Melvin J Gravely Biography
It was bestowed in me at an early age before paying forward was such a popular concept the importance of giving back. Being raised with my two sisters in Canton, Ohio in the 1940s by a single blind mother who lost her husband just before my second birthday wasn’t an easy fate. There were struggles and trials but with the assistance of immediate and extended family they ensured that we lived very productive lives. My uncle became my mentor, he was my coach, my confidant and played a major role in setting the foundation for the man that I’ve become. He assured that I was active in the community and we spent many hours at our local YMCA.
I joined the Air Force after high school. The experience broaden my outlook on life and helped me uncover what direction I needed to be heading. I returned home, married and had two wonderful children and used the GI Bill to enroll at Kent State University (Ohio). In 1973, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
For the next several years, I became involved with the local community center when my son was starting sports, coaching little league football and basketball. This afforded me an opportunity to share and mentor about my life experiences with young men growing up in my hometown. My involvement in the community allowed me to see first-hand issues facing our youth such as poverty, education, housing, etc. So in 1974, I ran and won a seat as a Councilman on the Canton City Council, where in 1984 I served as the first and only African American to be majority leader. During my 10-year tenure, I was instrumental in building a new community center for the Canton Urban League. I went on to earn a Master’s in Urban Studies and Public Administration from the University of Akron in 1985.
In 1990, I moved from Canton to Columbus to continue my public service with the Ohio Public Works Commission, from which I retired in 2008. There I represented the state in rebuilding roads, streets, and highways to ensure safer travels for a growing state population. While working for the state, I felt the urge to do more and started providing public policy and administration training for various community based non-profit agencies. The work enlightened me that there was a strong need for African American men to provide mentoring and guidance to young boys in the Children Services and Foster Care systems.
I began the certification process and became a foster parent in 1995. Over the last 20 years, along with my current wife, we have fostered numerous boys that have gone on to live very successful lives, some themselves becoming foster parents. During my fostering, I became a certified trainer with the Institute of Human Service and Ohio Human Services Training System providing continuing education training on mediation, conflict resolution, cultural diversity, domestic violence and team building for foster parents and social workers.
As my training evolved, I began to branch out to other states providing various foster trainings. I became a member of the National Foster Parent Association and later served as their Treasurer (2006) and President (2008-2010). During my trainings, I realized that many organizations were lacking guidance on running meetings using Robert’s Rules of Order, so in 1995 I became a Registered Parliamentarian with the National Association of Parliamentarians, Certified Parliamentarian Trainer with the American Institute of Parliamentarians, and President for the Ohio Association of Parliamentarians and Wirenius Unit in Columbus, Ohio. This work has proven enlightening and given many organizations the structure they need to effectively and efficiently conduct meetings that yield meaningful outcomes. I currently serve as parliamentarian for the National Medical Association and National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Around 2000, my training opportunities expanded to include Head Start/Early Head Start training for parents and staff. Never in my career did I believe that this subject matter could have the impact that it has on how our future leaders are being raised and taught. I’ve had the pleasure of providing specialized trainings for various state and county Head Start agencies offering them board, staff and policy council training. In addition, I’ve presented at several National Head Start Association Annual conferences. Serving Head Start parents, families and staff as they advocate for families/children has provided me with more personal and professional satisfaction then all my years as a public servant. My journey has been fulfilling and I owe it all to those that have entrusted me to bring training to their organizations to strengthen their workforce so that our youth have every available opportunity for success presented to them. I look forward to adding to my story the many future successes that are just a blank canvas away.