The Community Effect

Career Path

Community Academy Director Patrice Gibson talks careers, leadership and giving back to the place that raised her.

Patrice Gibson began her Walmart career 13 years ago as an overnight associate at Store 5485 in Evergreen Park, Illinois. Since then, things have changed for Patrice.

 

She’s opened or managed eight Walmart stores. She’s earned a degree in business management from Bellevue University through LBU. And now, she’s embarking on a new journey, as the director of the first-of-its-kind Community Academy opening in the Chicago neighborhood of Chatham.

 

By her own admission, Patrice didn’t come to Walmart with a plan. She just came for a job.

 

“Before I applied for that job, I didn’t know what kind of opportunities Walmart offered,” admits Patrice. “I just figured I would work my four days, make some extra money—I did not see a career path.”

 

But as leaders across the company will tell you, that view tends to shift quickly here.

Patrice Gibson

“Literally in my first two weeks with the company, having the opportunity to attend meetings, see the engagement I got and the personal investment I received from my leadership team when I went to work, I thought, ‘I could do this. I could be one of these leaders in this organization,’” Patrice says.

 

And as it turns out, she was right.

 

Homegrown Leader

Patrice has grown into leadership, developing her own philosophy to push herself, and the associates she works with, to do their best work along the way. Her motto? Show up, then show out.

 

“My leadership philosophy is to show up and show out. Once I determined I wanted to lead, I had to show the commitment I had to the job,” Patrice explains. “For me that meant showing up to work, letting my leadership know I was interested in being promoted, then seeking out the individuals who have the ability to grant me those opportunities.”

 

Her leadership capabilities now well established, Patrice says she’s looking forward to a new challenge in opening and directing the Community Academy.

Patrice Gibson assists a Walmart associate at the new Community Academy.

The Community Academy is a totally new concept for Walmart. It not only trains associates, but also offers the people of Chatham and surrounding Chicago communities the chance to learn, too. And it does it all for free.

 

The Academy will offer courses ranging from HVAC certification to resume workshops and interview prep. The goal is simple: Send people back into the community ready for their next steps.

 

“The Academy’s mission is just to strengthen opportunity through learning,” Patrice says. “We want it provide a place for people to learn where they live, in their own community.”

 

Inspiring Generational Change

The community element of the Academy is particularly important to Patrice. This isn’t just a job for her anymore. It’s a chance to give back to the place that’s raised her.

 

“For me, this is my home. I grew up in Inglewood, which is one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city of Chicago. And I’ve seen some people have success, but I’ve seen many more not have it,” she says.

 

“So, for me to be able to offer what we’re offering, in the community that I grew up in, it gives me so much pride to see that and to be an advocate for people. We want to be a part of the community, and we want to do it all for free.”

Patrice Gibson in front of a community mural.

Patrice hopes that by growing the Community Academy into a true resource, it can help create generational change in her community—a cycle of positivity and of higher expectations.

 

“No one said to me, growing up, ‘Hey Patrice, I want you go be a director at Walmart,’” she says. “If I’m able to do things like that, if I’m able to have these opportunities, I am hopeful people who come through the Academy can have their lives enhanced, and someday will look back at their own children and say, ‘Hey I want you to go out and do this. I believe in you.’”