Mentoring has been an integral part of Charisse Stokes’ life. As a participant in the Air Force Junior ROTC in high school, Stokes was intrigued and interested in the organization and its structure. An “outstanding adviser and mentor” encouraged her to continue her ROTC involvement—advice that resulted in Stokes becoming a scholarship cadet at Clemson University. She received her commission in the U.S. Air Force in 1998.
Now, Stokes is paying it forward. As the director of the Education Foundation for the AFCEA Montgomery Chapter, she’s mentoring, advising and guiding young students into information technology (IT) career fields. “It’s amazing to be able to stand in front of students and tell them how successful they can be and what career options are available to them. Not to mention, having the ability to award them with scholarships, grants and internships is a feeling unlike any other!” she says.
Stokes joined AFCEA in 1999 as a 2nd lieutenant while helping her superior plan an AFCEA Partnership Day. “This was a great event and ideal exposure to the strong relationships and partnerships that AFCEA forms and maintains,” she relates. Since that time, Stokes has participated in the association in a number of ways, including as a Mid-South Regional Young AFCEAN representative and the Young AFCEA vice president, chapter vice president and chapter president for the Montgomery chapter.
To raise funds for the chapter’s Education Foundation, she has taken the lead in the Montgomery Information Technology Summit golf tournament and the Air Force Information Technology Conference banquet—the chapter’s two largest fund-raising events for scholarships.
Continuing to do her part in mentoring, Stokes recently founded the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce’s IT Career Academy Council, which is fostering the growth and development of a new IT Career Academy in a local high school. She also conceived and implemented a new joint project between the chapter’s Education Foundation and Young AFCEANs to create a broadband IT solution for one of the community’s largest yet resource-restricted elementary schools.
Upon reflecting on her accomplishments, Stokes shares a thought that all mentors can share with future IT professionals: branch out in your career and location. “I believe that versatility is key in being successful, and if I could change one thing about my life, I would have started my educational and career paths with more diversity.”While in the Air Force, Stokes worked as an acquisitions officer, providing program management support on source selections for the service’s large IT products and services contract vehicles. Currently, she is the senior director of Southeast Operations and the program manager for the Network-Centric Solutions (NETCENTS) program at Telos Corporation.