especially as you started out first as a single mother. And as you said, there were different sacrifices, and you've juggled, and you manage your time, and you transition to Houston, and then you transition back. Talk to us a little bit about your resiliency and what keeps you grounded?
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Well, my faith is what keeps me grounded. I'm a member of the Church of Christ, so I am a firm believer of the notion of faith comes by hearing and not by sight.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Yes.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] I just believed there wherever my path is taking me that it's already been laid out for me, it's already written in the Book of Life. I just need to make sure that I stay the course and do the things that I need to do, I need to get done. It was very, very difficult. But fortunately enough, I had the best support system. When people use the term "It takes a village," it takes on a whole new meaning when your family beyond your family comes together. So when I was in law school, Austin was left here in Dallas with my parents. But when he did come with me, my second year of law school, the law school was my family. I had Deans, other professors, other classmates that would watch him while I was in class. When Austin was sick, and I had to be in class, and one of my classmates did not have class when I did it, they would watch him. It was just amazing to see. It was very, very beautiful. I'm very thankful for that because I recognize that everyone does not have that type of support. So don't take it for granted at all. I'm always cultivating those relationships. and still, to this day, those are some of the best relationships I've had; I have with people because they came and helped me and my most desperate time. Because being a single mom, you don't have a lot of time. You definitely don't have a lot of money. but when people willing to step in and help you, It's a beautiful thing. I just remember one. Oh my Gosh, this stands out so much. I needed to get some studying done because I was taken the Texas Bar early. I was still in law school while I was studying. And a friend of mine, he had a girlfriend at the time. And I said, "Hey, do you mind watch in Austin where I get a couple of hours in for studying." He said, Let me check with my girlfriend, let me see if it's okay. So he called me back, and she was a background. She said Vonda, I can't believe you asked; you know, it's okay. Their date night included going to Chuck E. Cheese. It was the sweetest thing ever.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] That's amazing. And you're still friends with them?
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Oh yeah, absolutely. They live in Wisconsin, and I believe the other lives in Tennessee. But yeah, we are still very good friends.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] That's beautiful. Especially it's important as an empath. I find myself being an empath and just really, wholely, listening to every lived experience of people, and if I can't find myself exactly in their shoes, I understand those circumstances. And it's important to cultivate relationships where people authentically see you as a human being. Not just as a name, but they see you as a person, and they're able to meet you wherever you are, and be your friend, or be you're confident.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Absolutely. It is so important, so important. It really is.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] So, what insight can you share with some of our students who may find themselves in a similar circumstance, especially as they seek education at Dallas College.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] In terms just in, generally speaking, you know, follow your heart. And it's when you say that it can be very loose, right? So I'll be broad and go specific.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Okay.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] When I say follow your heart, whatever it is that you want to do, do it. Not everyone comes to a community college knowing what they wanted to be when they grow up. Everybody does not know that. I knew, but the person next to me may not, didn't know. So in following your heart, if you don't know, be honest with yourself and say, I don't know, and take the time to learn about different classes like actually take them seriously. Get to know your educators. I cannot stress that enough. I am still really good friends with a lot of my educators and not only from secondary school through college, law school, all of it. Because those are gonna be some of your biggest resources. So I would definitely say get to know your educators, ask questions, make sure you become a part of part of different organizations that are on campus. Because that's where a lot of the learning is going to come from, as well as the exposure. Like you really don't know what you like, what you don't like until you experience it. So, definitely be a member of clubs, participate in community events that the school may host, whether it's the individual Dallas College that you're gonna be attending or, you know, Dallas College itself if they host the community event or something like that. Attend it, because you're going to meet a number of different people from a number of walks of life. That may be the life-changing thing you need to say; oh, this is what I want to do. So that'll be the first thing I say to just make sure you follow your heart. Be honest with yourself too. Because following your heart and being honest, you know, the waters can get a little muddy, right? So in being honest, you have to understand your strengths and your weaknesses. If you do not identify those early on, it can be a waste of time because you'll get led down a path on doing something just because someone else's doing it or just because there may be legacy in your family or something like that, and you do it, and you're really unhappy. This is not what I'm really supposed to be doing. So just always be honest with yourself. And the most important thing I probably should have saved this first is give yourself some grace. You don't know everything; You're going to make mistakes. As I stated earlier, failure is a part of the process. You're not going to always get it right on the first time. You're not going to always get it right on the second time. It took me three times to get into law school before I actually got in. I apply it to 11 to 13 different schools. and the Thurgood Marshall School of Law was the only school that admitted me. I'm grateful for that, but I gave myself grace. I didn't beat myself up about it, and I definitely didn't quit. Because that can happen too. If you get too much inside your head and not give yourself any grace, you will find yourself constantly saying, I'm a failure. I can't do this. I don't even use those words. The word can't. I can't say that it doesn't come up in my vocabulary, everyone every now and then when I'm like, I can't deal with you today, you know, something jokingly. But outside of that, the words can't, negative, impossible; they just don't filter into my mind. So giving yourself grace is definitely of the top importance, in my opinion.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] So all of that also applies to single mothers or single parents who are out there.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Oh, absolutely. Because they in parenting, you're going to make mistakes. There is no book that says this is the one way to parent. It's not because every situation is different, every parenting style is different, children are different, especially when you take into account children that have special needs. It's a different thing, but you have to give yourself some grace and understanding that you don't know it all. You're going to mess up. Rely on other people, allow other people to help you, and that's something else. Be open to accepting help. Because I know as a single mom, that was hard for me, that was hard for me because I didn't want people to think I was struggling. You know, early on. I got over there very quickly when went I went to law school, but early on, I didn't want anybody to think I was struggling. I got this; I got it out together. I want to be the poster child for single moms, and you can just do it like this; it's unrealistic. You're going to mess up. My son, I didn't know he was allergic to something, and I fed it to him, and it turned his cheeks red, and I had to take him to the doctor, right? And it made me feel bad, but I just didn't know, so I gave myself some grace, and it got easier as parenting went on. So everything that I said, it can relate to any area of your life, whether you are a single parent, you are a married individual that is trying to go back to school, anything. When you think of anything giving yourself some grace, being honest with yourself, and following your heart will always get you to the right place.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Yeah, Yeah, you're right. I love that, especially when we think about other dimensions, right, like leadership or being a rockstar employee, whatever the capacity is, it's important to extend grace to yourself and also to other people. And sometimes we need to just ask people, "Can I get a little bit of grace, right?" We continue to live in very turbulent and unpredictable times, right? We are past the challenging times. We're living in very unpredictable and turbulent times, and it's important to remind people that sometimes and also still persevere to what each individual's end goal is while recognizing just like you said earlier in our conversation, it's still a plan A, we just may need to pivot so that we can still get to plan A but through a different route, perhaps. So I love that. What other insight can you share with us as it relates to knowing who you are in your career? Perhaps leveraging humility sometimes so that you can listen to other people, whether their advisors or confidants, so that you can continue to persevere without feeling downtrodden?
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] That is an excellent question. The first thing that comes to my mind is listening. I was not always a good listener, and I had zero patience. That was me growing up. I struggled with that a lot. But when you become a parent and now that I'm married, you'll develop both of those very quickly, right? So, patience is very, very key. You know, the same. Patience is a virtue. It really is because being able to listen to someone and see things the way that they see it. You have to have patience with them. You have to be able to identify, okay, this person may be long-winded; this person may not answer my question in the first couple of sentences; it may take them about three paragraphs later. Well, we're going to get there. You have to be patient with them. Here people out, let them tell their story, whatever it is, just hear them out and don't try to take away how they feel. Because that feeling is personable only to them. You can't tell them how to feel. You have to be able to recognize that people have different experiences and meet them where they are, right? And in doing that, it makes you a more effective listener. Because I would say I'm listening, I'm listening. But now that I'm older, I'm like, okay, I'm not hard of hearing or anything, so I wasn't listening. I can't hear you because of that, but I wasn't really listening to understand. I was listening to respond. So The older I've gotten, I've learned that You have to be an active listener and not just a passive listener. Because if you're passively listening to someone, you're gonna miss their saying. The message, even little details there they're saying, is going to go right over your head. When you're an active listener, it requires their first level of patience, right? You're actively listening; you're trying to understand what it is that needs to get done. What it is, that what is the issue? You know. I find myself doing it a lot, like I said, in the practice of law, because that's all law really is about getting into what the root cause of the issue is. To help see how the law applies to get their person from point A to point B. So I leveraged that a lot more than what I used to, and you know, honestly, I wish I had picked up on that skill a little earlier in life because it would have kept me, I believe, a lot of headaches, but, you know, it's all good. That's the blessing and growing older and becoming much wiser, and being more empathetic and compassionate to different people in different situations as well.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] I know you frequently have conversations about the importance of planning and good time management. How can this concept help our employees and our students become more successful in their careers and their desires and their whatever their pursuits, whatever opportunities they see for themselves?
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] I'll take it, two parts, based on my experience, so for the student. Planning time management is key. You have to be willing to write things down. I had a hard time doing that when I was a Mountain View. I just knew I could put everything in my memory bank, and it would just sit there. But now, not so much. I operate off two to three calendars. So I made sure that I write everything down. I'm very strict about time because I don't have a lot of it, quite frankly. So you want to make sure that you are organizing yourself to where, excuse me, everything is going on a calendar, is written down somewhere and everything like that. You also want to set strict deadlines. Deadlines are extremely important because if you miss something, and; it could be fatal. Like depending on where it is, it could be a test grade; whatever the case may be, you don't want to miss deadlines. And one thing I do when it comes to deadlines, so if something is due a week or let's not use a week, let's use a little bit longer than that. Let's say something is due to three months out. I'm gonna say it multiple deadlines, so at this particular point, I should be here, and if I'm not here, what do I need to do to get caught up; because I have another deadline is coming up in the next two weeks. So I'm constantly checking my work just to make sure that I'm staying on track. So that helps me a lot with time management. Alarm clocks are essentially too. They really are not only to wake you up in the morning but when you're needing to take a break. We understand everyone gets tired and everything like that. But you know, if you're on a strict schedule, you're trying to meet certain deadlines, you can't just sleep through the day. So set you a timer, like give yourself a 30-minute power nap or something like that. But because you always want to make sure you're taking care of your mental health. Mental health is important when I mean in anything you do, but definitely when you're in college. Because the mind has a way of literally playing tricks on you. Like, you know, you could be thinking, oh, I'm doing this, this and this, and this, and in reality, you haven't really made any progress. But it's because the time management is lacking. You have poor organization skills, or you just not putting any effort into making sure that what you need to do, is getting done, and you're not holding yourself accountable. So definitely to the student, time management is key. For the educator, it's just as important. Because you have to first know the information that you're translating to your student. Time management, preparedness, making sure you're ready. There's a whole other level of organization that goes into that. When I was in law school, I was a teacher's aid for commercial law. So when your talking about commercial law, you know, who you make the check out to, and the certain implications that it had when you endorse the check, all those types of things. So I was teaching that to students, and being in that role gave me some insight as what it takes to be a professor. I couldn't come present these students and say presents to these students and say, "I'm just not prepared today," they're not trying to hear that. If I give them the responsibility to be prepared and be ready to go when it's time for class to start, they need to have the same expectation of me. So the same thing with writing down certain deadlines, holding myself to strict deadlines, making sure I'm available. That goes into time management too. You know, it's a balance, work-life balance. You have this over here, you have to attend to, but you also have your family that needs that time as well. So if you know you only have an hour to carve out of your schedule to make yourself available for that student or multiple students, you have to make sure that your time-keeping gives you the opportunity to do that. Otherwise, you're not gonna be as prepared as you need to be. and unfortunately, the student is going to see you.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Yes, yes.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Just like the professor is going to see that the student is not ready. So you both have to hold each other accountable, not only each other but their individual selves. You have to be able to say, Hey, these are the things I need to do. This is how it needs to get done, and this is how much time I need to sacrifice to do it.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Yeah, you're right. Especially when it comes to students and employees when we think about mental health and wellness as you brought it up, make that time, carve out the time and yours in your calendar to go seek counseling services, engage in self-care, use therapy, cards, journal, meditate, whatever it may be that a person may need in order to be uplifted and checking in on themselves? So I know that you are involved throughout the Dallas, Fort Worth community, and you promote the importance of education as a part of career excellence, like scholarships for law students, which is wonderful. I'm sure some of my classmates from law school would have appreciated a scholarship. So apart to succeeding and career in life is having the fundamental tools needed to survive so that thriving can be made a possibility. Sometimes we stopped short, honestly, in a society at survival, and there are communities that do get to thrive, but not all people get to thrive. So can you tell us about some of your service efforts that you lead or that you take part in to ensure that people do get the necessary resources and support of their survival?
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] I've been practicing law for the past eight years exclusively in the area of family law, and one thing I noticed is when there's a divorce, or there's the child custody situation, the parents are usually ordered to attend counseling. The children may be ordered to attend counseling. But I noticed that children were not necessarily the resource that targets only children, right? Being able to have those resources in court, like the availability of certain counselors that specialize in certain areas. I have not seen that, and one thing that I'm really focusing on and I have a tendency to reach out to my fellow attorneys. I've put a lot of work on them because I believe we have a duty, you know, being an attorney, anything in law enforcement, you have a civil commitment that you owe to the community to make it better. So these are some of the things that I've noticed. I would see cards for a counseling service, but it was general. You know, there is no cookie-cutter way when your talking about mental health and counseling, anything like that. So I would like to see something worth, a little bit more broken down, a little bit more specific, towards the individual child. Because you can place someone in family counseling all day long and you can say, oh, the child has a counselor. But let's talk about the age of that child. Let's talk about the specific needs of that child. Let's talk about how this particular counselor that we're referring actually meets the needs of the specific child. It's a lot more work that goes into it than just sending the children. off. And the reason I feel so passionate about this is because of the influx in suicide rates in our young people. You know, just recently, unfortunately, we heard about Miss USA. Miss USA, 30 years old, just last week, Regina King's son, he's in his twenties. And that's not to say that they went through any type of family law situation, right? But indulge me for a minute. What if people that have taken their lives at an age where they become an adult really suffer from deep dark depression for something that happened in their childhood related to a family law matter, related to their parents going through a divorce and the trauma that it had on them. Just think about if we reach them earlier to cultivate something that addresses their specific needs. How much of a difference or an impact it would have made on their lives, to where they felt as though, through each course of their life, they had some sort of counselor that was very specific to their general need to help them get along the way. You know, when I sit back, and I thought about that, I said something has to be done about that. Because you don't like to see, people take their own lives. It's something to be said about that. It's an epidemic. So me within my, I guess you could say little zone, as being a family law attorney because I'm only one person, that can make a big impact. So I'm actively looking and exploring that, reaching out to different counselors just to see what their specialties are. Because a lot of counselors, they don't meet with children below a certain age, but depending on the needs of the child or it may not be a bad idea to do so. And let's explore the different ways that we can bring the two together, the court, the mental health, bringing it together to where we can say this is what we're going to start doing here in Dallas County for people that are suffering with different mental health, you know, things that are going on with their mental health. So there's just one area when you're talking about counseling. Something else, I would like to see, you know, more resources put into special needs in general.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Yes.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] I believe in education. I would not be sitting here before you as a licensed attorney if I did not have a great foundation with education. But we also have to remember that not everyone in our society is like us. You have people that don't understand or can barely get through a court order because they may be dyslexic. They can't articulate in court the way that they need to because they have a speech impediment, those types of things. How do we assist those people when they come to court? We don't want them to walk out of court and not knowing or understanding what the law says because this is something that they have to abide by. It's something that can potentially impact their life in a negative way if they don't follow through. What resources can we bring in to make sure that they fully understand this? We have translators on standby, right?
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Right.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] So what's wrong with having someone who may be a speech therapist on standby. You know, those are just some different things that I have been actively engaging on and something else I've been working on, and I'm actually waiting for funding on it. The "We the People." So, there was a situation where there was a lady in court, she didn't have decent shoes, and you can hear jurors. I don't know if you've ever been in a courtroom. You can hear jurors speaking about certain things. And so the last thing I want someone to do is be ridiculed about the way they look and judged, based on it. And not taken seriously because someone believes that they may not be of a certain social-economic status or anything like that. So I came up with the idea of "We the People." I met with the District Clerk in Dallas County because they're in charge of all the clerk's offices. And we were looking for a space to put a cloth, clothing closet, so people that come to court, they may not be dressed appropriately, they can go in the closet and pick jewelry, pants, shoes, suit jackets, whatever it is that they need to make themselves feel presentable. That's what I want to do. It, it changes the morale not only of the entire system when you're in court, but it boosts the confidence of the person that's wearing the clothing. So that's something that I'm actively working on. We're working on now, just presenting it to Commissioners Court to see about funding and placement and everything like that. But I'm really excited about that. I'm compassionate. I love people. So I don't like to see people get left behind. You know, that whole notion of, you have the haves and have-nots. Well, you do, but how do you bridge the gap? So I look at myself as the builder of that gap, to see what I can do with my little stamp to say, Hey, this is where we want to do, and this is how we're going to improve.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] And a lot of what you're speaking of is equity. It's providing people what they need in order to thrive. And it's fortunate that you're doing this because this is something that's long overdue. You know, we have organizations like Dress for Success and other organizations that actually meeting people literally where they are at Lew Sterrett or Frank Crowley, and having a closet there for people just to get easy access is really phenomenal. It's something that's well overdue. And I love, and I'm just going to backtrack a little bit, because I really love how you talked about fusing special education services, dyslexia services, speech pathologists services within the court system, and helping people because you're right. A lot of people don't understand legalese. And especially if a person doesn't have any disability, intellectual disability, and they read it, and they don't know what they're reading and they need someone to discern, "What did I just read?" "What did that mean?" So that's really important. and adding that layer of providing equity through accommodations from this Licensed Specialist and people with credentialing. It's really important. And I'm sure that that will be something that our county would hopefully benefit from, so thank you for pioneering the way for that.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Absolutely. I'm just, you know, I tell people all the time. I'm just trying to do my part. If I do my part, you do your part, and everyone else does their part, it just makes for a better society.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] You right? So tell us, why does service matter to you? What overall is your aim meaning? Why have you dedicated your life to service? I know you said that it's calling of your life. You didn't have to accept the calling. So, why this type of work? Why now? Why is this important?
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] Well, service important because it's not something that you necessarily do. It's a part of who you are. So if you want to live in a society that in your mind is perfect, even though we know nothing is perfect, right? But if you want to live in a society that is what you want it to be, you have to be willing to step outside of yourself and be very selfless and say, I'm going to do this. It started as a young child, like I mentioned, going to feed the homeless. We stayed in church doing something to give back to the community. I didn't fully appreciate it then like I do now. Because I understand the importance of giving back. Service is something that I've always done and is a part of who I am. It's even important as in my role as an attorney. Our license when we get the license, it says attorney and counselor at law. And I think too often, when we get caught up and go into court in our every day, we forget about that counseling part. That part is extremely important because that's where the service comes in. When you're counseling to someone, whether it's keeping him from making a bad decision, advocating on their behalf, whatever the case may be, you're bringing in that level of service. So services not something that I can necessarily part with because it literally is in my makeup. And as I stated, I am a child of God. So I want to make sure that I not only understand the assignment, but then I'm perfecting it as well; well, not perfecting, executing it.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Thank you. So we've reached the end of our fantastic conversation. I do have one last prompt for you. Is there anything that we left out in this conversation that you want to add or amplify?
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] There was a quote, and I can't remember the originator of the quote, but when I was at UTA, this young lady, she was running for Ms. Black and Gold, that's the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. And she said, "Always strive for the top because it's the bottom that's overcrowded [Habeeb Hakande]. That has been my life's mantra since I was in Mountain View, and I will pass that on to all of the students at Dallas College. If you think about it, is always gonna be a lot at the bottom, the surface of anything. You think about anything in life is always going to be flooded with a bunch of different aspects. But you always want to make sure that you're striving to move up, whatever that may be. You start from the entry level, and you work your way up but never quit. I just want to make sure I leave the students with that and follow your dreams.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] I love that; you reminded me of a really short quote by the actress Ashley Blaine Featherson, another woman as Black girl magic walking. And she said, "Ascend and keep growing."
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] I love it.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] I love it too. When I when I heard her say that in a podcast, it was Amanda Seals, Small Doses, and it was a few years ago. I immediately heard it, went to my whiteboard in my office, and wrote, "Ascend and Keep Growing." And I love that we're ending on this note that striving is eventually going to help people ascend and that they have many different pathways, even if it is still their Plan A. So thank you for spending this time with us.
[Ms. Vonda Bailey] And thank you again for having me. it's been delightful.
[Dr. Jasmine D. Parker] Thank you.