Previously, Acoff worked for Metro Parks Tacoma for 13 years, holding a number of roles, including serving as a community outreach and engagement specialist. She served as a commissioner on the City of Tacoma’s Human Rights Commission.
As an alumna, Acoff also serves the University of Washington. She is an at-large trustee on the University of Washington Alumni Association Board of Trustees and she is the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee Vice Chair on the UW Tacoma Alumni Council. Acoff volunteers at UW Tacoma often and has become a well-known face around the campus. “I just want to give back to the university what the university gave me,” she said.
Acoff was a guest speaker during the 2022 season of UW Tacoma’s ongoing Alumni Speaker Series, and you can watch her talk below.
Considering Acoff's substantial contributions to her community and UW Tacoma, it likely comes as no surprise that she eagerly stepped forward to volunteer to speak at the 2024 Unity Breakfast, celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “They said, ‘We’re looking for an alumni speaker so if you have any one in mind, let us know,’ and I said, ‘I’m interested!’”
In her speech at the breakfast, Acoff plans to highlight the substantial impact that UW Tacoma has played in her life, from her involvement in student organizations, such as the Black Student Union, to the supportive faculty and staff who significantly enriched her experience.
“Professor Deirdre Raynor was a vital and key person during my school years. She would let me bring my daughter to class and didn’t let me make any excuses,” Acoff said. “In my Unity Breakfast talk, I want to highlight the importance of having a campus-based Black role model who was a woman and supported me and was a part of my ‘village.’”
Acoff grew up in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood with her mother and three older siblings. She attended Foss High School and was involved in extracurricular clubs and organizations. “I played basketball for three years. I was in ASB [the Foss High School Associated Student Body] and I was in the IB (International Baccalaureate) program for highly capable students,” she said.
During her senior year at Foss, Acoff gave birth to her daughter. Despite becoming a mother at an early age, Acoff faced the challenge head-on and continued with her schooling, ultimately graduating from Foss on time with her 2006 graduating class.
After high school, Acoff was determined to continue her academic journey into college. She received a Bill & Melinda Gates Scholarship, a highly competitive scholarship for outstanding minority high school students. The award required her to choose a university within the state of Washington.
“I wanted to go to UW but once I had my baby, I needed to stay closer to home,” Acoff said. “Just having a ‘village’ of support was so important to me so I stayed local.”
Acoff enrolled in UW Tacoma’s inaugural freshman class in 2006. This was a significant change for the Tacoma campus. Until that time, UW Tacoma focused exclusively on admitting transfer students for the final two years of their four-year degrees.
While attending classes at UW Tacoma, Acoff was involved in many organizations on campus. She was a work-study office assistant in the Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences program (now the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences). She helped students schedule time with their academic advisors and met with students one-on-one to help them choose their majors. Acoff was also part of launching a Black Student Union on the Tacoma campus.
“I love the UW Tacoma campus,” she said. “I appreciated that it was in Tacoma and in close proximity to home and that I was still getting a UW education,” she said. “Because of the campus’s small size, I felt like I belonged.” Acoff graduated in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in communication.
On top of her extensive commitments to city work and multiple board positions within the community, Acoff is a dedicated role model and parent to her two children. Even with a demanding schedule, she finds time to support her daughter and son in their individual pursuits. They both share their mother’s passion for basketball and play on their school’s teams.
“I think it’s important that I am a reflection of what my mentors were to me so that my daughter has someone to look up to and the generation under her has someone to look up to,” she said. “They can remember that you can be from Tacoma and do great things.”
Acoff is an example of what it means to be a community cornerstone. Through her resilience, perseverance and dedication to paying it forward, she has powered through adversities and continues to be a shining light for those around her and her community.
“I’m just so passionate about this stuff,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like volunteering, it doesn't feel like work. It just feels right.”
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