BY: KAM KING, ALUMNI COMMUNICATIONS
Tchernavia Montgomery '08, '09 has called Charlotte home for more than 20 years, and she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else with her husband William Harold Montgomery III ’03 and their three sons. Her adoration for the Queen City has also allowed her to give back to her community in a multitude of meaningful ways.
On Jan. 15, Montgomery was named the esteemed recipient of the City of Charlotte's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "Growing the Dream” Award, in honor of her dedication to supporting those in need. She was recognized during the city’s virtual Dr. Martin Luther King National Holiday Celebration on Jan. 18, presented in partnership with Atrium Health, the City of Charlotte and WSOC TV.
“TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED FOR THE WORK THAT I DO EACH DAY AND IN HONOR OF THE MOST HISTORICALLY ICONIC CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER IN OUR HISTORY IS HUMBLING. ALTHOUGH DR. KING'S LIFE'S WORK WAS BEFORE MY OWN TIME, I'D LIKE TO THINK THAT I AND SO MANY OTHERS IN OUR COMMUNITY ARE WORKING DILIGENTLY TO FULFILL HIS LEGACY,” MONTGOMERY SHARED.
“Whether it's fighting for social justice or working toward eliminating poverty, we all can be extensions of his dream.”
She has devoted 17 years in the human services field to empowering those in need to reach their full potential.
In 2018, Montgomery joined Crisis Assistance Ministry as the chief program officer. In this role, she fights homelessness and poverty by leading teams that serve more than 50,000 Charlottean families each year. Many are seeking assistance with meeting their basic needs, including emergency rent or utility payments, clothing, household goods, furniture, beds and appliances.
Her time at UNC Charlotte helped prepare her to take on such critical work.
“As a non-traditional student, the most valuable part of my UNC Charlotte education was undoubtedly the support I received from faculty and the long-lasting relationships I've built that have sustained since my graduation in 2008 and 2009,” said Montgomery, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from UNC Charlotte. “That feeling of belonging and positive affirmation was key to my personal development and only strengthened my confidence as a growing leader.”
Montgomery also spoke to the importance of the diversity that she saw on campus.
“Being one of the most diverse campuses within the UNC system, I found myself learning and studying alongside students that I could easily identify with,” she said.
“THE DIVERSITIES I POSSESSED WERE CELEBRATED AND THE UNIQUENESS MY VOICE BROUGHT TO THE CLASSROOM WAS WELCOMED. IT WAS IMPORTANT TO ME TO BE ENGAGED IN AN EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT WHERE I HAD FREEDOM OF THOUGHT AND FELT SAFE TO LEARN.”
This is a practice that she’s actively encouraging in her own classroom today. Montgomery now serves as an adjunct faculty member within her alma mater’s College of Health and Human Services, where she also chairs the School of Social Work’s Community Advisory Board.
“My program helped me to deepen my understanding of our community's continuum of needs and how leaders with social work backgrounds would add value to the building of equitable and sustainable solutions around those needs,” she concluded.
“I'VE REMAINED CONNECTED IN NUMEROUS WAYS TO UNC CHARLOTTE NOT BECAUSE I'VE HAD TO, BUT BECAUSE I'VE CHOSEN TO. "ALMA MATER" IN LATIN TRANSLATES TO ‘KIND AND NOURISHING MOTHER.’ THIS IS AKIN TO MY FEELINGS FOR UNC CHARLOTTE, AS IT REPRESENTS BOTH HOME AND FAMILY TO ME.”
Prior to her role at Crisis Assistance Ministry, Montgomery served as the director of behavioral health and a leader within the Performance Excellence Center at Atrium Health where she led programs and services across the continuum of care. She has been described as a “leader among leaders” by her peers in the Charlotte nonprofit leadership community.
She also serves as a board member of the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the American Red Cross’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, a member of the Mecklenburg County Continuum of Care Governing Board, a board member with MeckEd, a board member with the Charlotte Resilience Project, director of the Board of Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, and a senior fellow with the American Leadership Fellowship.
When asked how she finds time to manage so many leadership positions, Montgomery remarked “I get to serve alongside amazingly dedicated people each and every day and am fortunate enough to be able to call the impact in our community, ‘work’.”
Recently, Montgomery was named a recipient of the UNC Charlotte Black Alumni Chapter’s Excellence in Leadership Award for her commitment to public service. In 2018, she received the Charlotte ATHENA Leadership Award for Service in honor of her accomplishments with the Crisis Assistance Ministry.
She is a published author and a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s Charlotte Alumnae Chapter, which awarded her the 2018 Dynamic Delta of the Year Award. A service organization founded in 1913, Montgomery's sorority allows her to further extend her service to the community.
Montgomery and her husband are proud to continue the UNC Charlotte legacy and are following in the footsteps of William's parents, LaJuana Edington Montgomery '77 and William Harold Montgomery, Jr. '73.