There are still ceilings for Black women in the United States to break through. The work that the women we are spotlighting this week had to do to break through those barriers to achievement is equal parts a testament to their drive and an indictment of the systems that have stymied countless others. Here are some of the Black women on the First Coast making a difference.
Title: Senior Transportation Planner, England, Thims & Miller
Years Living in Jacksonville: 22
People who impacted her professionally and personally: Her parents
Internships and opportunities can change lives.
April Bacchus knows this all too well. Her start as a transportation planner began while on a graduate school internship in Southeast Michigan.
“I decided and realized my passion lied more with designing and improving communities than buildings,” Bacchus said. “Having a broader picture and look at communities was something I was interested in.”
The native Detroiter earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan and moved here in 2000.
“From an urban planning perspective, growing up in Detroit, I saw areas of the city that needed more investment and economic development. I wanted to see better things for my city. I wanted to not see as much blight,” she said. “When you talk about transportation planning, transportation planning, like other aspects of urban planning, helps to create and improve communities. I wanted to improve people’s quality of life, accessibility and mobility.”
To Bacchus, it’s not enough to have access to mobility. Communities must do so equitably. Considering Jacksonville is the largest city in the United States, Bacchus said it is imperative that transportation and mobility are a part of the discussion when fostering community and enforcing equity
“Because we are social creatures, where we live, where we work, where we play, where we do things that’s all a part of our community,” Bacchus said. “For the equity part of it, it’s about making sure there is equal access and diversity. To me, those words are a big part of quality of life. Everyone wants to have a good quality of life. If you improve transportation that’s a step toward improving people’s quality of life and community.”
For decades, transportation has been a male-dominated field. Bacchus was a founding member of the Northeast Florida Chapter of WTS, an organization that champions, inspires and educates women in the transportation industry.
Bacchus is currently the president of the local chapter that awarded $3,000 in scholarships last spring to women pursuing a career in transportation as well as graduating seniors from throughout the region.
“I’m a person who likes to help people by nature,” she said. “That’s one way to help people. For me, it’s very gratifying to do that. I’m sharing information with (women) that I didn’t know about the field when I was their age and helping women. Part of what WTS does is provide tools to help women develop professionally and enhance their leadership skills and help them advance in their careers.”
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