Ford-Byrd balances multiple positions

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Ford-Byrd balances multiple positions

Photo courtesy of Alleyn Harned

Photo courtesy of Alleyn Harned

Photo courtesy of Alleyn Harned


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Working as the executive director for non-profit organization Harrisonburg Education Foundation (HEF), Zanetta Ford-Byrd can say that her schedule is filled.

But that isn’t the only reason why she wakes up early in the morning.

Taking on the roles of being a mother of two, wife, academic advisor and adjunct for  James Madison University’s Department of Social Work, Ford-Byrd has taken on multiple positions, starting her day from 6 a.m. until finishing with her studies around midnight.

“It can all be very hard to juggle at times, but, I have to say ‘okay, this day is set for this specifically,’ and I’m very good at just putting myself into a silo. When I’m focused on HEF, I’m focused on HEF. When I’m focused on my kids, I’m focused on my kids. When I’m focused on JMU, my focus is at JMU,” Ford-Byrd said.

Her journey with HEF began Aug. 2017, when she was already juggling the two other positions with the Department of Social Work and facilitating grant workshops at Ford-Byrd Consulting, LLC. Striving for more, Ford-Byrd was soon on her path towards executive director.

“I started looking for a position where I could utilize my leadership skills, as well as take advantage of my interests in policy and administration… having a non-profit background, experience in leadership and just being passionate about the school system, where I have two children, just kind of led me here,” Ford-Byrd said.

The main key she uses when dealing with meetings, going from executive director to mother, is time management and organization. Taking the time to really focus on what she’s doing at the moment is something she finds important, rather than having her mind focused on many things at once.

“I do make sure that the hours where my kids are home from school, I’m very focused on them and give them their time. They definitely feel mom’s presence and know that I’m there. I also take pride in bringing them with me on my journey, sharing with them what I do and why I do it. I use every opportunity to educate my kids and teach them compassion, service and excellence.”

Before stepping into all of this, Ford-Byrd can say that it was her education and surroundings that led her to where she is now. From Nottoway County, Virginia, growing up in a close knit family where grandma and grandpa were just a couple houses down, along with service oriented parents, that’s where she found her support. Attending Old Dominion University for her undergrad, Ford-Byrd didn’t stop after that. She was interested in information technology as well and desired hands-on training, which led her to then get an associates degree under that field at ECPI University. An MBA and several certifications later, Ford-Byrd is still in school working for her PhD in public policy and administration at Walden University. While the education process has been long and still continues to be part of her journey to this day, it’s what led her to her multiple careers, especially with HEF.

“I can definitely say that stepping into the position of executive director has been something that I have prepared and planned for. Taking on a leadership role before you’re prepared can be detrimental to the organization, so I took the process very seriously. I have always been in school working on a degree or sitting in someone’s classroom” Ford-Byrd said. “I greatly value my education, and my focus has always been learning and understanding non-profits. I knew when I was ready to step into the executive director position, I would be able to do just that and be effective at it because I have diligently educated myself and practiced the craft.”

It’s the passion for children, education and love for service that drives her. With two kids in the HCPS system, an armoured education and passion for non-profits, Ford-Byrd’s schedule may be like another, but what isn’t like any other is her drive.

“Once I start something, I intend to finish strong. I’m so excited for the HEF gala, not only because the funds directly impact Harrisonburg City Public Schools’ staff and students, but also because so much hard work has went into making it an extraordinary evening. I look forward to celebrating the people that wholeheartedly poured themselves into the HEF mission.”

Experience a night with Gatsby at the Harrisonburg Education Foundation’s annual gala fundraiser, Friday, May 11 at 7pm in the brand new Hotel Madison. Now in its 7th year, this charity event benefits programs for  the students, staff, administrators and teachers of Harrisonburg City Public Schools. Click here for more information on the event and to learn how you can help support HCPS students.

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