Melissa Goins is a Black woman in a field dominated by white men. And, she took an interesting route to get to where she is today. With a background in criminology, she somehow has managed to parlay the skills and techniques she learned as a corrections officer to launch a successful career as a real estate developer.
Goins believes that her career in criminology helps her in real estate because part of development, is a component of law enforcement. She said that there’s a social element where you develop areas to rid it of crime and as a native Milwaukeean, she’s not as easily intimidated to go where others may not have gone before. She also believes that because she’s from Milwaukee, she has an edge because she is able to work with the people who actually live in the community.
According to the Real Estate Executive Council, the $5 trillion commercial real estate industry employs 100,000 professionals. Of those, just 36 percent are women and less than 1 percent are African-American.
With an undergraduate degree from Marquette University, Goins got involved in the profession in 2005 through Marquette University’s Associates in Commercial Real Estate program, which recruits, trains and places minorities in commercial real estate careers. Her firm, Maures Development Group LLC, later partnered with Verona-based Horizon Development Group Inc. through a mentoring program for minority developers created by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.
Goins is on a mission to revitalize the community she calls home and one of her proudest moments was the grand opening of her Teutonia Gardens and Handsome Plaza project.
Goins mission is no where near complete. The sky is the limit for her and Milwaukee will be all the better for her vision, leadership and determination as she goes where few Blacks have gone before her. She is a legend.
Clayborn Benson became an award-winning photojournalist at WTMJ-TV after graduating from West Division High School during a time in Milwaukee’s history when not only where there few Blacks on-camera, but only one other Black cameraman in the city.
Benson was always interested in taking pictures, first with a still camera and then with video cameras. A chance meeting with an employee at the WTMJ television station eventually led to a job offer. He started his career in TV news and sports in 1968, during a tumultuous time in Milwaukee’s history. During his career, Benson has covered virtually every major news story in, including Ernest Lacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Miller Park disaster, plane crashes and you name it.
During his tenure at WTMJ Benson earned a reputation as a particularly dogged professional when it came to getting the story through pictures. In fact, his tenacity sometimes found him in confrontations which led to his arrest and detention by Milwaukee police offers who didn’t think a news photographer should be where they didn’t want him to be.
Recently retired after more than 39 years, Benson was considered a veteran among local TV crews. And because he covered the stories with such empathy, he’s also been known to help victims of disasters or raise money for families who faced tragedies.
Benson isn’t just interested in covering current events, more than 20 years ago he founded the Wisconsin Black Historical Society Museum, which operates as a community center and a place for residents to learn about Black history. Earning his degree at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee while working at the TV station, he was intrigued by history and believed that it was important to have a place that focused on local history of African-Americans in Wisconsin. The museum hosts a legendary Kwanzaa celebration every year.
Both behind the camera and in front of it, Benson is a pioneer who led the way to the current diversity in television news, and he considers himself and Milwaukee all the better for it.
For more than 15 years Vanessa Key worked quietly behind the scenes as an integral part of New Concept Self Development Center (NCSDC) to make a difference in the lives of people served by the agency.
She did so under the tutelage of the agency’s co-founder, now retired June Perry. Today Key heads the agency as its Chief Executive Officer.
Key started work at the agency in 1991 as a program supervisor, was promoted to Division Manager for the Division of Family Development in 1999, and has served as Special Assistant to the CEO, prior to being named its CEO.
Key has received three degrees from Milwaukee’s higher education institutions: a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, an Associated Degree in Management from Milwaukee Area Technical College, and a Master’s of Science Degree in Management, from Cardinal Stritch University.
She also received a Graduate Certificate from the Institute Program for HIV Prevention Leadership Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Association of Schools of Public Health, based in Atlanta.
Though Key’s schedule is hectic, it’s important for her to give back to the community.
She is an active member of her sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho, she serves on the King Advisory Back-to-School committee, and on the executive committee of the Black Health Coalition, the United Way of Greater Milwaukee Teen Pregnancy Prevention Oversight Committee and she was the 2006 Recipient of the Black Excellence Award.
Key is committed to making a difference in this community and she does so with a steady, quiet hand every day, as she continues to lead one of Milwaukee’s oldest Black nonprofit organizations—New Concept Self Development Center.