Sherece West, '87

Alumna Sherece West's passion for helping others is serious and personal. She mentions that, growing up in public housing — the Murphy homes — in west Baltimore as a kid, she was shocked by all the negative perceptions of public housing residents in the media, and news reports and other things. She says, "Even though I did have some negative experiences, there were many caring, hardworking people living in public housing. They lived there because it was affordable and they could support themselves and their children. How could this prevailing perception [of negativity] exist?" Sherece has spent her life's work pursuing this question and fighting for equity on behalf of disadvantaged communities. Sherece's passion has truly shaped her professionally.

Sherece West landed in Louisiana last June as president and CEO of the newly formed Carrier Foundation. Within months, Hurricane Katrina struck, literally turning the tri-state area and West's plans upside down, to talk about LDRF and the recovery, relief, and rebuilding of Louisiana. A newly elected board member of the Council on Foundations and the Chief Executive Officer of the Baton Rouge–based Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation (LDRF, www.louisianahelp.org) established by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. LDRF provides resources for the relief, recovery and betterment of Louisiana's people and communities. Building upon its residents' strength of spirit to transform the disaster into unprecedented opportunity, the foundation supports nonprofit organizations engaged in economic development, housing, land use planning, education, and healthcare. LDRF promotes equity and inclusion as communities rebuild in Louisiana. The foundation is dedicated to equipping displaced people with the tools to understand, organize, advocate for, and be involved in the decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods. The goal is a better, more equitable Louisiana that offers all people the opportunity for full participation in its economy and society.

West holds a BA in public administration from Bowie State University, a Master of Public Policy from the University of Michigan, was a fellow with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Policy Institutes, and recently completed requirements for her PhD in public policy from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Her background in public policy, affordable housing, and community development led her down a career path that began with the Social Security Administration and wound its way through the Maryland Municipal League, the DC Department of Public Health, the Community Service Society in New York City, the Ford Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. At Casey, she spent 13 years partnering with its Rebuilding Communities Initiative grantees and consultants to help the five RCI sites advance their community-building plans. Her last activity at Casey was developing and managing the foundation's investments in youth mobilization, engagement and leadership.