As a meeting and travel manager with National Parent Teacher Association, Delores Balogun ’08, who earned a degree in recreation management at Illinois State, was thrilled when first lady Michelle Obama was to be the organization’s keynote speaker for the Let’s Move campaign. As with any event, Balogun paid close attention to every single detail, from the name badges to the wrinkles in the linen. Little did Balogun know, Obama’s Advance Team lead had been taking note of her attention to all the event’s details. The result? Balogun was offered a job that she never applied for as an event planner with the While House’s Advance Team!
For the next several years, Balogun slept very little as she traveled the world assisting with planning events for the first lady that focused on support for military families, combating childhood obesity, Let’s Move, and more. Balogun said, “Mrs. Obama is a very down to earth person with a giving heart for people and for service.” Balogun’s work experience with the White House inspired Balogun to give back to her own community by starting iGlow Mentoring, a not-for-profit organization offering mentorship to young inner city girls.
As iGlow Mentoring’s founder, Balogun began what is her most profound and satisfying career accomplishment to date. The idea was simple, bring inner city girls together to paint their nails and talk about life. She figured maybe 25 girls would show up. To her surprise 600 girls showed up to the first event and more than 1,000 to the next! Through a variety of programs and activities, Balogun and her team inspire young girls from Chicago to understand their self-worth and to maximize their potential by learning the skills needed to succeed in school, college, and beyond.
Mentorship hits close to home because Balogun was dismissed from Illinois State after her second semester because she wasn’t prepared for the academic rigors of college. When she ran into then-President Al Bowman on the Quad one day she cried her eyes out to him because the University had denied her appeal to be reinstated. Bowman asked her to make an appointment to further discuss the matter.
At the meeting she explained that she was not a partier and that she had been involved with campus organizations. Her problem was that she lacked the academic skills to succeed. After their conversation, he arranged for her reinstatement and made her promise to graduate in four years, which she did! Through iGlow Mentoring, Balogun is now preparing girls for college in 13 different sites in Chicago!
Balogun’s advice to new graduates is to “be intentional about networking because every opportunity I’ve ever had has been through a person, not a job advertisement.” She also says students should keep their books and notes from college. “Nearly everything I do in my work, I learned in college. Whether it is looking at Professor (Amy) Hurd’s marketing assignment to plan a corporate event or applying what I learned to work with kids with disabilities, I’ve used it all!”
One of her fondest memories from Illinois State was taking her Malti poodle to class in a little dog carrier. One day Professor Dan Elkins walked past Balogun in class so quickly that it startled the dog, causing him to bark.
After class that day, she says she had one of the most profound conversations she’s ever had with a professor. Even though she explained how tough school was for her, Elkins didn’t see it that way. He told her how talented she was and how much potential she had. All she needed to do was apply herself. “Yes, Professor Elkins imparted all of that wisdom to me in five minutes, after my poodle nearly bit him!”
Balogun was inducted into the College of Applied Science and Technology’s Academy of Achievement last spring. We wish her continued success!