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Dr. Dorcey Applyrs, PhD: Work, Tenacity and Commitment

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“A woman is like a tea bag; you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt’s words ring true for so many, perhaps for none more so than Dorcey Applyrs, who was immersed in the hottest water possible as a little girl. She has emerged victorious, strong and valiant.

Dorcey has been selected as the designated Ambassador for 2017 for Girls Inc. of the Greater Capital Region, an honor that fills her heart with gratitude and hope. Girls Inc. inspires all girls to be strong, smart and bold, with a commitment of making sure they have the same opportunities as anyone else. Free programs for them include STEM education, health and nutrition, pregnancy and drug prevention and much more. Bright futures are built here, through more than $25,000 per year in college scholarships that are available to girls in the program.

Dorcey became acquainted with Girls Inc. when she moved to Albany 15 years ago to continue her studies at The University of Albany. “When I moved to Albany from Washington, D.C, where I grew up, I didn’t have much of a social life. I started thinking of how to occupy my time outside of studying, and Girls Inc. was a block from my house,” she explained. “I walked in the door and spoke to the staff there, and soon I was a volunteer. This was my introduction to them in this area. Being nominated as their 2017 Ambassador is like coming full circle. I’m an advocate for girls and women, and this is the cherry on top. I know the work is so critical and important, and it’s an honor to be an ambassador especially focusing on equity in the workplace and education, two areas women tend to struggle in. I can’t tell you how excited I am.”

Preparation for Public Service
Prior to moving here, she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Delaware State University, then earned her master’s degree in public health from UAlbany School of Public Health in 2005. She followed with her doctorate in public health in 2014. The same year, she was elected to the City of Albany Common Council.

Ashley Jeffrey Bouck, a former HERLIFE Magazine cover feature and executive director of Girls Inc., knows firsthand how perfect Dorcey is for this honored position. “We started selecting ambassadors a couple of years ago. Since we belong to a national organization, our Capital Region chapter decided to focus on a specific area, which is advocating for women and girls in education and the workplace,” Ashley explained.

“We have worked with Dorcey in years past, and nominating her was easy because she is a phenomenal role model for our girls; she’s very connected and passionate about our focus area, all qualities we look for in an ambassador. She is a local councilwoman, and she’s also young, so the girls can see themselves in her. Dorcey was the keynote speaker at our Strong, Smart and Bold event in November, and she moderated our follow-up community conversation, which delves deeper into what we are trying to accomplish. Throughout the year, she will do programs at both the Albany and Schenectady locations.” These are glowing words, all for a deserving leader. “I have met so many of the girls in my community, and it has been a privilege watching them grow up,” Dorcey commented.

Motivation from Family
She learned some tough life lessons when she was growing up in Washington, D.C., not too far from the White House and the Capitol, which she stated were in her back yard. “In the ’80s, there were heroin, crack and HIV/AIDS epidemics ravaging communities, and we grew up in the heart of all that. My father, at a young age, had been impacted by each of these epidemics. When I was five years old, he passed away. That made me passionate about health, and I wanted to work in that field. I knew from a young age I wanted to help communities struggling with drug use,” she continued. “My grandmothers played a critical role in raising me. My mom was a single mother; she had my oldest sister when she was 18. My mom worked at McDonald’s until her ninth month and she delivered. Those circumstances keep me going and motivate me to want more and strive for greatness. My mother and my grandmothers always stressed the importance of education.”

She truly believes these women shaped her and propelled her from that environment. Her maternal grandmother migrated to D.C. from South Carolina and established herself there, working as a waitress for more than 50 years. Her father’s mother is an entrepreneur and has been a beautician for over 50 years. “They made sure I understood that education is a great equalizer to help you get out of your environment and do more for yourself and your community.” She imparts this dream to the girls she mentors. “I knew early on I had no other choice,” she reiterated.

Community Advocate
In 2013, she was hired as faculty program director for the Excelsior College School of Health Sciences to develop and implement programs in public health, including a new specialization in the master’s of science in health sciences and a bachelor of science in public health. Most recently, she was appointed clinical assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy, Management and Behavior at UAlbany’s School of Public Health. “After I leave my full-time job, I catch my second wind to attend council meetings and community meetings. I spend a lot of time meeting and being out in the community at events.

“It’s not just a Monday through Friday job. I get invitations to attend weekend events in the community. Every day is different depending on what’s going on,” she related. “My work as a public servant makes me embrace the opportunity to empower other people. This platform allows me to extend opportunities and resources to people in this city, and I take it very seriously. Whether I’m hosting an event for women or talking to a person one on one, I have a platform to impact people. It doesn’t feel like work. I really love what I do. In addition, my advancements inspire girls to advance professionally and successfully. I have young women and people who are watching so I strive to be a great role model.”

Loving Life
Dorcey met her husband, Don, when they were graduate students in Albany, and they have been together 13 years, married 7. He is principal of KIPP Tech Valley Charter School, and she noted they have no biological children of their own, but plenty in the Albany community.

How does she wind down and relax? She smiles and indicates that she has come to appreciate coming home, relaxing on her couch with her favorite blankets to read or watch TV. She and her husband also enjoy nice restaurants and she terms herself a true foodie. She enjoys watching the Food Network and trying new recipes, and she’s writing a cookbook filled with recipes from her grandmothers and people she meets on the plane and in other ways.

Then there’s the travel bug that has bitten the couple. “My husband and I just returned from Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and we had a fabulous vacation. We were married in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, and we honeymooned in St. Lucia,” she related. “We have also visited Italy, which was my graduation gift for my doctorate, and Paris was one of my favorite trips. We have visited Mexico and enjoy Hilton Head, South Carolina, and we’re planning a trip to Tokyo for Christmas.”

Purpose and Principle
What advice does she offer women desiring to achieve their dreams and goals? Dorcey turns to what she tells women and girls that cross her path. “I always talk to them about first being authentically yourself and comfortable in your own skin as you strive to achieve a better you; otherwise you will never excel in your area. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you in times when you have weak moments, so they can step in and push you. Be true to yourself and have a strong support system. The reality is we can achieve whatever we want, but it takes work, tenacity and commitment.”

According to Dorcey, the importance of understanding our God-given purpose is paramount, and she realizes she has a purpose in life; she knows the importance of pulling others up, that the work you do is not just about you but about enhancing the lives of other people. “There are more good people in the world than bad. Sometimes we lose sight of that core principle that unites us as people,” she mused. “We have to work together despite our differences.”

The upcoming year will be a rewarding one for Dorcey, without a doubt, and a growing time for the many young women in Girls Inc. and our entire community. ■

Visit girlsinccapitalregion.org to learn about the amazing programs happening throughout the year at this truly invaluable organization.