General Post – SPECIAL FEATURE Marta Haynes – Defining Sisterhood

Sisterhood: Fostering an enviroment of authencitcy, empowerment and success

Last week, I attended the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit in Phoenix, Arizona.  My leadership chain (all men) nominated me to attend and provided sponsorship.  To be totally honest, I felt both honored and nervous.  I am 100% caucasian, and I didn’t know how I would be received by fellow conference attendees.  Nonetheless, I was excited to attend and firmly committed to listen with big, wide-open ears; afterall, how many times do I as a white person get a chance to be “in the minority”?

The moment I set foot on the conference site, I could feel the amped up energy.  Once I put on my conference badge, I was approached by many conference attendees – greeting me, asking me where I was from, welcoming me… I was actually feeling quite sheepish and shy!  This all felt like a lot to take in, and I wanted to retreat into a protective shell.

As I attended sessions, I noticed the distinct themes of authenticity, personal integrity, and sisterhood.  The importance of being seen for who you really are.  I actually felt quite envious as I heard story after story of woman helping woman.  How can I find a group like THAT?  I would love to have some of what they have!  Why have I never truly experienced this? Do I REALLY feel seen?  Am I REALLY comfortable with expressing my authenticity?

About a day and a half into the conference, I had my big “aha” moment:  the discomfort and self-consciousness I was feeling was not the result of any experience I have EVER had with any community of women who were different from me.  All of the insecurity I was feeling came as a result of my experience with interacting with groups of caucasian females – women just like me!  Tears immediately sprang to my eyes and I turned to the ladies sitting next to me, and with all the raw vulnerability I was experiencing in that moment – I shared my heart.  And you know what happened next?  My heart was unabashedly received.  The lady sitting next to me grabbed my hands and leaned forward and thanked me – “do you promise to come back next year and bring other people who think like you, too?  This conference is for everyone – and now that you know our struggle, now that you hear our voice, you are in a better position to help us.”  I asked the three caucasian ladies in my work group (total conference attendees = 1,500), and they too shared stories of competition, woundedness, judgment and rejection, all from predominantly caucasian groups of women.

Ladies – of COURSE I thought about the JLM.  We want to stay true to our mission and foster an environment that truly empowers women.  We want to continue to attract and retain a diverse base of members – so that a broad range of women’s voices will be represented.  The following list summarizes some key learnings from the conference… If you think this sounds remotely interesting, I encourage you to consider attending the conference next year!  I will be.

 

  • Individuals who are being truly authentic foster supportive environments. When we show up as individuals – honoring our unique abilities, physical attritbutes, and ways that we bring value, we create an environment that gives others permission to do the same.  Individuals are inspired to action in these environments.  Teams achieve goals in these environments.  It is perfectly acceptable to take risks, set big goals – and even fail – in these environments.
  • When one lady wins, we all win! This entire concept of celebrating others’ successes as if they were are own was discussed frequently throughout the conference.  It really boils down to a worldview of abundance versus scarcity.  What do I mean by that?  I celebrate others’ successes as much as my own because I realize that there are abundant opportunities for me to win/contribute.  I do not live in a “zero-sum game” kind of world.  A world view of scarcity comes from deeply rooted fear and insecurity: “when she wins, I lose”, “there is not enough for me and her”, “I will not have enough”.  This does not foster an environment of sisterhood, much less an environment of high-performance.
  • Support your sisters publicly, protect the “inner circle”. This concept basically highlights the importance of presenting a unified front to the world.  What does this look like?  It means presenting a unified image to our JLM community partners, it means discussing conflict 1:1 in a private setting with the indivdual(s) directly involved, it means refusing to engage in gossip or discussion that reduces another in the eyes of others.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us…. Love is what we are born with.  Fear is what we learned here.”  ~~ Marianne Williamson

JLM Advocacy: Providing Education to inspire action

DO Something about it: Action to Advocacy

Policy Action Center, their homepage states: keeps you informed on important education issues, helps you find and track legislation, connects you with Congress and gives you the tools you need to be a successful education advocate.

Here is the Education Minnesota’s main site: http://www.educationminnesota.org/advocacy

JLM Advocacy: Providing education to inspiring members to action

How to track State Legislation

Trying to track State legislation?  Check out these links!

Tools for tracking state level legislation:

 

JLM Advocacy: Providing education to inspiring members to action

How Else can I track Legislation?

Here are some resources for tracking legislation.

National Conference of State Legislatures

GovTrack

Education Week

National Education Association

JLM Advocacy: Providing education to inspiring members to action

Federal Legislation Tracking

Trying to track federal legislation?  Check out these links!

Tools for tracking federal legislation:

  • GovTrack.us: This is a free legislative tracking tool created by Joshua Tauberer; it is unaffiliated with government and is used by many congressional transparency websites. Use it to track federal legislation by issue area and set up alerts.
  • https://www.govtrack.us/
  • Congress.gov: The website of the United States Congress, this site includes a searchable database for federal legislation. For those of us who do not know bill numbers by heart, the Advanced Search function offers a Subject Search by Policy Area and Legislative Subject Terms.
  • https://www.congress.gov/advanced-search/legislation

 

Subscription databases for federal legislation include the following:

 

JLM Advocacy: Providing education to inspiring members to action

A Conversation with AchieveMpls

As the strategic nonprofit partner of Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), AchieveMpls mobilizes our community’s resources to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the tools and support they need to be career and college ready.

The overall graduation rate in MPS is 64 percent (79 percent in comprehensive high schools) but the gap between white students and many students of color is over 20 percent. There is a tremendous opportunity for improvement.

The January Salon discussion focused largely on how AchieveMpls gives students the right tools and information to make choices for their future. By 2020, 74 percent of all jobs in Minnesota will require some form of post-secondary education.  However, not every student is interested in a two or four year post-high school program, so AchieveMpls works with each student to ensure they know their available options.

This kind of guidance isn’t always built into students’ high school experience. For example, the best practice counseling ratio is about 250 students for every counselor. In Minneapolis Public Schools, it is closer to 792 students for every counselor. Which means not every student is getting the level of attention he or she needs. AchieveMpls is focused on ensuring students have support in learning about college and career options that suit their skills and vision for their future. They do this through three primary programs:

Career and College Centers
Located in 10 MPS high schools, CCCs offer career and post-secondary education planning resources for 3,500+ students every year.

Step Up Achieve
This program provides work-readiness training, paid internships and professional mentoring to over 700 Minneapolis youth each year in partnership with 150 top Twin Cities employers.

Volunteers
Each year, AchieveMpls connects students with over 800 volunteers who serve as Graduation Coaches, career exploration volunteers and mock interviewers.

To learn more, visit AchieveMpls.org.

JLM Advocacy: Inspiring members to action

How Can Four Years Last a Lifetime?

Picture a laser beam. Then think of how aiming that laser at your eye, in the hands of an expert, can change your life from coke-bottle glasses to clear vision. One small intervention can change everything — for life.

That’s how Wallin Education Partners functions: one small intervention – a college scholarship of about $4,000 per year — can change one life, for a lifetime. This year Wallin is changing the lives of 540 students and has helped 4,000 students since its creation in 1992.

What does college have to do with the opportunity/achievement gap?

Consider…

·         A college graduate will earn nearly $1M more in his or her lifetime than a high school graduate. Just think about those ripples: that’s more in taxes, less reliance on safety nets and beyond money, better health overall.

·         Likelihood of college graduation goes down if you’re lower income; a person of color; first in the family to go to college. In fact, only 11% of kids who fit that criteria will complete a degree.

·         If you look at top income quartile in the U.S., 77% of those families go to college; in the lowest quartile, only 9% do so.

Clearly a college education plays a major role in equity.

Started by Win Wallin, a former Medtronic CEO and his wife Maxine (a member of the Junior League of Minneapolis and Katherine Phelps award-winner), the organization fulfills his vision to give others the same opportunities he had. The Wallins quickly realized that throwing money at the problem wasn’t the solution. Simply helping more colleges provide more scholarships wouldn’t work. That’s why they “broker” the scholarships so they can both choose kids who need the help and then literally surround each student with support. As in, a master’s level professional who’s there for each student, through all 4 (or 5) years of college.

Another unique component: donor partners, like the Junior League. The scholars know they’re accountable not just to their advisor but also to this partner — in fact they have to report how they’re doing twice a year. (And if you’re curious, our 15 scholars have a 100% graduation rate!)

Who are these scholars? Donor partners can make specific requests (for example JLM sponsors girls who have strong community involvement), but all need a 3.0 grade point average. The vetting process and the support have paid huge dividends: the graduation rate for Wallin scholars is 92% compared to a national average of 59%.

If you want to get involved, email Melissa Burwell (JLM member and Deputy Director) to find out about their Feb 10 meet-up event, and follow them @Wallin_92 or on Facebook. Their 25th gala is coming up this fall.

 

JLM Advocacy: Inspiring members to action

FreeArts (Salon Series Recap)

Free Arts Minnesota’s mission is to bring caring adults alongside youth in challenging circumstances.  Free Arts believes in team-style mentoring, and requires a regular commitment from their volunteers.  This commitment is necessary because these children have been disappointed by the adults in their life, or the only adults they interact with are authority figures like case workers.  These kids are waiting for the other shoe to drop and it’s important that they experience the consistency of regularly spending time with caring adults, time and people they can count on.
Free Arts Minnesota engages the children in a wide variety of arts learning.  They do not do “crafts” with the kids.  They engage in all art mediums with a rigorous curriculum that allows the children to learn, create, and provides them with the opportunity to lead.
The work Free Arts Minnesota does with children is important because as Sara stated, “kids can achieve; they just need to opportunity to do so.”  The children Free Arts works with typically score high on the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) scale.  Adverse childhood experiences have been shown to lead to social and emotional impairment, adoption of high-risk behaviors, disease, and in some cases death.  When children come to Free Arts, they have experienced a level of trauma in their young lives that some people will not ever experience.
Scientific research has shown that there is a connection between brain development and engaging in the arts.  Through arts learning, children who have experienced setbacks due to adverse childhood experiences can gain social and emotional development, diversion from current life circumstances, increased focus, and better academic performance.  Arts learning encourages pro-social behavior, so it also has been shown to increase an understanding of social justice and encourages children to be better citizens.
JLM Advocacy: Providing education to inspire members to action

Reframe it: How a Backpack or a Grocery Store = Equity (Salon Series Recap)

An “equitable food project”. Do you think of Backpack Buddies that way? Probably not, but that’s how Prodeo teacher Jennifer Christensen presented it. She started the Salon by asking members to think about where we would go to buy fresh produce, meat, gluten-free items. How would we get there? How would we carry the items home? For members, the answers are easy. Most of us have cars and we all have multiple options for shopping. But if we lived in North Minneapolis, the story is different. It’s by definition a food desert. For urban areas, that means a 1 mile radius without affordable, nutritious grocery options.

To underline the point she shared minute 1 to about 5 of the documentary “Living in a Food Desert” that really brought home the domino effect of not having healthy food options nearby.

The group then broke up into twos and wrote suggestions on flip charts for how to change the food desert by topic: connections, services, time, money, goods. Ideas ranged from babysitting at the grocery store to volunteer delivery to community gardens.

So what does a food desert have to do with the achievement gap? Well here’s another reframing: think of it as the opportunity gap. It’s not about whether a child can achieve, but whether he or she has opportunities. If a child comes to school unprepared, not surprisingly, they struggle. They lose that opportunity for academic success, which is a key step to economic self-sufficiency. And that’s where Backpack Buddies comes in. By removing a barrier to learning (hunger), we’re helping with one part of the equation for success. And creating more equity.

Jennifer ended the session by sharing some of the organizations working to end the desert by bringing healthy food options to North Minneapolis:

·       Busy Bee Food. Healthy food delivered directly. www.busybeefoods.com

·       Wirth Co-op (opening in the next year): www.wirth.coop/

·       North Market from Pillsbury United Communities (opening fall 2017) www.puc-mn.org/venture/north-market

Check them out and think about how you can create equity.

 

 

JLM Advocacy: Providing education to inspire members to action