New Hope and Progress in East Lake

The East Lake neighborhood that people know today is not one and the same of 25 years ago. Formerly overrun with blight and crime, the community has seen a resurgence and revitalization, offering a safe place for families to live and grow.

Much of this transformation is thanks to The East Lake Foundation, a community nonprofit whose mission is to redevelop the area through mixed-income housing, cradle-to-college education, and community wellness. Started in 1995, the Foundation provides opportunities for residents to get the resources and support services they need.

The Villages of East Lake, the Foundation’s mixed-income housing, provides a safe and stable living environment for the neighborhood’s residents. Residents receive the support they need without the stigma, and subsidized housing is situated right alongside tenant-rent housing.

Their education pillar stands strong with the Drew Charter School, the city’s first public-charter school, started in 2000. Once a public elementary ranking at the bottom of the 69 elementary schools in Atlanta, it’s now a K-12 site that seeks to have 100% of its seniors graduate every year.  Offering additional educational opportunities for children as young as six-weeks old, The East Lake Foundation partners with East Lake Sheltering Arms and the Early Learning Academy at the East Lake YMCA, giving students a chance to learn and be ready before they even enter Kindergarten at Drew Charter School.

“We’ve really disrupted the cradle to prison pipeline and replaced it with a cradle to college pipeline,” East Lake Foundation President Daniel Shoy said.

In the old school, less than ten percent of students in the 5th grade were able to meet or exceed state standards. Today, nearly 100% meet or exceed these assessments. The students at Drew have also been measured against their peers at other public schools, and rank above the 50th percentile in nationally recognized standards. Students living in the Villages of East Lake receive first priority for preference. Additional spaces are given to those in the greater East Lake and Kirkwood areas.

The Foundation’s goal is for 100 percent of its 82 graduating seniors to be accepted to at least one college. “We want to eliminate the barrier of access,” Shoy said. “In the old East Lake, you were more likely to be the victim of violent crime or the victim of a felony, than you were to graduate high school.”

In addition to the Foundation’s housing and education work, small businesses are also supported through the Start ME (micro entrepreneurship) initiative.  The Foundation offers an accelerator program and connects small businesses with mentors, business plan coaching, and even help them increase their credit score.

The Foundation has seen great success from its holistic community work. When still in its time of turmoil, the East Lake community’s crime rate was 18 times the national average, but there has been a 90% decrease in violent crimes, and the crime rate for the neighborhood is 23 percent below the city’s average.

More information on the East Lake Foundation can be found online at www.eastlakefoundation.org.

Do you want to hear the full episode of The Good Works Show? Click here.

Building the Next Generation From the Ground Up

Author and entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said that “whatever good things we build end up building us.” The Atlanta Center for Creative Inquiry is building a new cohort of creatives, bringing the world of architecture and design to the students of Atlanta.

Expert architect Oscar Harris started the organization in 2004, in hopes of giving high school students the opportunity to explore their own creativity and to showcase the profession to a diverse group of young people. With a mission to mentor, educate, and develop their abilities and provide a greater diversity in the architectural, engineering, and construction industries, ACCI seeks to bolster the fields with the next generation of professionals.

With staggeringly low numbers of minorities and women in the architecture field, Harris and ACCI bring architecture and design within reach of their students, expanding the opportunities for students who might not have considered the profession. Currently, just 1.5 percent of all registered architects are African American, six percent are Asian, and just 22 percent are women.

While they are still in high school, ACCI works with these students to expose them to jobs in the field. Partnering with local colleges and universities, ACCI also works with inner-city students to give them the chance to experience a summer on-campus experience. And, to further boost the pipeline of the profession, ACCI connects their students with area professionals to give them a one-on-one mentorship experience from someone already in the field.

Students who participate in the ACCI program learn from Atlanta’s best, attending lectures, touring construction sites, and visiting architectural firms. They focus on a wide-range of architectural styles and learning, including sustainable design and commercial building.

And, each summer, ACCI presents a week-long academy for 9-12th graders, held at Georgia Tech. While learning from professional instructors, they also get the chance to get hands-on—literally. Students in the program are required to come up with a design concept, and sketch it by hand. From there, they build a 3D model and present their work to their ACCI peers.

“At the end of the week, you’ll be able to stand up in front of everybody and give a presentation on your idea,” Harris said. “When a child comes out of the program, they feel empowered. For the first time, they have been able to develop an idea. They have rendered that idea, and they have presented that idea.”

“The main thing is to get these students excited about themselves and excited about creativity,” Harris added. “We want to get them to see that there is a future for them and a career in architecture, engineering and construction.”

ACCI has worked with hundreds of students in the Atlanta area, seeing many go on to prestigious architecture and design programs in their post-secondary education. More information and applications for this summer’s academy can be found online at www.acci.org. Listen to the full episode of The Good Works Show, here.

Meet Jackie: The Go-To Gal

Jackie Proctor is a natural born leader who has a curiosity for change and an eagerness to grow. That motivation and leadership hasn’t slowed down since the day she walked into the Oakwood Store two years ago looking for a job. Since joining the team as a store associate, Proctor has been the go-to person for customers and her co-workers. “Everyone comes to me with questions and I really enjoy helping people,” she says.

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Her willingness to help others and dedication to working hard sparked her interest in becoming a team lead. “I really love it here, it’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I especially like the people I work with and the customers I get to meet,” she says. Taking on more responsibility, putting her best self forward, providing excellent customer service and helping her co-workers are just a few ways Proctor exemplifies what it means to be a leader.

From store associate to team lead to hopes of one day earning an assistant store manager position, Proctor is determined to continue advancing her career, as well as her individual goals. Through her experiences, Proctor credits the development of her leadership and customer service skills to Goodwill.

Leadership Tip: The Importance of Showing Up

Show up

Woody Allen once said, “80-percent of life is showing up.” This week’s guest on The Good Works Show, Michael Lucas, Deputy Director of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyer Foundation, seems to agree.

“I think leadership is all about the power and the value of showing up,” he said. “Whether it’s as a leader and showing up for your staff, or it’s for an organization that wants to do community change, there is incredible value in just showing up, and being present in solidarity with the community or client base you are trying to serve. Both the leader and the organization will reap the benefits of that.”

To hear more from Lucas, listen to the episode podcast.

Leadership Tip from Elisa Buckner, Summerhill Community Ministries

never give upLeading an organization (or department, or project at work) can be hard, tiring work. But, according to Elisa Buckner, Board Member of Atlanta’s Summerhill Community Ministries, it’s important to stay strong and focused, and get through the task at hand, no matter what.

“Never give up,” she said. “There are definitely times when the funding might not be there, or challenges might come up and you feel overwhelmed, but don’t give up. When you are working with people and you are working with real, live beings, you want to keep encouraging, keep teaching, and keep giving positive alternatives to what may be a very dark situation that they are in.”

As a leader, how can you inspire others (and yourself) to keep going with the work gets tough?

  1. Break it down. Sometimes work can be overwhelming. Take the project or work one step at a time, setting smaller, achievable goals and benchmarks. Focus on the smaller pieces that will eventually make up the whole puzzle.
  2. Stop to smell the roses. Or, to take a walk. Or, to have dinner with a friend. Encourage staff to take time for themselves. If the work is hard and stressful, they will need some moments to recharge and refresh, and come back ready to try again.
  3. Celebrate small wins. Motivate the team by recognizing accomplishments along the way.
  4. Show them the bigger picture. The project at hand may cause some long hours and sleepless nights, but it’s all part of the larger mission. Accomplishing the task will set the organization up for success.

Leadership Tip from The Good Works Show

Howard Lubert, Managing Director of the Rowan Innovation Venture Fund, joined The Good Works Show to talk about Rowan’s investment initiatives, but also left listeners with a leadership tip.

jockey

“Smart investors invest in jockeys, not horses,” he said. “We are looking for leaders who generate the kind of strength and charisma and trust that make us want to write checks. It’s not about the cure for cancer, and it’s not about the key fob that finds your keys. It’s about the guy who can gather the troops and make things happen and generate that loyalty and trust.”

But how does an effective leader build loyalty and trust? Here are a few tips to get you started.

Encourage open communication. Allow your staff and team to speak freely about their work and their ideas. Let them know their opinions are valid and valued.

Collaboration is key. Each part of the team plays a key role in the work. Remind them that working together is critical to success. This will help form bonds and connections within the organization.

Invest in your employees. Let your team know their professional development is a top priority. The organization is only as strong as each individual member, so ensuring each employee both maintains their skills and grows in their position.

Don’t micromanage. Trust that you have put together a strong team. By giving them some freedom to do their work, you’ll show your staff you have faith in their abilities and competencies.

Promote a positive work culture. Recognize the efforts of your team, and applaud jobs well done. Show your staff you appreciate the time they put into their work, and that the organization couldn’t succeed without them.

Hear more from Howard Lupert on the Healthcare Angels podcast of The Good Works Show at http://goodwillng.org/goodworks.

Leadership Tip from Chelsea Manning of Philanthropitch

In her role evaluating worthy organizations for Philanthropitch, Chelsea Manning has worked with nonprofit leaders from all over the country. In addition to funding ideas that are making a difference, the Philanthropitch program loves to support organizations with innovative and forward-thinking leaders. She also looks for a little humility from these leaders.

“Honesty and transparency are what we look for when we are talking to nonprofit leaders—someone who can honestly say ‘We don’t quite know what we are doing in this area, so we know we need help here, but we know we have a really good idea.’”

So as a leader, why are honesty and transparency so important?

1. Honesty and transparency creates trust. Employees want to know they are in the loop, and aren’t being kept in the dark. This trust helps promote a sense of stability in the workplace, and ultimately encourages loyalty among the staff.

2. Teamwork is enhanced. Transparency and honesty allows for leaders and staff members alike to show and discuss their strengths, demonstrating how each can best contribute to the work.

3. Problems are solved more quickly. Lack of honesty and transparency often causes a communication breakdown or barrier. When leaders and staff are encouraged to talk about what they need, they become better able to resolve any issues that arise within a project or the workplace.

4. Creativity thrives. An open and honest workplace lets employees feel supported to do their best work, and allows them to be more engaged.

5. Respect is earned. Honesty and transparency keeps leaders authentic. Employees can respect a boss that can both lead by example, and also be willing to admit that they don’t have all the answers.

Good Works Show Leadership Tip: Find the Right People

 

EM-Foster-QuoteAtlanta-based Amplify 4 Good creates social and organizational change by using rapid problem-solving techniques and by coming up with innovative solutions to challenges. Amplify’s co-founder and Executive Director Joey Womack joined The Good Works Show to talk about the organization and offer some leadership advice to listeners.
“Build a solid team. Hire slowly, fire quickly. Definitely take time to find the right people—people that have the values that you see in your organization, people that are committed to the cause.”

An organization that thrives on efficiency and high-paced work would surely depend on an effective team, but a quality staff is critical for any organization. Here are some steps to creating a strong group.

1. Define your organization’s needs and goals. By identifying the mission of your work, you will be better able to fill it with people who can get the task at hand done.

2. When hiring for a position, meet multiple people. Even if you think you’ve found “the one” in the first interview, sit down with at least a couple more. This will broaden your selection pool and enable you to pick the best person for the job.

3. Throw a curveball. Move the interview mid-conversation. Have another employee come into the room to ask a question. This will allow you to see how the job candidate responds to different situations.

4. Get the opinion of the current team. Have the job candidate talk with a few different members of the staff. Let them get a feel for the potential new employee to evaluate whether or not they would be a good fit.

5. Consider all sides. This person may have the technical experience, but do they come with the passion and the drive? Try to fill your team with people who have a combination of tangible and intangible skills.

Hear more from Womack on the episode podcast.

Leadership Tip from Mandy Williams of Northern Star Independent Transitional Living

Good Works Show guest Mandy Williams, founder and executive director of Northern Star Independent Transitional Living, offers listeners a leadership tip for finding a job they love. “Follow your dreams,” she says. “If you are passionate about something, stick with it. Ask for help. Learn all you can.”

What if you know what you like, but aren’t sure of your passion? Here are some tips to pinpoint your dream job:

  1. NorthStarLdrspThink  about who you admire. Professionals, family members, community leaders. What are they doing? Maybe you admire them because they are doing what you want to do. And, if their path doesn’t exactly align with your wants, you can at least look to them for advice on how they got to where they are.
  2. Evaluate what you spend your time on outside of work. What you do after the 9-5 is often the most important to you. Can you turn that into a job or career?
  3. Forget the money. Sure, paying the bills is important. Passion work, though, is about what you would do if money was no object. Try to leave the money part out of the initial search for the right path.
  4. Make a list of deal breakers. What don’t you want to do? What is a work environment that you couldn’t handle? Sometimes gauging what you don’t like will lead you to something you do.
  5. Do your research. Read biographies of established leaders and learn how they got to their position. Check out professional development books like What Color is Your Parachute? Peruse career and lifestyle websites like Levo League (www.levo.com) and Clarity on Fire (www.clarityonfire.com).

Catch this episode’s podcast to hear more from Mandy Williams.

Leadership Tip from Cassius Butts of the Small Business Administration

Go outside and do something you will remember

Cassius Butts, Regional Administrator for the Southeastern Region of the Small Business Association joined this week’s episode of The Good Works Show, and offered listeners his best leadership advice.

“It starts with volunteerism,” he said. “You have to ask what ways can I help to be a part of someone else’s dream and help to bring those to fruition.”

“What I learned through leadership development was that it is important to say that service is important and affects every community and every walk of life,” he added. “Having that type of involvement helps to build leadership and helps to build stamina that to say that we can sustain any type of challenge we may face and we also are huge in network.”

So how does volunteering and serving your community help you professionally?

  1. It shows a dedication to a cause bigger than you. Volunteering means taking time out of your busy schedule to give back to the community around you. Employers recognize this added effort and hard work, and it looks great on a resume.
  2. It gets you out into the community. By lending a hand where it is needed most, you’ll better understand the needs of the community and the people who live there. If your full-time employer happens be in the same community, it’s a great way to increase your familiarity with the neighborhood in which you work.
  3. It broadens your network. Volunteering in the community brings you together with professionals from other organizations and career paths. This will open up your connections in ways you wouldn’t have found within just your company.
  4. It makes you more well-rounded. Volunteering is usually an all-hands-on-deck situation. This means that you will likely do multiple jobs, expanding your experience as you do.
  5. It’s a great way to bond with your team or coworkers. Many nonprofits in need of volunteers coordinate opportunities for large groups. You can complete a project with other employees from your work, further building these professional relationships in a setting outside of the normal office.