#APYDCON 2017: Youth Activism and Social Change

In 2014, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy in education for girls in Pakistan and around the world. Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez is the youth director of Earth Guardians and is at the frontline of climate change activism. Malala and Roske-Martinez are two of many youth activists who are changing the world.

Youth have always been at the center of social movements, and sometimes, leading the movements themselves. It was the high civic engagement of youth that recently resulted in the upending of political regimes in Egypt, North Africa, and other countries around the world. Youth leaders fueled the civil-rights movement, and today they are at the center of the Black Lives Matter movement, immigration reform, and LGBT+ rights. It is without a doubt, that youth are powerful agents of social change. Unfortunately, adults often ignore the role that youth play in shaping our world, and we tend to push them to the sidelines in conversations about policies and social reforms.

Why Youth Activism Matters?

According to the United Nations, there are over 1.8 billion youth in the world; the largest youth population ever. With all the current world problems, imagine the impact that a group of 1.8 billion youth can have in global economic and social progress. We can’t have politicians make all the decisions for us, and as cliche as it may sound, youth are our future. They are the leaders and experts of their own lives. The decisions we make today will impact their future, so it only seems fitting that we allow them to take charge in the decision-making process of enacting social change.

Youth are very aware of what is happening in their communities, and they have their own opinions on the changes that need to be done. Their voice should always be heard and considered because youth are an asset to their communities. Youth hold unique tools like using technology to generate change, being able to globally connect with both older and younger generations, and they view the world through a different lens that allow them to challenge corruption and injustice. The more that youth participate in civic engagement, the more they get to develop leadership skills and make healthier life choices that can collectively move us into a more socially just world.

Youth have consistently shown that they will not remain idle in the social issues that impact their lives. Youth are visionaries and they are passionate for social good. For this reason, it is essential that we recognize the powerful role they have in social movements, and learn how to empower youth to become the leaders of our changing world. As Malala said in regard to the youth, “Let us stand up for our rights, and let us fight. Let us make our future now, and let us make our dreams tomorrow’s reality”.

Ready to Learn More?

On August 9th, 2017, APYDCON will be wrapping up its last day of workshops center around the top of Youth Activism and Social Change. The first event of the day will be a Q&A panel with experts Jessica Taft, Associate Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of California Santa Cruz, and Ron Gochez, a South Central Los Angeles community organizer and LAUSD teacher. The day will end with a presentation by Kathy Abarca, Director of Racially Just Utah. The panel and presentation will address how youth engage in social movements and how they enact social change, as well as the best practices for engaging youth in activism.

If you want to increase your awareness of the role of youth have in activism, and learn how you can support their leadership development, register to be a part of this unique virtual experience for FREE at sisgigroup.org/apydcon2017.


#APYDCON 2017: Crisis Intervention for Prostitution and Child Trafficking

Thirteen-year-old “Abby” is the youngest child of four. She would spend her days hanging out with her friends at school and at night, like most children her age, she enjoyed browsing through Facebook and Instagram. She had recently connected with a boy her age through Facebook and had fun chatting with him. Little did Abby know this was no boy at all. This was a twenty-year-old man, who was trying to recruit young girls into prostitution. He never told her he was going to put her to work. He simply told her all the things a young girl wants to hear from her suitor. Soon, Abby ended up on the streets working for this man against her will. All she was looking for was an innocent friendship with a young boy online. But she never found that boy. Abby, is one of thousands of young American girls who authorities say have been abducted or lured from their normal lives and made into sex slaves. When people think go human trafficking they think of all the young girls brought to the United States to be sold. People do not think it happens right here in America.

Why Human Trafficking Matters

Imagine that Abby is your sister, family member, or friend. Imagine all the things that Abby has gone through. She went from being a straight A student to being sold in the sex trade industry. Abby is not alone in this, because there are more than 2 million girls and boys being subjected to this yearly. Not only are these children being raped, they are also forced to use drugs. Due to the tortuous and traumatic conditions, an average life span of a sex trafficking victim is reported to be seven years as most are found dead from attack, abuse, HIV and other STDs, malnutrition, overdose, or suicide. The victims estimated ages are between 11 and 14 years old.

Who Are These Children?

According to US sources, children are most targeted by traffickers because they are found to be easier to manipulate as well as are able to earn predators more money. While there are many victims who are like Abby, there are also victims who have no other way to survive. Many of these children are the thrown away, homeless, or runaways. These youths result to using sex to secure survival needs such as shelter, clothing or food.

As a result of their circumstances, many of these youth will suffer long term health problems including trauma related issues such as anxiety, fear, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Victims often suffer from drug addiction, sleep disorders, sexually transmitted diseases and eating disorders. These are just a few of the long list of lifelong issues that victims will deal with on top of the burden of guilt and shame.

Ready to Learn More?

Join us August 8th, 2017 as we continue our APYD Best Practices for Youth Conference workshops where we will focus on Crisis Intervention for Prostitution and Child Trafficking. The first event of the day will be an expert Q&A panel featuring Kristie Holmes, PhD, LCSW, who specializes in topics related to global health, gender, and media and the impact of technology on social relationships; and Terri O’Donnell, a mental health therapist with extensive experience working with women and men with histories of trauma and addiction. Following this session will be a presentation by, Jan Miyasaki, the director of Project Respect, a Dane County, Wisconsin-based social service agency that provides services to adults and juveniles victimized in sex-trafficking and prostitution. The lecture will consist of a discussion educating the attendees on the life altering issues faced by sexually exploited youth.

If you want to increase your awareness of human trafficking and learn how you can be a part of the solution; register to be part of this unique virtual conference experience for free at http://sisgigroup.org/apydcon2017.


#APYDCON 2017: Youth, Community, and the Justice System

Approximately 2.1 million youth under the age of 18 are arrested in the United States in a single year. Outcomes for youth involved in the justice system can include recidivism, academic failure, as well as mental health and substance abuse issues. However, there is a movement to reform the justice system by offering youth alternative interventions focused on rehabilitation and skill building to create a brighter and stronger future.

Why Reforming Juvenile Justice Matters

To put it simply, punitive sentencing of young offenders is contrary to the founding principle of the juvenile justice system in the first place. Launched in the 19th century, the original mission of the juvenile justice system was to rehabilitate delinquent youth through treatment programs and release them back into society as productive citizens. However, over the years the system has veered awareness from its primary responsibility and instead created what is now referred to as the “school-to-prison pipeline” where children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. In many cases, the youth that are caught in the pipeline struggle with learning disabilities, are born into poverty, and are often victims of abuse and neglect. While these youth would benefit from counseling, additional educational assistance and familial support, they are instead being punished and pushed out of society into juvenile detention centers, further isolating them from the opportunities of success and prosperity.

Recent efforts to reform the juvenile justice system by providing positive youth development and restorative justice community based programs have been proven successful. Options ranging from home-based approaches to locked community residential facilities are designed to keep youth engaged with their schools and communities while providing them with the treatment the juveniles and families so desperately need. Shifting the focus from punishment to rehabilitation it the key to helping youth become productive citizens of society rather than tossing them into a cycle of destructive institutionalism.

The Role of the Community in Juvenile Justice Reform

In order for a reformation of the juvenile justice system to be successful, the community needs to be fully engaged. Community Based Organizations (CBOs) play an important role in their ability to provide alternative intervention programming and services focused on rehabilitation and skill building for juveniles. In addition, community organizations can increase their impact and work more efficiently when multiple agencies are able to collaborate with one another and are able to provide services across disciples.

Ready to Learn More?

Join us on August 7th, 2017 as we launch our first day of workshops focused on Youth, Community and the Justice System. The first event of the day will be an expert Q&A panel featuring Franke Guzman, Juvenile Justice Attorney at the National Center of Youth Law, and Omar Zapata, Director of Program Services for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme (BGCOP). Following this session will be a presentation by Ken Klopman, a retired officer from the Oxnard Police Department who brings to the table of three decades of experience in public safety and service. The panel and presentation will offer tangible solutions to help get youth on a more positive path and support them to reach their full potential.

If you want to increase your awareness of the role that the community plays in supporting youth, and learn how you can take action in helping to reform the juvenile justice system; register to be part of this unique virtual conference experience for free at http://sisgigroup.org/apydcon2017.


What Makes America Great is Our Communities #SouthernService

As an intern with the SISGI Group I recently had an opportunity to attend the 2017 Southern National Service Training Conference in Orlando, FL. When I arrived at the conference, banners and logos from a variety of agencies were on display. Some organizations were familiar to me, such as AmeriCorps and City Year and some were unfamiliar, such as Volunteer Florida and State Service Commissions. At first, I must admit, I was perplexed by how these agencies were all connected but as the week went on it all began to come together.

The event was hosted by Volunteer Florida and the Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS). CNCS, I came to find, is a federal agency that invests in thousands of nonprofit and community-based programs throughout the country, including AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund.

Throughout my three days at the conference I was able to connect with community and nonprofit leaders and learn best practices from them on grant writing, strategic program planning, advocacy and how to raise awareness about social causes through social media. However, what resonated with me most throughout my time in Orlando was learning about the vital role CNCS programs play within communities across the nation.

I met members who serve as Foster Grandparents and learned how their tutoring program helps students stay on track to graduate. I met employees of Volunteer Florida who taught me about how CNCS national volunteer networks are the primary responders after events such as hurricanes, forest fires or terrorist attacks, assist with everything from shelter and call center operations to case work and the construction of new homes. I had the opportunity to listen to Orlando Police Chief John Mina and Dr. Joseph Ibrahim, Trauma Medical Director at Orlando Regional Medical Center, discuss their experiences on the night of the Pulse nightclub shooting and the impact volunteers had during and after the attack.

I learned that beyond volunteerism, CNCS programs provide sustainable, evidence-based solutions to pressing social issues, such as poverty and climate change.

A prominent theme throughout my days at the conference was the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts. The new budget would reduce $18 billion from mostly education, labor and health programs in order to increase defense spending. CNCS programs have historically received bipartisan support since they have proven to be an effective and efficient approach to community challenges. However, CNCS programs are a particular target of the new administration. Specifically, the proposal would cut $439 million from AmeriCorps and $66 million from Senior Corps. Under these changes CNCS along with 18 other agencies would be eliminated and that is the intention of the Trump administration who affirmed: “It is not a core function of the federal government to promote volunteerism, and therefore, these programs should be eliminated.”

Members of The SISGI Group Team

This foreboding cloud was palpable in Orlando. Although the hundreds of conference attendees were concerned about their livelihood, their primary anxiety was over the effects these changes would have on members of their communities. Despite this apprehension over the unknown, I also saw rooms full of passionate people inspired and unwavering in their commitment to creating lasting change, a powerful coalition of like-minded individuals with more resolve than ever to fight for what’s best for their communities.

To echo the sentiments of a fellow conference attendee: “what makes America great is our communities.” Politics aside, without investments in our communities I wonder what they would look like without the thousands of volunteers on standby ready to provide relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts after the next hurricane; or without the tutors who provide critical support to students who are falling behind in nearly 12,000 schools across the country each day; or the altruistic college grads who are willing to put their careers on hold for a year to serve their communities.

I hope you will join me in letting our leaders know that national service is a necessary program that delivers results. Make your voice heard by contacting congress and asking them to protect national service from potential elimination. Visit Voices for National Service to take action today.

Want to check out more of the fun we had at the Southern National Service Training Conference? Click here to see more pictures from our photo booth.


Digital Communications and Social Good: Helpful Tips from Stefanie Weiss and Stefanie Cruz

This week I am writing about the lessons learned from Stefanie Weiss and Stefanie Cruz, two leaders at America’s Promise Alliance. Stefanie Weiss is the Vice President of Communications and Knowledge Management and Stefanie Cruz is the Senior Director of Digital Strategy. They both discussed their work in the field of communications and nonprofit work, and gave tips for how social workers can market themselves and get involved in digital communications.

First of all, its important to recognize that this field has probably changed the most out of any field in the past 20 years. The way we communicate today is drastically different than it was one generation ago. We have cell phones, email, social media…and we want and need to connect faster and more effectively than ever before.

At America’s Promise Alliance, “communications” refers to pretty much anything with words; speeches, blogs, publications, media, outreach, websites, fundraising, reports, events, social media…almost anything that is naturally embedded in nonprofit work. Digital communications plays a really important role in creating and building a community as well as a useful tool in bringing awareness to initiatives and campaigns they run. Digital communications plays a huge role in connecting with partners and others in our fields to share best practices and participate in national conversations.

The more that digital technology expands around our world, the more of a role it plays in our organizations. Nonprofits need people skilled in communications and technology, and ultimately skilled in listening, strategic thinking, project management, and executing thoughtful work. Both Stefanies discussed how important the listening piece is, as well as strategic thinking and planning. Communications take times and effort, and often nonprofits may need a whole team assigned to this one aspect.

How Can You Leverage Communications to Market Yourself?

When discussing application advice for people applying to jobs in the nonprofit communications field, each Stefanie had something different to share: one values cover letters, the other values resumes. On one hand, a cover letter can be extremely important. Make sure there are no silly typos and that is is written clearly – this reflects your thinking skills. Make sure its geared toward the job you’re applying to, not a template that you completely reuse. On the other hand, having a resume that indicates that you care about the issues that they work on – even volunteer and internship experience – is just as important. The structure of your resume is also relevant…is it consistent and clean? This can prove strong organization skills and attention to detail.

Another thing to consider is, are you persistent? Will you reach out on LinkedIn? Send emails? Can you express yourself and your interests in a compelling and persistent way? Of course there is a fine line between “pestering” and “showing persistence”, but it never hurts to reach out if it feels right. Both Stefanies agreed that they are much more likely to consider a candidate who comes referred. So use your network to connect with people.

Remember: You bring unique value to the organization you want to work for. Knowing your own skills and what you bring to the table is key. Stefanie stated they she keeps in mind that hierarchy does not determine the value that someone can contribute. Having many diverse people be a part of the development and voice of an organization is the only way to make that voice fair and true.

Whether you’re just starting our your career, or switching careers, you can bring value to an organization. Figure out what that is, believe in yourself, and put your value and strengths into words.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch the Career Series with Stefanie Weiss and Stefanie Cruz, I encourage you to take a peek. They offer great tips on leveraging communications and social media and how these tools can assist organizations in creating lasting social change.

Don’t miss our next Social Change Career Series on April 20, 2107 at 3pm ET/12pm PST where our featured guest will be Lakeya Cherry, Executive Director of the Network for Social Work Management. Sign up here to watch it live: http://sisgigroup.org/careerseries.


Improving Student Behavior Through Engagement

Have you ever been in a long meeting, training, or school lecture, and found yourself falling asleep, or having your mind wander? If so, this most likely happens because the event is boring, and there is a disengagement between you and what is being presented. Similarly, students can find their classrooms boring and feel unmotivated to learn. The National Association of Independent Schools, High School Survey of Student Engagement found that 48% of students don’t find school engaging, and 87% reported that they want to have more classroom interaction. 

As a kid, and even as an adult, you want to feel entertained and challenged when working on a project or topic. Classroom interaction has the potential to increase student behavior. Material that is best learned through classroom activities increases mastery of tasks, grades, and overall student behavior. When students get to participate in hands-on-learning they are more alert and engaged, making them less likely to disrupt the class.

What kind of classroom activities best engage students?

  1. Field Trips: Who doesn’t love field trips! Not only are field trips fun, but they can serve as an excellent learning opportunity. For example, you can take children to cultural or art museums to learn history and art. Another example is taking the children to play performances to study literature. Just remember that the best way to ensure an effective learning experience from a field trip is to communicate goals and expectations before the trip, and debrief after the trip to allow students to reflect and apply learning.
  2. The Arts: Having an art session during class is also a best practice for engaging students. Whether it be learning to play an instrument, having a musical jam session, or painting and crafting, the arts will keep students entertained. the arts also encourages creativity and promotes problem-solving skills by allowing the students to express their thoughts and emotions better. The arts are more effective in teaching concepts to students with learning impairments, encouraging the students to construct their own understanding, and increase learning confidence.
  3. Socratic Discussions: Having student-led Socratic discussions, promotes critical thinking by engaging students in intellectual discourse. Socratic discussion activities are highly active and involves a lot of cooperating. Students get to learn to listen to others points of view and it helps to improve the reasoning process by actively connecting these experiences with their own learning.
  4. Group Work: Participating in group projects helps students to develop interpersonal skills like communication, and management skills, while also serving as an alternative form of learning. Group projects help students learn to build relationships and embrace cooperated, and collaborative learning.

Classroom engagement is an easy and low-to-no cost alternative to student behavioral management. Not only does student engagement decrease student behavior, but it also increases the chances of the student’s success in the future. Students who are engaged are 29% more likely to graduate high school, and are more likely to make healthier daily life choices. Lastly, engages students tend to have a healthier relationship with their peers and teachers, as well as a more positive outlook on their future.

Want to find out more about other activities to keep students engaged as well as get a deeper understanding of the overall benefits? Check out the infographic below.

Additional Resources:

Here are some great sites to help you with your lesson plan activities as well as some gran opportunities to help you fund your next classroom field trip.

  1. http://www.readwritethink.org
  2. www.neafoundation.org/pages/resources-other-grant-opportunities

What are some ways you keep your students engaged? Leave a comment below or join us for our #APYDCHAT April 6, 2017 at 12pm PST/3pm ET to add your voice to the conversation.


Defining Your Own Success: Guidance Inspired by Yvonne Siu Turner

Yvonne is the Senior Manager for Corporate Resources and Programs at Points of Light Corporate Institute. Points of Light is the largest non-profit in the world dedicated to volunteer service. Their corporate institute is the “go-to” resource for corporations to build strategic employee volunteer programs. She manages the learning programs and creates strategies, trainings, and toolkits to build successful volunteer programs. Yvonne highlights that she may do lots of different activities in one day but her focus is to help businesses understand their CSR roles, and how they impact the social and environmental world. 

Intersection of the Corporate and Social World

It’s a very exciting time to be at the intersection of business and society” – Yvonne Siu Turner

Today, Yvonne works on many resources and trainings that are targeted to large Fortune 500 companies. These companies employ thousands of people, and are powerful and capable of real change and impact if their CSR and volunteer efforts are successful and sustainable.

Yvonne also discussed her previous roles in engaging small businesses in nation wide campaigns and helping them connect to resources and other companies to get inspired. She surprisingly finds that most of the cutting edge work in CSR and civic and social impact is coming from smaller businesses!

Yvonne also talked about job trends and necessary skills for this field. This was significant.
How do we align every day with volunteer trends and social good? Ultimately, most people are looking for the kind of work that means something, whether that be met through volunteerism, or through the mission and practices of the business. the CSR role that businesses have globally and in communities is huge and trending. People want opportunities to give back. As social workers, we understand that. That is likely a large reason why we went into the field of social work to begin with.

Yvonne shared the hard and soft skills that she has developed which set her up to do the work she is doing now. Hard skills include project management, writing, research, and communication (communicate best practices in a concise way and communicate with many different types of people). Soft skills include flexibility, communicating across culture and time zones, navigating team dynamics, being comfortable with ambiguity, and paying attention to detail while having the larger picture in mind.

Many of these soft skills are highlighted in a recent video by HBX- Ernest Wilson, dean of the Annenberg School of Communications & Journalism at the University of Southern California, discusses the top skills needed for the future, skills that social workers naturally possess and develop in their education and experience.

Where Should I Go From Here?

Push yourself and take responsibility for your own personal and professional growth and career . There is no one clear path to success, so you have to constantly keep defining success based upon what gives you the most purpose in your life”

To be honest, this is one of the most simple, but most motivating pieces of advice I’ve heard so far. Push yourself, challenge yourself!

Easier said than done? I have three suggestions that I’ve been pushing myself to try that have resulted in motivation and confidence.

1. My first suggestion is related to self awareness. Do you truly know the qualities you possess? Are you comfortable expressing and talking about them? This doesn’t include vague, impersonal skills or qualities like “hard worker” or “nice”. This includes real, personal qualities. What makes you, you?! What do you bring to the table? How do you work best?

Amongst many other self-awareness and personality assessments, I have tried Gallup’s Strengths-Finder. This is a great took to get to know yourself better, and to become more aware of how your qualities apply and translate into your everyday life and future goals.

2. Next, add these discovered skills, qualifications, and keywords to your resume, or at least be ready to talk about them. Do you have anything related to these qualities on your resume? How can you talk about your experience and sell yourself using this new knowledge?

3. Finally, my third take-away is (this may sounds familiar)…network!

Yvonne shared how many of her clients can learn from other companies that are doing well.

You look at other companies and find out how they are successful and then take their strategies!

This can be applied to networking as well. You can learn fro other people that are in positions in which you could see yourself one day. Reach out and find out how they got there. Get inspired and “connect the dots”!

What conferences and workshops can you attend in your area? Yvonne discusses many different conferences and training sessions during her conversation. Do a Google search! Remember you’re on your own path and there’s no clear, or right, direction. You won’t be given anything, you need to search for it!

So, how do you define your own success? What qualities do you possess that can help you market yourself to potential employers? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section below.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch Yvonne’s entire Career Series Session, I encourage you to take a peek. Her words will surely inspire you to become more self aware and to challenge you to become familiar with your the professional qualities you posses.




Breaking the Bonds: Moving Away from Zero-Tolerance Policies

Many of us probably grew up witnessing classmates being sent to detention, and some of us might even have feared being sent ourselves. Although our fear of detention was mostly due to the fear of getting in trouble with our parents, we were also aware that detention was a few steps away from being expelled from school. For some students today, school discipline creates another level of fear. Under a zero-tolerance policy, any disruption in class can lead to an automatic expulsion.

While zero tolerance measures were inspired by school shootings in primarily white suburban schools, they have mostly been adopted and enforced in urban schools, disproportionately impacting the poor, and students of color. Student’s in low-income areas with zero tolerance measures have a greater chance of being suspended and expelled. African-American students only represent 16% of the students in the U.S Department of Education, but account for 40% of students expelled, making them three times more likely to be suspended than white students. American Indian students represent less than 1% of the student population but account for 3% of expulsions.

Zero-tolerance policies do not distinguish between serious and non-serious offenses; students have been expelled for tardiness or simply carrying nail clippers. These policies don’t differentiate between students having behavioral disorders versus students intentionally causing trouble. Students as young as preschool have been approached with force and handcuff for minor disciplinary issues such as throwing a temper tantrumHow do suspension, expulsion, and arrest help change the child’s behavior?

It is time to reexamine school disciplinary measures. It is understandable that people want to
ensure school safety, but there is no evidence that zero-tolerance policies actually improve school safety. There is, however, evidence that zero-tolerance policies account for high percentage of juvenile arrests for 70% of African American and Latino students. Schools should be a safe haven for students, not a place where they are subjected to arrest. Students need a supportive school climate that promotes learning, not punishment. There needs to be a decrease in suspensions, and discipline needs to refocus on the social emotional and behavioral needs of the students.

If you are concerned about the prevalence and impact that suspensions have on students, let your local school district committees, and policy leaders know that you want to see a decrease in suspension referrals. Suspension and expulsion are not the best forms of discipline as it does not support youth development, they do not give students the opportunity to improve the behavioral issue. Removing students from school is excluding them from the opportunity to engage in prosocial behaviors and lowering their chances of graduating.  

For an effective student behavioral change, schools need to develop disciplinary approaches that are evidence-based. This video shows how schools are replacing suspensions with holistic approaches. Our children’s education depends on our dedication to implementing alternative disciplinary measures.

In order to bring awareness to the impact of zero tolerance policies as well as share best practices on alternative disciplinary measures, we invite you to join us for a tweetchat on April 6, 2017 at 12pm PST/3pm EST. Make sure to follow The Alliance for Positive Youth Development on Twitter @ideas4youth and use the hashtag #APYDCHAT. We look forward to coming together on this important issue and working towards positive and sustainable change in policy and perspective.


Persistence Pays Off: Words of Wisdom from Earnestine Walker

Earnestine Walker, the Vice President of Community Health and Inclusion at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Great Rivers Affiliate has over 15 years of experience in nonprofit, government, and university environments. During her feature on our Social Change Career Series, she offered advice about leadership skills, qualities that she values and looks for in job applicants, and what she has learned throughout her experience. This discussion reminded me how there is no such thing as failure; there are only learning experiences to help you grow and prepare you for future roles. When the job search becomes wearing, and you feel like giving up or feel as if you’ve failed, Earnestine’s advice will remind you to stay positive, focused, and open to learning experiences. 

Leadership Skills

After being turned down when she applied to her dream job for not having enough experience, Earnestine worked hard to acquire the skills that were required of the positive and proved herself, eventually landing the position she originally wanted. Some may have viewed not getting the position originally as “failure”, but she perceived it as an opportunity to learn and better prepare herself for it. She never gave up and always made it a priority to collaborate and learn from others who were “smarter than her”. 

I should never, ever be the smartest person in the room. There are so many gifted, smart people who you need to be surrounded by who will help keep you level headed. I do understand what I bring, and I hope I have some worth, but there are other people who have talents and expertise that I don’t. I worked with people who were smarter than me, I saw what they did and the I said, “aha! I can do that”.

In regards to her position at AHA developing and implementing new programs, Earnestine values discipline, research skills, and balancing being both flexible/adaptable while practicing structure and strict compliance. Organizations have funders they are responsible for, so following through with expectations is crucial. She also emphasized the importance of not being IN the community you’re working to develop for, but being OF the community. Get to know the community, play various roles, and remember that communities are “savvy”. Don’t assume you know best, but learn from the community and others and incorporate that into your program. That’s the only way your program will be sustainable.

Where Should I Go From Here?

There are three main takeaways from Earnestine’s career series that really resonated with me and that I am considering during my job search:

  1. Don’t be afraid to get your foot in the door. Sure, maybe you feel a bit overqualified for a position, but can you see yourself learning in this position, eventually preparing you for the one that you want? A lot of times organizations hire from within, so don’t be too prideful- everyone has to start somewhere. Starting at the bottom prepares you for the top. Get in there, network, and connect and learn from people who are smarter than you! There is no such thing as failure.
  2. Be able to tell your story in a way that appeals to the position and organization you are applying for. Learn how to identify your skills and get creative in understanding how they are transferrable to a new position. Earnestine shared an example of a veteran; “if you’ve done planning in the military, you can do planing at the AHA, it’s all in the way you tell your story and skills. Even if the experience is not a perfect fit, make a case for yourself!”
  3. If you get turned down, work harder, meet your goals, learn, and re-apply. Your career is a path, so don’t get too focused or let down by just one stop.

Have you ever experienced a professional let down? How did you handle and grow from it? Share your story in the comments below.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch Earnestine Walker’s entire Career Series Session, I encourage you to take a peek. Her words will surly encourage you to use view your perceived set backs as stepping stones to your ultimate success.




The Importance of Adaptation: Lessons Learned from Erich Pica

Learning to adapt

One of our most recent speakers in the Social Change Career Series, Erich Pica, is the President of Friends of the Earth. He has a long career as a lobbyist and activist for the environment and works on policy development. His career series session offers some fascinating thoughts about the importance of today’s political climate; how this climate inevitably impacts the work that social workers and policy developers do; and finally, what skills and some advice to manage and be successful in this rapidly changing climate.  

Be adaptable – Take risks!

I took two major takeaways from Erich Pica’s career series. The first was the discussion around the challenge of sticking to your mission, while also being adaptable and comfortable with evolving. This is necessary for organizations to stay alive and relevant. The second is to remember that no one knows the answers to issues that we as social workers are trying to resolve; therefore be humble, collaborate with others, and take risks.

This advice can also be applied when thinking about our job search. We may know our mission, the overall goal that we want to achieve, but, it’s possible that the exact position that you are looking for is not available- maybe you don’t even know what it is yourself, yet. Erich’s experience of being a general intern at Friends of the Earth allowed him to learn the ins and outs of the organization, and eventually led him to being the director.  As job searchers, we need to find an organization or cause that we believe in, that aligns with our personal values and missions, and if we can be adaptable in the roles that we play within the growth of that organization, we will be successful.

“Have fidelity to your mission, be able to recognize where change is coming, and evolve and adapt to this change” – Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth

Where Should I Go from Here?

One great way to get involved in this type of work is by researching organizations that already exist that you are inspired by. Learn everything you can about them; discover what what they are doing and why they have survived. What specific projects are they working on that you could see yourself getting involved in?  Luckily, today’s world of social media and the world wide web gives you direct access to all the information you need.

Once you are inspired, reach out to people in the organization (Try LinkedIn)! A friend who was also on the job search typed up a short, general note that she sent out to about 40 people she found on LinkedIn who worked in organizations that interested her. This note explained a bit about herself, and more importantly asked to learn more about their experience and position. Her “no shame” approach got her about 4 coffee dates and a few interviews. One person who she reached out to at an organization she had applied for gave her feedback; they stated how she “stood out from the other 400 applications”, and they may have overlooked her otherwise.

Just like Erich Pica advised, TAKE RISKS!take risks

Finally, try and volunteer. Is there any organization you can get involved in on the weekends? Yes, we are busy, but even just once a month might be enough to make amazing connections and “get your feet wet”.

What are some ways you are taking risks in your job search? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch Erich Pica’s entire Career Series Session I encourage you to take a peek. I have no doubt you will be equally inspired by his journey.