When Nicole Ford graduated from Bethune-Cookman College, now a University, she knew that she wanted to find a career that would help her serve the black community. As the director of Stepping In the Right Direction, Ford has helped thousands of students find their place at historically black colleges and universities.
Attending Bethune-Cookman University
When Ford graduated from high school in Pasadena, CA, she knew that she wanted to leave the west coast. Ford moved to Alabama, where she attended Talladega College and adjusted to life in the deep south.
“Talladega at the time in ’98 was a very small, liberal arts college with about 500 students. It’s very different now… as it has well over 1,000 students, but it has been almost 20 years later (laughing), but this is what it looked like then.”
After two years at Talladega College, Ford transferred to Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. Ford excelled at B-CU, where she studied psychology, made friends, and joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
“They embraced me from day one. I felt like I had been at that school all my life. I was supposed to be there. God sent me there for a reason. I don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for Bethune-Cookman.”
Starting Stepping In The Right Direction
Ford eventually moved back to California to work for a local politician. As she traveled through the Los Angeles Metro Area, Ford discovered her passion for motivating and educating her community members.
“I learned so much about my community, the political process, the diversity of it; and the process of how to effect change in your community, which was great, because I was able to educate my community about how to make those changes, which is what lead me to also becoming the NAACP Altadena Branch President”
Ford went back to school to get her MBA and became an HR financial analyst for the mortgage industry. As she launched her new career, Ford also started a mentorship program for young women of color.
“I started a mentorship program around that time for young ladies and through that mentorship, I started taking my young ladies on black college tours.”
Ford’s mentorship program exposed African-American students to historically black colleges and universities, where many of her protégés eventually decided to attend school. Her mentorship program took off, and when students requested more college tours Ford had to choose between her passion and her career.
“I had to make a decision and I made the decision to, even if I had to struggle, this is what I loved doing. I loved helping students go to college. I had the best experience of my life going to a black college, and, going on a tour was like going back home for me.”
In 2010, Ford left her corporate job to start Stepping in the Right Direction. As the director of her own company, Ford is responsible for year-round college tours, an annual black college fair, and a black college reunion for alumni in California. Stepping in the Right Direction has grown from a small organization to an international success, and in 2016 Ford was nominated for the B-CU 40 Under 40 Award.
Launching the HBCU College Tour Initiative
Stepping in the Right Direction and HBCU Lifestyle recently partnered to launch the HBCU College Tours Initiative, a series of trips that will allow African-American students to get a taste of college life. Ford is excited to share historically black colleges and universities with a new generation of students.
“We’re having the full experience of the black college. The students are able to apply on the spot if they’re seniors or Community College students. They’re able to truly experience meeting professors, deans, students, Coaches, Black Greek Letter Organizations, and the recruitment and admissions team. They’re able to really, truly, experience, at least in a week, a little clip of what the black college lifestyle is, because, really, it is a lifestyle.”
Nicole Ford lives in California, where she serves as the director of Stepping in the Right Direction. Visit our black college tours page for a schedule of events and to learn more about our partnership with Stepping in the Right Direction.