Born in Chicago, Pela S. Terry, EdD, was drawn to a career as a health and human services professional by her inner-city upbringing, which saw her witness to gang activity, health care disparities, and the impacts of racial segregation and marginalization. To support her passion to help others, she entered nonprofit work shortly after completing her first undergraduate degree. Later in life, she enrolled in studies at The College of New Rochelle where she earned a Master of Public Administration in human services, with emphasis on policy and social justice, and graduated with honors in 2014. For her excellence, Dr. Terry was presented with the Catherine Haage Award and graduate honors during her graduate studies at The College of New Rochelle.
From there, Dr. Terry went on to obtain a Doctor of Education in executive leadership from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. School of Education at St. John Fisher College in 2017, something she cites as the highlight of her career, due to the fact that she received this degree later in life. She completed her dissertation on succession planning needs for the nonprofit sector in the hope of inspiring future research and practices on leadership pipeline development in social service organizations. Notably, Dr. Terry’s doctoral dissertation was published by St. John Fisher College through Academia.edu in 2018.
Dr. Terry’s career experience in administration, program development, and governance spans across several states and includes recent work as the chief quality and compliance officer and a HIPPA privacy officer for CRVI, Inc. in upstate New York. In 2021, she joined the Atlantic Street Center in Seattle, Washington, where she serves as the executive director, managing and co-managing a variety of city, county, and state-based contracts; meeting new people; and doing strategic partnership building. The Atlantic Street Center was founded in 1910 to provide services and support to marginalized and low-income populations. Through their four service divisions providing educational, family support and behavioral counseling services, the Atlantic Street Center notably served over 1,750 BIPOC children, youth and families in 2020.
In addition to her primary responsibilities, Dr. Terry has contributed her skills to a variety of other professional and civic endeavors. During her time in New York, she served as a guest lecturer for the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. School of Education at St. John Fisher College; an adjunct professor at The College of New Rochelle; the co-founder and board officer of Heart to Heart Empowerment Inc., a nonprofit grassroots organization in Queens; and as a pro bono consultant and executive adviser. She has also spent time as the secretary of the board of directors for Turning Point in New Jersey. She is presently involved with the Women’s University Club of Seattle. In order to keep abreast of developments in her field, over the years Dr. Terry maintained professional memberships with the Society for Corporate Compliance & Ethics, the Health Care Compliance Association, the American Society for Public Administration and the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Attributing much of her success to God and her family, who taught her resilience and faith, Dr. Terry also credits her sense of humor and her humility for what she has achieved over the years. She has made a name for herself as someone who has sought considerable real-world experience in order to be an effective representative for the communities she serves and hopes to leave a legacy as someone who did her utmost to make a difference and who valued leadership and mentorship. Continually motivated by her faith, Dr. Terry also volunteers with various community-service projects.
Looking toward the future, Dr. Terry hopes to continue to build up and grow herself, her team, and the organization itself. She would advise young and aspiring professionals, particularly women, to not be afraid to fail, as failure is a natural part of growth. Above all she has accomplished, Dr. Terry cites the most gratifying aspects of her career to be seeing people progress and getting to give back to the community.