LARGO?- Black History Month may be coming to an end, but Charlene Dukes continues to work to educate young minds. Dr. Charlene Dukes, the first female president of Prince George’s Community College, has achieved many accomplishments and received many awards over the course of her career, but her success did not come without facing the […]
LARGO?- Black History Month may be coming to an end, but Charlene Dukes continues to work to educate young minds.
Dr. Charlene Dukes, the first female president of Prince George’s Community College, has achieved many accomplishments and received many awards over the course of her career, but her success did not come without facing the difficulties of growing up as a black woman.
“I’m not here to tell you that I have not faced adversity as I’ve moved through my career, but what I have done is to allow the values and the foundation that my parents provided to me and the members of my community to keep me strong and to keep me focused,” Dukes said.
Since her college years, Dukes had determined she wanted to work in higher education and nothing would stop her from achieving that goal — not even obstacles created by her former professors.
“When I was in college myself, we faced some adversity being the first African-American students on a predominately white campus and with that came some of the prejudices and ignorance that we sometimes still see today,” Dukes said. “I was in a situation where a faculty member indicated that the three African-Americans in the class didn’t even have to come (to class). He would just give us a grade — A, C or an F — and we could decide who was going to get what because he didn’t believe that we had what it took to be there.”
Dukes and her African-American classmates rallied together and paved the way for others.
“I don’t let anyone else’s perception of who I am, who they think I am or what they believe that I can do keep me shackled in any way because I know who I am,” Dukes said.
Angie Reese-Hawkins, chief executive officer at YMCA of Metropolitan Washington said Prince George’s County is lucky to have someone with Dukes’ character and credentials working with students at the community college.
Reese-Hawkins said Dukes always has her eyes on the future, recalling a time when she worked with Dukes on a project for a middle school. While Reese-Hawkins remained focused on the project at hand, she said Dukes was thinking ahead.
“She’s always looking 10 to 15 years down the road as to how we’re developing (students) as leaders and also leaders who are willing to give back, leaders who are willing to be engaged in service learning,” Reese-Hawkins said. “So it really called for robust conversation and decision-making and it also called for greater engagement in terms of how we’re looking at the students’ future.”
Dukes has one son, 24-year-old Maurice Dukes, who works for NBC Universal and founded his own production company, Sidewalk Productions. He described his mother as “very giving” and said she has always been supportive of his career aspirations. Maurice said the values his mom instilled in him as a young child carried on into adulthood.
“Just from a young age, my parents taught me that if you start something, you finish it. You don’t quit,” he said. “You don’t give up on people. You don’t give up on yourself.”
In 2007 former Gov. Martin O’Malley appointed Dukes to sit on the Maryland State Board of Education. In 2009 she became vice president of the Board and in 2012 she assumed the presidency for the first time.
“I think she does an incredibly great job of leveraging her strengths, which are her experience, her skills, her political astuteness, to really make people pay attention to the need to raise the standard of excellence for our Prince George’s Community College while at the same time increasing the standard of living for Prince Georgians,” Reese-Hawkins said.
Despite her busy professional life, Dukes said she puts family first.
“A few years ago, my husband passed away,” Dukes said. “But even when Maurice was home and Robert was with us, we always managed to spend quality time together, even in the midst of understanding what our individual professional or academic responsibilities were.”
At 60, Dukes, who lives in Glenn Dale, is not quite ready to retire.
“Sometimes I think where I go from here is a chair on the porch where I can just rock for a moment and enjoy the breeze,” Dukes said. “But right now, I’m committed to what I’m doing. I love what I’m doing and I see myself being around for a few more years.”