It's why, in 2021, Dwain created and founded First Merchants’ People of Color Employee Resource Group, which fosters conversation, understanding, and allyship around the challenges people of color face.
“It’s so heartening to see people pull together – whether they’re a person of color or whether they’re white,” he said. “It doesn’t matter in this group. It doesn’t matter who you are, what culture
you come from, we’re all for the same thing.”
In the past few years, Dwain has also seen an increase in inclusivity in the workplace.
“If I want to see First Merchants’ commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, I just have to look at my screen during a call with my team,” he said. “We wanted our department to look like the people we serve – which
is a huge statement for a bank to make, and then a huge statement for a bank to act upon.”
For Dwain, it’s a sign of the bank’s commitment to making positive change.
“We – all of First Merchants – don’t see this as a temporary thing. And we don’t want it to be temporary – because DEI is not temporary,” he said. “It’s a choice you make, every day.”
And it’s one that Dwain says he makes, as well.
“It was my choice to be here, with First Merchants,” he said. “That’s why I look to create positive change, both within the company and within my community. I’m choosing to make a change and choosing to be a part of that
Dwain is also heavily involved in his own community -- something he sees as a solemn responsibility.
“The opportunities I had didn’t just fall into my lap – my mother and father worked so hard for me to be afforded those opportunities,” he shared, tearfully. “After everything they sacrificed, after all the obstacles and
challenges they faced, after all they did out of love, it would be the height of disrespect for me not to give back. I was afforded these great opportunities, and it is my responsibility – I should be held accountable – to provide opportunities
When it comes to volunteering, people are often told to “find their passion.” But following your passion isn’t easy, Dwain said – in fact, it can be extremely difficult.
“Passion is not always a joyous conversation, because passion comes from sacrifice,” he explained. “Any time that you’re sacrificing, you’re giving something that you possibly don’t have enough of, but you’re
making it work. It could be time, money, or resources. You’re giving up something that will hurt because the needs of others need exceed your own need. I firmly believe that that passion, that sacrifice, should match the need in the communities
you’re a part of.”
So, he tells people: “Don’t become a volunteer, become a resource.”
“Don’t just volunteer once and leave the experience at home,” he added. “Really think on it; and think about how you can become an asset to your community.”