Christina Carter-Grant is the Associate Director of the National Land Bank Network at the Center for Community Progress, the only national organization dedicated to the revitalization of vacant properties.
“I grew up in a neighborhood that suffered from heavy disinvestment and deterioration,” Christina says. “I never knew what it was like to really feel safe in my community.”
This lived experience inspired Christina to want to study business at her alma mater, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, so she could start her own company, become a millionaire, and move her family out of that environment.
“But that’s not quite how things went,” she laughs.
She was drawn to housing and community development courses and, at the suggestion of a sorority sister, Courtney Monroe, ultimately went down the path of urban planning instead.
“I thought, ‘This is the career path that would allow me to pursue something where I could improve the built environment, but also engage with people in a community and help to improve their quality of life,’” she explains.
After earning her Masters in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan, Christina wanted to use her experience, specifically, as an urban planner in Detroit or Chicago. She struggled to find a job that resonated with her and turned to her former planning professor, June Manning Thomas, for advice.
“She said you have to think outside the box. Go somewhere else, get that experience, and bring it back to the city,” Christina shares.
Christina took the advice and landed a position with the Center for Community Progress in D.C. – the organization she has been with ever since.
Think Outside The Box
Almost a decade into her career with the Center for Community Progress, Christina still maintains the same mindset to “think outside the box.”
“I would have missed out on the opportunity to work for a great organization that’s doing great things, just because I put parameters around myself,” she explains.
She recently went back to school to earn her MBA in Entrepreneurship from Babson College, and is constantly seeking ways to tie her interest in social entrepreneurship into her community development work.
Working in community development requires Christina to regularly think outside the box, especially when it can be challenging to keep going.
“These issues are entrenched, complicated issues. They’re from decades of unjust and racist policies,” she explains. “What makes it worth it, in the end, is seeing how we’re able to positively impact and uplift people.”
Don’t Let Anyone Dim Your Light
From a young age, Christina’s parents taught her the value of service.
“My love for people and wanting to help people comes from them,” she shares. “They taught me how to have compassion for others.”
In 2020, she was awarded a grant for a project she designed to help tackle issues related to COVID-19.
“My project was to create care packages for the homeless population in Miami,” she says. “I was able to create over 500 care packages containing food and PPE supplies, and distribute them to Miami’s homeless shelters.”
Her parents also taught her the value of getting an education and having a strong work ethic.
“I witnessed the sacrifices that they made to help keep our family afloat, to help us survive,” she adds.
Christina has carried these values throughout her career journey. And she wants those coming up behind her to remember their own values and self-worth.
“I’ve encountered people that tried to question my capabilities,” she shares. “Do not ever let anyone dim your light.”
She believes you have to tune out the naysayers and just keep pushing forward, even if it’s hard.
“You may even surprise yourself about what you may accomplish,” Christina says.
Christina uses her mindset, nonprofit career, and daily service work to be a positive force in her community.
“I am someone that believes if you put good out into the world, you will get that good back,” she explains.