03/08/2020 – CHARLOTTE, N.C. – --
Shock fills U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Cynthia Ford’s face as I enter the 145th Medical Group Immunizations cozy room, camera ready, as applause and praise ring from her co-workers. The humble Airman knows I must have heard about her recent nomination for ‘Woman of the Year,’ through WBTW Channel 13 News in Marion, S.C. The soft-spoken Airman takes a seat with me and allows me a glimpse into her life with a better understanding as to what motivates her beyond her Air Force core values.
Ford graduated from Lakeview High School in 2001 and from there, went on to receive her Bachelors in psychology at Coastal Carolina University. After earning her bachelors she graduated from The University of Phoenix with a Masters in Psychology. It was time to join the work-force and Ford applied for a position with the Department of Juvenile Justice in Marion, S.C., eventually working her way up to County Manager for the Department of Juvenile Justice.
“I knew that whatever job I did, I wanted to work with young people in some aspect,” said Senior Airman Ford. “I enjoy working with the young people, teaching them different classes and seeing their progress.”
Ford didn’t stop learning and growing. In 2010, Ford joined the North Carolina Air Force Reserves and was stationed at Pope Army-Airfield within a Security Forces unit. While serving, she was able to earn her Associate’s in Criminal Justice. Unfortunately, just a few short years later, Pope Army-Airfield closed, however Ford turned to the North Carolina Air National Guard; finding a family in the 145th Medical Group as a medical technician.
“It was an opportunity that became available and I believe everything happens for a reason,” said Senior Airman Ford. “It [Medical Technician] was definitely a challenge but it sparked my interest.”
A medical technician must be skilled in various areas, including vision, vitals, lab work, and immunizations.
“My favorite thing to do is immunizations; it seems more personable,” said Senior Airman Ford. “You have to ensure that they’re calm and prepared so you make small talk and get to know them better.”
While becoming a medical technician within the 145th Medical Group, Ford also earned her Associate’s in Nursing Technology, all while continuing to work with the Department of Juvenile Justice.
“I work closely with young people who may have gotten into trouble or who are at risk of getting in trouble and we do different preventative programs,” said Senior Airman Ford. “Our goal is to rehabilitate them in the least restrictive environment so they won’t further any type of criminal type of behavior in the future.”
Ford felt led to further her purpose at the Department of Juvenile Justice and created a program that she initiated in 2019 called, ‘Beyond Empowerment.’
“Beyond Empowerment is a program that focuses on preparing the young people with things they need to know after high school,” said Senior Airman Ford. “It’s a nine-week curriculum either in the Spring or Fall with up to 20 students where we focus on themselves first and then dive into how to network and interact in different environments. We’ve taught them a homebuyers-workshop, budgeting, finance management, leadership, vision boards, and assessing different influences in their lives. At the end of the nine-week program, we conduct an affirmation service which just reaffirms what they have instilled within themselves.”
Just like any work environment, there are hardships one may face.
“I think the hardest part of my job is working extremely hard to get a young person to transition and it does not work; you see all this potential and we provide them all these resources but they have to make the choice to change, and then they choose not to,” said Senior Airman Ford.
While creating this new program, ‘Beyond Empowerment,’ Ford also worked on creating books, one of which she has published and is on Amazon entitled, ‘ Free As An Uncaged Bird.’ At this same time, Ford was taking care of her mother while she battled bone cancer, using her medical skills Ford helped pull her mother into remission.
“In 2016 I was in training for the medical technician position in Texas when I got a call from my brother that my mom had bone cancer. As soon as I was able to come home I did,” said Senior Airman Ford. “To see my mom in the hospital bed, I always saw her as strong, able to tackle everything, it was very challenging for me.”
The youngest of eight children, and the only female, Ford managed to work her two jobs within the North Carolina Air National Guard, and the Department of Juvenile Justice while staying in and out of the hospital taking care of her mother.
“I feel like I had to stay focused and I couldn’t let her see me angry or frustrated; but once I saw her healing and getting better and finally, remission, I was able to grieve and heal,” said Senior Airman Ford.
‘Free As An Uncaged Bird,’ also helped the budding writer fulfill her purpose of helping others beyond the realm of the Department of Juvenile Justice.
“It’s for youth and adults; it designed to be inspirational and to help people,” said Senior Airman Ford. “I shared some personal stories in the book and interviewed some people to share just a glimpse of experiences they went through and how to encourage other people how to come out of those situations.”
Ford never saw herself creating her own business and brand of empowerment but slowly started recognizing her capability through various avenues and eventually it all just came to fruition.
“The Enlisted Symposium really helped me; as well as other work shops and church events,” said Senior Airman Ford. “It was like a seed that was planted in me, in my heart, and I just had to pursue it.”
So what is the next big leap for Ford?
“This year we’re starting a 4-day camp for 14-17 year-olds at Coastal Carolina University,” said Senior Airman Ford. “It’s a slightly condensed version of the nine-week course offered through ‘Beyond Empowerment,’ but we’re also bringing in other presenters and allowing the students to tour a college campus. I’m currently recruiting counselors, college students, people in education that enjoy working with young people.”
Creating a curriculum for a seasonal program offered to nearly 140 students per year seems like it could be a daunting task for some.
“It was new to me and I was afraid, not knowing how to get there was scary for me but I had to push past those thoughts and fears and just do it,” said Senior Airman Ford. “As I began to walk into the light, things just began to change and it fell into place. The people that I needed, I met at the right time and I knew that it was purposeful.”
Seeing her mother battle and overcome forces of nature truly inspired Ford to take charge in her own life through personal growth and development while striving to empower others.
“I realize how short life is,” said Senior Airman Ford. “We have the beginning date and that end date but what we do in the middle is just so important and I just want to make the most of it.”
What does the future look like for Senior Airman Cynthia Ford?
“I would love to be an officer one day! I’m so close and I would love to be licensed in nursing,” said Senior Airman Ford. “I don’t want to have any regrets. I also want to see Beyond Empowerment grow, I want to travel and speak about the book, to share what the stories are about and help people more.”
Ford also has an event that she puts on in April, ‘Extra Mile for Victims,’ which boasts nearly 100 participants each year and runners/walkers are invited to participate, raising awareness for Victim’s Right’s Week. During tax season, Ford also volunteers any spare time to assist with the Vita Tax program which helps citizen’s save money by offering free tax services. It’s these events, programs, and ideals that pushed Ford to the spotlight, earning her recognition as WBTW Channel 13 News’ Woman of the Year, which she won for the area!
Ford will fly mid-March to New York City to be on a live-taping of the Mel Robbins Show, where she will be recognized amongst other women across the country for their great accomplishments and ideals. She is currently in the running to win Woman of the Year Nationally for the competition that the Nexstar Company, WBTW’s parent company, hosts. WBTW is one of 197 stations across the U.S. that Nexstar owns.
No matter the outcome, Ford will continue her personal growth, and her mission of empowering and helping others.
“I don’t want to leave this earth without exploring, sometimes people say, ‘I want to find my purpose,’ well sometimes purpose finds you; and I think that purpose found me.”