Rikitra Stewart is among 173 people nationwide and nine in Texas to earn certification from the National Grants Management Association (NGMA) as a Certified Grants Management Specialist (CGMS).
| Stewart reflects on her recent accomplishment while sitting at her desk in the grants department.
When securing funding for educational programs and initiatives throughout the school district, the Pasadena ISD Grants Department is there to help.
A key component of the district’s grants department is a grants compliance coordinator who oversees and ensures that each award meets state and federal guidelines and regulations.
Filling that role since its inception in 2013, Rikitra Stewart has provided compliance for over $18 million in funding for various district programs and initiatives.
Stewart is among 173 people nationwide and nine in Texas to earn certification from the National Grants Management Association (NGMA) as a Certified Grants Management Specialist (CGMS).
“During previous NGMA conferences, grant professionals spoke highly about the opportunity, which inspired me to grow in my profession and obtain the certification when the new exam became available,” Stewart said.
The certification program was developed by NGMA to offer industry credential to individuals with the knowledge essential to practice grants management. Obtaining a CGMS credential confers formal recognition of professional competency in the full lifecycle of grants management.
To gain certification, applicants must be in the field for at least three years and demonstrate their professional competency by passing a rigorous examination.
A recent shift in federal government policies involving grants motivated Stewart to pursue numerous professional growth opportunities to meet challenges head on and to stay abreast of the changes in hopes of providing a greater level of grant compliance support to the district. These changes were incorporated into the exam, along with various ways to apply these changes in different scenarios.
“The test covers the New Uniform Grant Guidance, also known as 2 CFR Part 200, and the laws associated with federal grants,” Stewart said. “It is my hope that having knowledge of the federal regulations will allow me to be a better resource for the grants department and the district as a whole.”
This year, Stewart was able to network with nearly 600 top professionals in the industry at the NGMA’s annual conference in Washington D.C., where she received special recognition and represented the Houston-area as a presenter.
During Stewart’s presentation, she shared how she established the NGMA Houston Chapter and provided the audience with tips to help them start a chapter in their state.
Stewart continuously finds ways to excel, professionally. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Dillard University and earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Houston. Before she pursued a career in grants management, she was involved in education as a substitute teacher and as an assistant to the community relations manager of after-school programs at the Harris County Department of Education (HCDE).
A year later, she was promoted to the position of project director within HCDE, overseeing several after school programs throughout Houston and the surrounding area. In this position, Stewart’s achievements earned her recognition as the top project director in the State of Texas for after-school programs.
“I was elated when the position as a grants compliance coordinator became available at Pasadena ISD,” she said. “The opportunity presented itself at a time when I was interested in expanding my experience in grant compliance to work with after-school grants and many other educational grant programs.”
As the grants compliance coordinator for the district, Stewart ensures that the district’s competitive grant projects are implemented with fidelity. Stewart said she is readily accessible for district staff and faculty and enjoys providing knowledge and her expertise on the subject of grants and various guidelines and restrictions that come with the funding opportunities. She also maintains strong relationships with the funders.
Stewart currently provides compliance support, grant budget monitoring and reporting assistance to 23 projects ranging from $3.4 million to $2,500.
“I enjoy the opportunity to work with different departments, like business and finance and communications, to collectively support district grant programs,” Stewart said. “Furthermore, I get the rewarding opportunity to visit campuses and see these programs in action.”
“I encourage district staff to reach out to us with their current or future program needs - as I have had the privilege of seeing first hand, the impact grants can make on students, parents, teachers, and the community as a whole”, Stewart said.