Here’s what five years of leading a nonprofit have taught me.
August 1, 2019 marks five years since I created Be The Change Venture, a nonprofit that prepares young people for the professional workforce. And as you may know, we help high school students, ages 14 to 18, effectively communicate and empower them to build meaningful relationships to be prepared for the future workforce.
Looking back to my junior year in high school, brainstorming the idea, and creating an organization that is breaking down doors that prevented young people, who come from urban and rural areas from entering, I am proud of what we have accomplished in five years. When we meet with young people and critical stakeholders like our community advisory committee, our results show that we are uplifting people up from environments and situations that prevent many from accomplishing their dreams and goals to be successful. This explains why we have served and reached 1000 young people in five years. In less than six months, we have worked with nearly 250 young people, which puts us in the right direction to 500 high school students by the end of the year.
We could not do it without people like you that support and believe in our mission.
As the founder, I have to admit leading our team and seeking wisdom from personal mentors and leaders of partner organizations like BLOC or the SYA Project, the work has not been easy. There were many late nights. Team members have left. We have experienced and faced failure and felt like giving up because we were not seeing the outcomes that we expected. However, this team has used those experiences as an opportunity to learn and grow not only as leaders but most importantly as public servants to the communities we serve.
As we approach our fifth year, I want to take a moment and share with you what I have learned as the Executive Director of this organization. And if you find yourself to reading the article up to this point, whether you’re a fellow Executive Director, staff member in the nonprofit workspace, or passionate individual that seeks to make a difference in your community, it is my hope that what I have learned will empower you to continue the ‘good fight’ in ensuring others have a voice in our shared world. A wise person once told me “no one said this was ever going to be easy.” Let the work keep you grounded while at the same time lead all of us to a brighter tomorrow; as what we do today is a reflection of our tomorrow.
So what have I learned exactly in five years?
Leadership does not lie in the title, rather it rests within the individual.
Gavi’s CEO, Seth Berkley, covers what I believe leadership really embodies, that it “is about vision and responsibility, not power.” Serving in this role has taught me it is less about “being the boss” but much more about serving my team and the people that we seek to serve. As a leader, it is your responsibility to use your power and privilege to serve at the pleasure of those who tirelessly carry out the work and mission every day and your ‘clients’ that depend on your product and or service to survive — LITERALLY
Listening allows you to advocate.
One thing that my team knows best is that I hate talking for long periods of time; as I strive to be straightforward and concise in my words whether that entails my writing or verbally during a meeting. Since our inception, I have used what I call “listening sessions” as a tool to listen and hear from young people who look like me and come from undervalued and overlooked areas like mine where opportunity is limited. Not only have these encounters inspired me to continue connecting and empowering young people that I meet but they have also allowed me to advocate and speak on their behalf in board rooms, pitch competitions, or donors events that I have the fortune to speak and share their stories.
Everything is about relationships. That includes asking for money.
I would be remiss if I did not emphasize how pivotal relationships are to one's success, how our American political system operates, or even for the world to function. No matter where you come from, how much money you make, or which school you attend or graduated from the trajectory of your life depends on your ability to connect and build meaningful relationships.
I would not have imagined at the age of sixteen, entering my junior year of high school, creating an organization like Be The Change Venture. Creating both a movement and a model that is collectively run by young people and is for young people. A mission with the sole interest in preparing young people for the professional workforce and beyond.
I am proud to report that our organization is stronger than ever thanks to the strong, passionate, and dedicated individuals that make up our team and ensures we connect, inspire, and forever change young peoples lives. That’s the change I seek to make in the world.
Here’s to five amazing years and onwards to the next five and much more!