1st Edition

My Story... From Humble Beginnings to Professional Success A Young Professional’s Guide

Edited By James M. Durant III, Jeffrey M. Allen Copyright 2025
    400 Pages 32 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    400 Pages 32 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Practical and authentic, this essential career handbook provides every young person with inspiration and practical pathways to overcome socio-economic adversity and achieve their career ambitions. Written by an impressive group of senior professionals who have excelled despite seemingly insurmountable circumstances, including barriers such as racism and economic hardship, this book provides the roadmap to professional career success.

    With students and graduates from diverse and economically adverse backgrounds specifically in mind, the book breaks from the notion that one has to become a superstar, a Supreme Court Justice, a movie star, or an internationally famous athlete to be successful. It provides a grounded and realistic approach to achieve social, economic, and professional advancement for the majority of college students. High-level professionals and leaders in industry, government, non-profit, education, medicine, military, and the law share their unique stories, each filled with spirit, hope, advice, success strategies, and approaches to dealing with failures along the way. The book offers direction and guidance for self-determination and professional development, while also inspiring excellence in organizational leadership and management, with a focus on leadership, character, and tangible skills.

    This is essential reading for college students and graduates from all backgrounds, with a focus on underrepresented groups in particular. It will also benefit instructors, professors, and professionals in higher education, as well as leaders in the public, private, and third sectors who are focused on uplifting students and recent graduates of adverse and diverse backgrounds.

    Part I: Business  

    1.     The Power of Belief  

    Felicia Fields  

    2.     ‘Echale Ganas’  

    Arturo Z. Martinez  

    3.     Begin Again  

    Kerry Jordan  

    4.     The Rule of Eighteen  

    Erin Thompson, Esq.  

    Part II: STEM  

    5.     Honing My Craft  

    Dr. Wayne A. Johnson, M.D., FAAOS, FACS  

    6.     Preparing to Be a Pioneer  

    Dr. Herman B. White, Jr. Ph.D  

    7.     A Story of Firsts  

    L. Stacy Mitchell, M.D., FAAOS  

    Part III: Academia  

    8.     A Story in Black and White  

    Dr. Frank Anechiarico, Ph.D  

    9.     The Influence of My Parents and Community  

    Professor W. Sherman Rogers, Esq.  

    10.  Determine Your Own Yardsticks  

    Dr. Carolyn Rouse, Ph.D.  

    Part IV: Government  

    11.  Listen to Others  

    James M. Durant III, Esq.  

    12.  Bouncing Back Better  

    Will A. Gunn, Esq.  

    13.  Dancing Naked in the Snow  

    Hon. Pamela D. Stevenson  

    14.  My Story  

    Bill Valdez  

    15.  Challenges can bring opportunities; but finish your education!  

    Eric Vara  

    16.  My Journey  

    Dr. Glenda B. Arrington  

    Part V: Sports  

    17.  Fight the Good Fight and Never Give Up!  

    Mark A. Collins  

    18.  From Gridiron to Courtroom: Embracing a New Path  

    Rodney D. Bullard, Esq.  

    Part VI: Arts  

    19.  Reciprocity  

    Wren T. Brown  

    Part VII: Military  

    20.  What Can I Offer?  

    Vice Admiral James W. Crawford, USN, Ret.  

    21.  Take Pride in Your Leadership  

    Lieutenant General Jack L. Rives, USAF, Ret.  

    22.  Plan, Prepare, & Execute  

    Captain Albert W. Hawkins  

    Part VIII: Law  

    23.  Dream It, Believe It, and Work to Achieve It  

    Melanie Bragg, Esq.  

    24.  My Coming to America  

    Kelly-Ann F. Clarke, Esq.  

    25.  My Story  

    Hon. Henry Hamilton III  

    26.  If You Cannot See It, You Cannot Be It; It Is Indispensable for Others to See You; I See You  

    Hon. M. Tia Johnson  

    27.  Creating Your Own Path  

    Hon. Peter M. Reyes, Jr.  

    28.  A Kid From the South Side With a Dream  

    Mario A. Sullivan, Esq.  

    29.  How The Power of Hope, El Poder de La Esperanza, Can Open Doors: “Remember, We All Come From Somewhere”  

    Laura V. Farber, Esq.  

    30.  Know Thyself   

    Jeffrey M. Allen, Esq.  


    James M. Durant III is Career Appointed Senior Executive in the US Federal Government serving as a Chief Counsel for the US Department of Energy. Raised with four siblings by a single mother in an improvised environment, he became a lawyer and judge advocate retiring as an Air Force Colonel.

    Jeffrey M. Allen’s family had little money. He survived religious discrimination, excelled in school, and became a successful attorney, educator and author. He held numerous leadership positions in charitable, civic, and professional organizations.

    My Story uplifts and nurtures future leaders from humble beginnings. It delicately, yet pointedly, gives these promising Americans hope through the eyes of seasoned, experienced professionals from myriad practice specialties and settings. Such a coterie of exceptional professionals uniquely housed in one volume and unitedly focused on a broad enumeration of ascertainable career pathways for college age students of adverse and diverse backgrounds simply does not exist. Thank you to my fellow thought commentary leaders and to the exceptional contributing authors for telling your story! Through your combined efforts in My Story, we will make a difference!”

    Senator David B. Haley, Esq. 

    “An absolutely audacious step towards strengthening the American academic-to-professional career pipeline for college students of diverse background — Wow! Durant and Allen hit the ground running with My Story. It is a much-needed booster that furthers the work of exceptional academics, counselors, parents, community leaders and the like. The individual personal accountings by fellow professionals of their trials and tribulations with exceptional outcomes makes My Story an enduring, thought-provoking literary move in the right direction. The host of absolutely astounding contributing authors provides the audience with a varied approach to academic decision-making for career advancement and professional development. Can’t wait to read My Story II!”

    Paula Boggs, Esq., Media LLC, Former Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Starbucks Corporation 

    “My Story transports one to a gifted, higher plane of comprehensive awareness and understanding of personal growth and ascertainable achievement upon a uniquely American tapestry of challenge, adversity, racism, sexism and otherwise categorically class-based exclusions wrought by a history of architecturally designed structures eliminating others from enjoying the benefits of American citizenry. A must-read for those aspiring to achieve professional growth and self-actualization.”

    Reginald M. Turner, Esq., Past President, National Bar Association and American Bar Association  

    “When I joined the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) as a young lawyer, I realized – for the first time – that, like me, thousands of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) attorneys across the country had also experienced similar racism and bigotry. I met icons and leaders in our AAPI legal community who took a stand to address prejudice and to right the wrongs it generated! Even more astoundingly, these heroes unselfishly gave their time to show new attorneys and law students how to be change agents themselves. Inspired, I served as the 17th President of NAPABA and chair of the ABA’s Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division. During the COVID pandemic, I became President of the Connecticut Bar Association (the first AAPI in its 97-year history), joined the ABA’s Board of Governors, and was tapped to co-chair the Connecticut Hate Crimes Advisory Council. The uplifting experiences shared in My Story show similar inspiration. A must-read for anyone interested in exploring different paths to success.”

    Amy Lin Meyerson, Esq., former President of the National Asian Pacific Bar Association and the Connecticut Bar Association; former American Bar Association Deputy Representative to the United Nations; Owner of the Law Office of Amy Lin Meyerson

    “I am a proud graduate of Howard University Medical School, and the first African American woman to become an Orthopedic Surgeon in the state of Illinois. My beginnings are and remain humble. I practice medicine to help others and to serve a deserving community. The journeys detailed in My Story are similar to my own. They are journeys of hope, faith, and belief, accentuated with challenges, failures, and successes. My Story is a must-read, a must-digest, and a must-learn-from piece of literature that aspiring college students should have at their bedside. It is exceedingly inspirational! The individual stories detailed in My Story, like my own accounts on a road to a highly successful medical practice, give college students a profound navigation system to professional success by way of carefully articulated storytelling from absolutely incredible professionals. My Story is real, honest, and indeed compelling.”

    Dr. Surrenthia R. Parker, M.D., Jackson Park Hospital, Chief Orthopaedic Surgery; J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society, Board Member Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society 

    “I am honored to hold the distinction of being the first Asian Pacific American Chief Trial Judge in the history of the United States military. After retiring as a U.S. Coast Guard Captain, I began serving as the President and CEO of the National Judicial College, where I provide training to judges at all levels of the American Judiciary, including international judges.

    My Story is an indispensable read, particularly for undergraduate students, as it instills hope and provides guidance for their professional journeys, leading them to remarkable opportunities in their chosen fields. The book features inspiring accounts from various accomplished individuals, such as a retired two-time NFL Super Bowl champion, whose journey serves as a profound source of inspiration. Likewise, it offers a glimpse into the life of a former U.S. Undersecretary for Legislative Affairs, now an Appellate Court Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, who holds the distinction of being the first African American woman in this position. Her remarkable professional journey serves as a definitive roadmap for success that others can follow.

    Additionally, the book showcases the extraordinary story of the first African American woman to hold the position of Vice President and Director of Human Resources for Ford worldwide. Her leadership principles and experiences are truly awe-inspiring and offer readers invaluable guidance for their own journeys.

    My Story is an absolute must-read, and its significance is underscored by the fact that it should be required reading for all incoming university freshmen. It serves as a virtual GPS for achieving attainable, professional success and offers invaluable insights and principles that can guide individuals on their path to a fulfilling career.

    In conclusion, My Story is a book that highlights significant achievements and provides readers with hope, direction, and the tools to reach their full potential. From its inspiring narratives to its roadmap for success, this book is an essential resource for anyone seeking to excel in their professional endeavors.”

    Honorable Benes Z. Aldana, Ret., Captain, USCG, Ret.

    “Congratulations to the authors of My Story… From Humble Beginnings to Professional Success, my brother Jimmy, and his colleagues for a most impressive compendium of diverse and enriching experiences from trailblazers who have transcended historical boundaries in their different professions to rise to excellence. Their amazing journeys are a clear indication that strong commitment and hard work will propel you into your future and destiny when and where you will least expect it. The authors, particularly those of African descent, achieved such significant milestones under extremely difficult circumstances, which has ensured continuity across generations on the long journey of renaissance for the struggle of equality and a better life.

    My Story will be a source of inspiration for generations—not only in the United States, but globally—as the world continues to strive to improve upon humanity.  I strongly recommend this timely book to future and former generations (some of whom will find themselves in these carefully told stories of hope, determination, and passion). It is a must read.”

    Dr. Hippolyte Fofack, Ph.D., Chief Economist, African Import Export Bank, Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences