This week’s #WomanCrushWednesday goes out to Pleschette Fontenet – leader, technology wizard, avid networker and tireless volunteer.
Pleschette grew up in a tight-knit family in Houston, Texas. Her dad worked at Union Pacific and her mom stayed at home to raise her and her three sisters. When the girls were older, her mom decided to become a minister. Pleschette attributes her drive to serve to her mom – that’s right, she got it from her mama! As a minister, her mom was always inviting people over and being of service, and while Pleschette didn’t love that as a kid, it made an impact and turned her into who she is today – a woman who strongly believes service and leadership go hand-in-hand.
Pleschette had a nontraditional high school experience. She originally wanted to be a doctor, so she attended a school geared towards students seeking a career in medicine. Through a partnership with Baylor University, part of the curriculum was watching surgeries. Pleschette went on to the University of Houston, where she studied biology and physical sciences. But she was interested in a career in sales. She started sending out her resume and got hired at Dell Computers. She climbed the company ladder quickly and was tapped for a job based in Portland, as regional sales director for the Pacific Northwest. Pleschette was not excited about the move to Oregon originally, but she agreed to move – sight unseen – and try it for a couple of years. That was 2015 and she’s still here – Texas’s loss is Oregon’s gain! Oregon’s lack of diversity made her a bit reluctant to move. It was tough to envision doing sales with people who’d never worked with a person of color – even a colleague asked her, WHY would you move THERE? Turns out, the experience is one of Pleschette’s proudest accomplishments: Although she grew up in a diverse environment, she moved – by herself – to one that was quite white. And not only is she still here, she’s THRIVING. She recently bought herself a birthday present – a second property!
Service and volunteerism have been a huge part of Pleschette’s life ever since she was in school, involved in student council. So she hooked up with the Junior League shortly after moving to Portland. It was a great way to build her social network, and the training she received at the Junior League benefits her with all of the nonprofits she serves. She’s currently on three boards – Legacy Good Sam (did you know, the only nonprofit medical center in Portland?), Friends of the Children, and Friends of the Columbia Gorge. The Gorge is her heaven on earth, which is reason enough for her to protect it, but there’s more. It’s about preserving the natural world for EVERYONE and blasting the notion that black people aren’t comfortable in outdoor spaces. Want to learn more? Check out Black Faces, White Spaces by Carolyn Finney.
Pleschette recently lost a member of her tight-knit family due to Covid – her beloved father. Over the summer, he contracted double pneumonia and eventually died from the virus. Thankfully, she and her family were able to be with him at the end. They all convened for a beautiful home going service – an African-American funeral tradition.
We leave you to ponder one of Pleschette’s favorite quotes, attributed to “The Greatest”:
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”
– Muhammad Ali