As a child, Adele McClure experienced homelessness. Now she’s working to end it.
March 3, 2020 - Joan Tupponce
Adele McClure’s strong desire to help others has never faltered. If anything, it continues to strengthen.
“Every step I have taken in my life is in that direction,” said the 2011 Virginia Commonwealth University graduate. “My personal approach to my career involves staying true to myself and what I believe is right. I am devoted to dedicating my time to helping the most vulnerable.”
In October, McClure was named executive director of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. Earlier in the year, she landed a spot in the law and policy category of the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list and this year she was elected to the Forbes Under 30 Global Board.
“It was a shock when you get notification they are considering you,” McClure said of the Forbes listing. “To see your picture on the list is indescribable. Being on a list as prestigious as Forbes meant so much to me.”
The recognition was particularly poignant for McClure who, in her youth, experienced a period of homelessness. “It showed me that folks who came from my background can be on the list and give back to others,” she said. “I read it to my mom and she started crying. It was a great moment. My mother was the one who instilled values, education and service into all of us.”
Finding her way
McClure grew up impoverished in Alexandria, Virginia, and that served as her motivation to serve and support others. She always wanted to make sure she was “lifting people when they need help,” she said.
She’s been interested in the lawmaking side of politics ever since she was young and has always enjoyed watching lawmakers “bring about change and the different policies and laws that impact people’s lives for the better.”
“My personal approach to my career involves staying true to myself and what I believe is right. I am devoted to dedicating my time to helping the most vulnerable.”
Early on, McClure had dreams of being an attorney. She remembers looking through the yellow pages of the phone book when she was young and finding a female attorney she could write to for advice. “She wrote me back with a nice letter,” McClure said.
After graduating from West Potomac High School in Fairfax County, McClure interned for the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee while applying to colleges. She targeted two universities — George Mason and VCU.
“I’m so happy that I chose VCU,” she said. “When I got onto campus and took my first step, I fell in love.”
During her time at VCU, she participated in over 22 university organizations, committees and task forces. She served as student body president from 2010-11 and was the 2011 recipient of the VCU Division of Student Affairs Distinguished Service Award. Other awards include the VCU Alumni 10 Under 10, the University Leadership Award, the University Service Award and the Monroe Park Campus Student Government Association Christopher Mays Award. In 2010, she co-created VCU Qatar Day, an annual cultural awareness event.
“Being at VCU was such a phenomenal experience,” she said. “I think that things happened for a reason to lead me to VCU. I can’t imagine where I would be right now if it weren’t for VCU.”
Making a difference
McClure made the decision not to go to law school after graduating from the VCU School of Business with a bachelor’s in economics. “I realized I didn’t need a law degree to make a difference and do what I wanted to do,” she said.
Instead, she took a job with the nonprofit Association of the United States Army and in three months went from an administrative assistant to supervisor. “We were the voice for the soldier and their family,” she said of the Arlington, Virginia-based organization.
McClure held two other jobs before accepting the position of program policy director in the office of Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax in 2018. Her work included developing policy initiatives and designing and implementing three statewide roundtables on evictions. She resigned her position in protest in 2019 after sexual assault allegations were raised against Fairfax.
When McClure was in the lieutenant governor’s office, she worked to raise statewide awareness of housing issues, such as evictions, and bring support and legislation to the problem. “My main goal in life is to move toward ending homelessness,” she said.
After resigning, she continued working to coordinate efforts on reducing and preventing evictions during an interim position with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.
“When she left the lieutenant governor’s office we reached out to her,” said Pamela Kestner, deputy director of housing at the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. “She comes to the table wanting to learn and share. She’s an incredible young woman.”
Kestner would have liked to have McClure stay with the department, but “we knew she was destined for bigger things.”
Virginia Sen. Jennifer McClellan has worked with McClure closely over the years. “I’m proud of her many contributions to the commonwealth,” McClellan said. “Her work has directly impacted and improved the lives of Virginians — especially our most vulnerable. Adele’s commitment to public service is deeply appreciated and her background and experiences are drivers in all that she does.”
As McClure looks at her career thus far, she said VCU provided her with the ability to escape poverty and enter into spaces where “black women were historically excluded.”
“I think I am definitely on a good path now,” she said.