Meet Cheresa J. Fewell , Career and Internship Advisor at St. John’s University, who has been a Dress for Success Worldwide Volunteer for nine years. Cheresa has recently been awarded the “Volunteer of the Year” award at the 2018 Gordy Awards in New York.
DFS: What drew you to Dress for Success and why did you want to be part of the organization?
CJF: When I was in college, I remember reading Black Enterprise with Joi Gordon on the cover and learning about the organization. Back then I would keep some issues because of the importance of the articles. About a year later, I was looking for employment as a career coach, and I remember meeting Wendy Wilkins at a career fair at York College; it was at that point I remembered my Black Enterprise issue, retrieved it from my basement, and applied to be a Career Center Specialist.
DFS: Can you describe the specific volunteer work you do at DFS?
CJF: I am a Career Center Specialist, where I prepare women from all walks of life, to re-enter the workforce through mock interviews, career/job exploration, and resume review.
DFS: Tell us a story of a client you served that stands out in your mind and that you are especially proud of? How did she impact you?
CJF: When I first started, the career center was located by the window across from the boutique. Every now and then, between clients, I would be able to see some of the women trying on their clothing selections with their personal shopper. One particular day, I remembered this woman that looked amazing in her suit. As I was staring at her, looking at herself in the mirror, she started to cry and I
overheard her saying something like “I have not seen myself dressed up like this in years”. When it was her turn to meet with me, she mentioned that she lost her confidence, and glad that she was receiving a suit to return to the workforce. Because of that experience, it was easy to guide her through the next steps of interviewing. It made me realize that, I should never take things for granted. I do remember shedding a tear because she realized how amazing she looked
DFS: Describe some of the feelings you have when you are working with a client and seeing that transformation first hand.
CJF: I feel like a grand wizard with a purple magic wand, giving women confidence to brand and promote themselves to employers. Truth of the matter is, they already have the magic, I just help
them reveal their greatness and show it to the world.
DFS: What is the best part of being associated with DFS?
CJF: The best part of being associated with DFS is seeing women come through the door one way, and then leave with confidence and an extra smile on their face. I constantly hear from the women as they are leaving “I am so grateful for an organization like this”.
DFS: How has Dress for Success impacted your life?
CJF: Not every woman has had the opportunity to receive degrees and/or had the opportunity to experience working in a professional work environment. It feels good to organically educate and empower women on the workforce, on my own time, and seeing the impact that I am making in her life.
DFS: Do you feel you are making an impact by volunteering at DFS? How?
CJF: Through my everyday knowledge of the workforce, I am definitely making an impact by equipping women with the necessary tools to be able to confidently compete in a tough job market within New York City.
DFS: What is your best advice to give to other volunteers?
CJF: These women come to Dress for Success with shame, abuse, fear, neglect, and feeling alone. Don’t be afraid to open up and share as much as you like with the woman you will be assisting. Your experience or words of encouragement maybe that one story, or advice she needs to hear, to boost her confidence to face the world.