Diontrae Hayes: Stepping up in Style

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Diontrae shows off her 10 Over the Next 10 award.

November is the perfect month to begin decking ourselves and our homes as we prepare to celebrate in style. It’s also the time of year when family and friends gather to share traditions and make memories. As Diontrae Hayes prepares for the holiday season with loved ones, she reflects on all of the many things she’s thankful for this year. Honored in September by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce with a 10 Over the Next 10 Award, Hayes is not only someone to watch as an emerging business leader, but also someone who has already accomplished a great deal. Nominated by her sister Charelle, Hayes was overjoyed with the award. “(10 Over the Next 10) means a lot. I’m so honored that people think I was worthy of winning such a prestigious award. It symbolizes years of hard work. It’s nice that people see the potential I have … they’re cheering for me.” Starting as an intern, and now serving as Legislative Director for State Senator Coleman Young, II, Hayes has worked on projects ranging from campaign work, to passing legislation and building a better future for Michigan. Though her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University (MSU) is in food industry management, Hayes knows what it takes to be an effective leader and communicator. “I was told if you can market food, you can market anything,” said Hayes laughing. “(My interest in politics) developed over time as I noticed the decisions politicians make directly affect me. I drew the correlation and the direct impact that (cuts to funding for public universities) was having on my life. I needed to become part of the discussion and the process.” As Hayes went on to complete her master’s in public management from Central Michigan University, it was important for her to find a position that aligned with her beliefs and values and positively impacted Michigan communities. “I knew I needed to have some type of internship, so I looked to see which politicians needed help in their offices,” said Hayes. “I did some research on politicians to see whose core beliefs lined up with mine. Senator Young also represents the district I grew up in … that was very important to me.” Hayes has worked to pass legislation including the Tisha Prater Act which helps to “even the playing field” for pregnant police officers, as well as the more recent Neighborhood Enterprise Zone Act, assisting people who are in danger of losing their homes because of economic hardships. Hayes attributes her success in the field to building strong bi-partisan relationships and her ability to get people communicating. “I’m most proud of my ability, the skills I’ve acquired to build consensus and to get people from opposing viewpoints to collaborate,” said Hayes. “This year, I’m also thankful for my bi-partisan friends. It’s nice to reach out and see how much we have in common — we just sometimes disagree about how to get to the end goal.” Whether you’re politically liberal or conservative, most everyone can agree the holidays are an especially great time to give back and share the love. An active community volunteer, Hayes currently serves on the board of the American Society of Public Administration and the Foster Community Center in Lansing. She has also volunteered her time and talents to organizations including Susan G. Komen, the Ronald McDonald House of Lansing, the Lansing City Rescue Mission, Haven House and the Tabernacle of David Church Children’s Ministry. “When it comes to Thanksgiving, I like to make sure I’m actively doing something,” said Hayes. “For the holidays, I make sure I’m involved — if I’m picking a kid off a list or if I’m donating food for an organization. We need to give back, and not just on the holidays but every day.” Last year Hayes adopted a family of five for Christmas. She was able to provide them with “reasonable things” along with some additional money to help their family celebrate in style as well. “My mom is where I get my volunteerism from. She worked with children for as long as I could remember. We all set money aside so we can make sure we donate to families in the holidays,” said Hayes. Currently, Hayes’ mom Cheryl works as a liaison for the homeless in the Detroit area. Hayes plans to travel to metro Detroit, her hometown, to celebrate Thanksgiving with her mom and relatives. Hayes looks forward to her annual baking duty, a role that is as much of a tradition as the food itself. “Thanksgiving is always a good time in my house because we divide the cooking duties. I’m always over the baked goods — I’m on cake and cookie duty … mom has the turkey and some of the sides, my sister has the rest of the sides, while the men watch the Lions game,” said Hayes with a big smile and laughter. “We eat, and then say what we’re thankful for.” In addition to her 10 Over the Next 10 award, Hayes is celebrating her acceptance into the White House Project’s Go Run program in Chicago that supports women in politics as well as her completion of the Michigan Political Leadership Program at MSU through the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research. Professionally and personally, Hayes hopes to be a role model for young women who want to “have it all.” “Be confident … never lose faith in yourself or your dreams and always reach for more,” advised Hayes. “You can have it all. You can redefine life and success in your own terms, in words that make sense to you. And what’s the worst that could happen? You don’t get it? Dare to dream!” Hayes encourages women to bring their dreams to reality by living life with no regrets and believing in the power of their voices. “Don’t be afraid to take risks,” said Hayes. “Learn how to communicate effectively … it’s so important to negotiating, to communicating your visions, thoughts, ideas. Speak up! So many times women have great ideas and they hold back and somebody else in the room speaks up. It’s so important that we step up to the plate.” As Hayes continues to pursue the many dreams of her own, she looks forward to the countless things she’s destined to accomplish “over the next 10” … and beyond. Whether she’s at the office, volunteering in the community or celebrating with friends and family, Hayes certainly exemplifies style — both inside and out.
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Tags: 10 Over the Next 10, Diontrae Hayes, Lansing Chamber, Senator Coleman Young II