Written by Victoria Bardega
Photography by Joshua Mcfarquhar
Cassandra Dorsaint’s personal and professional experiences have shaped her passion for helping the lives of the most marginalized and vulnerable to be heard, seen, and celebrated.
Like many who call our swan city home today, Cassandra Dorsaint, came to this city for college. But little did she know, Lakeland would mark a significant ground of growth in her life.
In the fall of 2013, she walked into her freshman year at Southeastern University. Originally from Naples, Florida, she was inspired to venture off to Lakeland after watching her older brother come home from college seemingly different. “[He had this] strengthened love for God,” she recalls.
As the youngest of six children, it was that strengthened love that empowered her to follow in her brother’s footsteps. She graduated from Southeastern University with her Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Leadership and Practical Ministries and also went on to complete her Master’s degree in Business Administration.
When it comes to Education, the motivation she cultivated for it early on was all attributed to her parents and their story of coming to the United States to pursue the American Dream.
“I am a first-generation Haitian-American [who] was raised by two immigrant parents,” she shares. Her parents migrated and labored to build their own business of serving the mentally disabled–a business they still successfully manage today that focuses on helping their community. Having started at zero, Cassandra found so much wisdom through the investment of her parents’ efforts to build from the ground up.
“My dedicated mother and father valued Education. [My father] would [often] share– “Education is the passport to life. The world can discriminate against you if they so choose, but your Education has the opportunity to allow you to not only get your foot in the door but stand toe-to-toe with anyone, regardless of what you look like or where you come from,’” she remembers.
She looks back at her upbringing and notes that her parents’ sacrifices and love for people are what brought her to do more than just serve her own community…but advocate for them, too.
“I grew up with a consistent affirmation of the things I can accomplish in this world. But, once I left the nest of my parents, unbeknownst to me, I was told for the first time that I couldn’t do or acquire my aspirations because I am a woman, and at that–a black woman,”
“I grew up with a consistent affirmation of the things I can accomplish in this world. But, once I left the nest of my parents, unbeknownst to me, I was told for the first time that I couldn’t do or acquire my aspirations because I am a woman, and at that–a black woman,” she admits.
When it comes to her personal interactions with the racial tensions that still exist in the world today, she shares, “[she] quickly understood that to the world [she] was at the bottom of the totem pole, and [she] started to believe it.”
More than ever, Cassandra developed a passion for empowering young women to know their value and has become a voice that champions people from all walks of life, especially people of color.
“With so much racial tension and discrimination, [in the past] I often found myself asking God why He made me black,” Cassandra Dorsaint shares candidly. After experiencing personal growth and development, she notes she not only finds a renewed sense of pride in her roots, but she has also found a drive to make sure all have a seat at the table in every arena, profession, and conversation.
While working on her Education at Southeastern University, Cassandra served in leadership roles that supported the establishment of crucial departments on campus: the Department of Multicultural Affairs and an I.F. Gathering Chapter. During that time, she cultivated strong connections, something that Lakeland continues to offer. She learned the value in hearing the needs of others in diverse realms, and with that, she shares she has “had the opportunities to build both programs and initiatives to help the most marginalized and vulnerable to be heard, seen, and celebrated.”
Most recently, her career led to her current position within the community that is bringing tangible, life-changing support to struggling families. As Regional Director of Partnerships for the non-profit organization, One More Child, Cassandra uses her platform and desire to serve others by strategizing ways to reach children and families—primarily in minority communities.
“Bundles” was launched this last month as one of One More Child’s newest initiatives that Cassandra has helped present and advocate for. After learning hair care products are one of the greatest needs for sex trafficking victims, Cassandra and her team proposed a campaign to raise funds and hair care product donations to provide for girls of color in foster care, single moms, and family support programs.
Being a woman of color, hair care products are noticeably more expensive and can be more challenging to find. But through initiatives like this one that Cassandra has become passionate about advocating for, women of color within the trafficking community can receive these resources as an empowering message of self-care to help bring support to the needs of these women.
“[Everyone is] worth a seat at the table,” she concurs. And this same mantra is what continues to fuel her love for the tight-knit community she discovered in moving to Lakeland.
“The people I have met have impacted me most here in Lakeland. They have helped me become the person I am today,” shares Cassandra, as she thinks about the journey that has led her to such a priceless time in her career.
“Having these people in our corner who champion us, inspire us, and motivate us to grow into the people we are called to be, affects the difference we make in others’ lives along our journey.”
– Cassandra Dorsaint
It takes a village – a whole village – to stir positive influence and impact. Having these people in our corner who champion us, inspire us, and motivate us to grow into the people we are called to be, affects the difference we make in others’ lives along our journey. When it comes to the people who have inspired her efforts to empower others, she “can name so many from mentors in college, to business owners, leaders, influencers, and even students that have changed [her] life for the better.”
Throughout history and culture, women of color have stood in the gap for so many others to feel seen and heard. They have marched through unknowns, faced the hardships of being underestimated and discriminated against, and have still paved the way for future generations to find freedom in the color of their skin.
“I wasn’t always proud to be black, but now I am. I now have a revelation that this is the skin God put me in intentionally…” she expresses. “I am inspired most by [people of color] because throughout history, we as a people have come out on top, despite [all of the opposition].”
We rise above to bring others above.