Campus News

Rising star: Medgar Evers College alum tapped for major new NYC leadership role

It was almost like it was meant to be.

As a child, Nathifa Forde ran freely through the halls of Medgar Evers College and spent time with Betty Shabazz in her office on many occasions. 

Forde came from a family with a long history of advocating for social justice and the advancement of Black communities. Her great-grandparents were Garveyites and her grandmother was one of many community activists advocating for the opening of Medgar Evers College in Central Brooklyn.

Campus was a place of cultural exchange and political awareness for Forde — a so-called home away from home. 

In her younger years, she’d enjoy the Kwanzaa celebrations, attend karate classes and even participated in voter registration on campus.

The proud alum credits Medgar Evers College, alongside her family and her own understanding of self and history, as a catalyst to the innovation and impact she is now having on greater New York City — including Mayor Eric Adams recently naming her the Executive Director of the newly-formed “NYC Her Future.”

The initiative, born out of the Mayor’s Office of Equity and Racial Justice, “will foster positive change and create a brighter future for all young people as a companion office to YMI (Young Men’s Initiative).” 

Forde served as the Deputy Executive Director of YMI, where she developed programs and partnerships to serve communities of color beginning in 2020.

“My time with YMI has reinforced my belief that in addition to the specific needs of young men and boys of color,  there are unique needs that young women and girls of color face as they navigate through life as well,” Forde told us. 

“I believe that we must collectively work to prepare both groups equally as they are on parallel paths that will one day intersect. And it is in that insection that thriving communities are built. I’m proud and honored to lead a new office focused on addressing those unique needs.”

Nathifa Forde participated in an alumni event on campus on April 8, 2024.

Forde was born in Brooklyn and raised in Greensboro, N.C., returning to Brooklyn as a young woman with a wider understanding of the world. 

Forde describes herself as a “spirited, creative, non-traditional student” who was committed to sharing her passion for the arts with young people throughout New York City. 

She spent time as an arts educator, a visual merchandiser, track-and-field coach but she is and remains a youth developer at her core. 

She is grounded in community and is committed to empowering young people to achieve their best. 

Drawing on the words and request of her mother, Forde needed to remain focused on her own academic achievements. “You owe me a degree,” her mom would remind her.

Landing at Medgar Evers College only seemed natural given her personal community ties to the institution. 

With a sense of familiarity with the campus and its vibe, this new chapter allowed Forde the opportunity to continue to mold her academic career, forging a new awareness and commitment of growth.  

She loved her History and English classes, as well as making connections with her professors.

Today she can reflect back and understand the power of diverse educators of color teaching in Brooklyn encouraged her love for learning. 

And it was the Public Administration Department (PAD) at MEC that captured her authentic interest and motivated her to declare it as a major and delve deeper. 

The PAD resurfaced her experiences as a child at MEC and her family’s values of being rooted in community, public service and commitment to social justice. It gave her insight to the inner workings of New York City. 

More specifically, she created a bond with the late Congressman Major R. Owens in her first Public Administration course and he went on to become her mentor, providing her with academic and professional guidance. 

“Major Owens told me, ‘You have a natural knack for this. It seems to register with you differently.’ He was right — and I’ve been dedicated to learning the theory behind the career of public service I had already been committed to,” Forde said.

Forde remains directly engaged with MEC as an adjunct professor in the Public Administration Department. 

I always tell my students that my path in school wasn’t linear. I wasn’t the best student when I started off. One thing for sure is the opening act may set the scene but it is the grand finale that is remembered — finish strong.”

Forde will lead the newly-formed NYC Her Future initiative

Now as the Executive Director of NYC Her Future, she can pour herself into building the office much like she graduated Cum Laude from MEC with her degree in Public Administration. 

NYC Her Future is a part of the city’s Women Forward NYC $43 million Action Plan to aid New York City in becoming a national leader on gender equity.

“When we invest in creating a better, more equitable future for all young people, especially young women and girls of color, our entire city wins,” Mayor Adams said in a press release.

Forde is also a strong supporter of MEC’s Women in Government Lecture series within the PAD. 

And on April 8, 2024, she participated in an alumni panel hosted by the Office of Alumni Relations called “2024 Alumni Unplugged: Real Talk Series.”

“It’s always about paying it forward. That’s what I strive to do in my role at MEC now,” Forde said. 

“It’s human-centered. I really think about those folks who poured it into me at Medgar Evers College as a child running freely through the hall and as a student, now it’s my turn to pour into the students that are here now.”