Voices: Celebrating Doreen Cato with Sept. 21 in her honor

Voices: Celebrating Doreen Cato with Sept. 21 in her honor

In Ocean Shores, Washington, Saturday, Sept. 21st is Dr. Doreen Cato Recognition Day.

When Doreen meets people, she listens. All the information she receives from every encounter is digested into her quantum mind and her big, beautiful and global heart. The results are astounding: actionable collaborations, organizations fully involved in the advancement of individuals and communities, and fund-raising coupled with the oversight that assures vital resources benefit all whom she serves. The genius of Doreen can be intimidating to some because her personable authenticity, sharp truth, vast experience, ninja skills and exhausting work ethic is ‘Wa Nafsi’ – Of The Soul. Soulful people always inspire us to be our better selves and do more for others.

It is a historic honor that our coastal community recognize Dr. Doreen Cato: a leader, an African-American woman, a strategic fighter, a lauded educator, a patriot, and an empowering mentor and benefactor. The city of Ocean Shores proclaimed Saturday, September 21st as Dr. Doreen Cato Recognition Day! Applause!

I had the privilege of working with Dr. Cato in 2017 when we participated in a podcast produced by North Beach Community TV. When Doreen and I began talking, we discovered we had ties to our former communities of Seattle and Bellevue. My Mother attended a lecture from Dr. Cato at the Leadership Institute of Seattle (LIOS) and recalled that she voted for Dr. Doreen Cato when she ran for Bellevue City Council in 1995. In fact, in 1995, Doreen, was the second African-American in the history of the city of Bellevue to run for Bellevue City Council. Dr. Cato has a long history in Washington state and in national politics. She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Detroit, Michigan when she was 14 years old; witnessed the Detroit riots; and through her early childhood and career as a young educator, experienced racism, sexism and classism. I could detail her political career, including her invitation to the White House – yes, ‘THE’ White House. Yet it would take 13 issues of the North Coast News to truly inform our community of Dr. Cato’s lifelong pursuit of education, civil rights, justice and absolute patriotism to our nation.

Dr. Cato is an Educator at heart. In 2015, Dr. Cato was elected to the North Beach School District (No. 4), where she was instrumental in implementing change regarding homelessness, hunger and educational leadership. She founded and was the Executive Director of Grays Harbor Youth Works, placing and mentoring young people in internships and employment opportunities around our county. And “The Doreen Cato Early Learning Center,” a cutting-edge preschool in Seattle’s Leschi and Central District neighborhoods is named after her for her life works as an educator and leader. Here is an apt description of Dr’s Cato’s educational works from Saybrook University who bestowed her a humanitarian honor in 2010:

“Dr. Cato is an international advocate for children’s rights and has served 12 years as Executive Director of First Place, a school and social service agency for homeless and vulnerable children and families in Seattle. Her calling and deep passion to work with children and youth takes her beyond the bounds of the United States. Working with Cultural Reconnection Mission and African American Kenyan Women Interconnect, she travels to schools in the rural areas of Kenya and Ethiopia, where she continues to make a difference in the lives of so many.

“…Her community involvement includes over 30 years on various boards, commissions, and committees in the Washington State area… [and] she has been the recipient of numerous national awards and recognition (Saybrook University, 2010. Retrieved from: https://www.saybrook.edu/blog/2010/06/07/honoring-those-who-serve-humanity/).”

For me, Doreen was a breath of fresh air as a mentor. I was in a competitive and grueling doctoral program at the non-profit school, City University of Seattle. I left business consulting in pursuit of my own ‘sociopreneurial’ endeavor. Having lived with PTSD and depression, it was difficult for me to connect with post-graduates, entrepreneurs and leaders within the Grays Harbor community. One fortunate day, I invited Dr. Cato to discuss an incredibly candid and sagacious book she had written about her life experiences, which included her studies in leadership, culture, human behavior and education. From there, we had many insightful and life changing conversations. The lessons I obtained from her mentorship and from her book gave me the courage to look at my past experiences from the perspective of resiliency, self-love and self-actualization. My time with her prompted me to analyze my current motivations in terms of the future: whether my endeavors were rooted from a place of courage or fear, and truly fulfilling my calling to create and serve others.

Dr. Cato taught me that hope is something to build, not to talk about. And that one of the greatest works we can engage in is that of accepting our past, understanding our personal truth and leading others towards a personal outlook of compassion and an active embrace of ‘others.’ For it is in self-discovery, empathy and action where learning occurs; where the path to fostering community and equitable change exists.

Happy Dr. Doreen Cato Recognition Day, Ocean Shores!

Dr. Doreen Cato’s book, “Saving the Leader Within: The Impact of Childhood Trauma on Leadership” is available from online retailers like Amazon.com.

Felicia G. Mullins, MBA & Ocean Shores Resident