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.

Nzinga Shaw on The Good Works Show

This week’s episode of the Good Works Show featured a guest who is achieving great results in creating new norms.  Nzinga Shaw is the first person to hold the title of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the NBA, ensuring fans and players alike know that the team is more than just about their percentage from the free-throw line.

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At the end of the season, every team wants to have more wins than losses, and always has their eye on making it to the championship. There are times, though, when the game is about more than just the game.

For the Atlanta Hawks, priorities extend beyond the club’s free-throw percentage as they place increased focus on diversity and inclusion on and off the court. In fact, the team’s staff includes the first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer position in the NBA, with Nzinga Shaw at the helm.

The Diversity and Inclusion office oversees three key areas. Working on internal engagement, a good employee and job candidate experience is encouraged, making sure job opportunities are publicized in the community to reach diverse demographics, and creating programs so employees can reach their full potential.

“That’s really what diversity is about,” Shaw said. “It’s about finding out what’s great about each individual and then having them put in positions to shine and succeed.”

From there, the office focuses on the game experience itself. Beyond the basketball, they put together a show that attracts a diverse group of fans to the arena. This includes engaging different groups, such as women, and the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities.

Lastly, the Diversity and Inclusion initiative works on strategic partnerships to ensure that the team partners companies that align with their community and outreach goals. Women and minority-owned businesses have been sought out, in addition to the more traditional, larger companies with Atlanta ties.

Atlanta’s rich and diverse community provides a solid starting point for the team’s efforts. Shaw hopes to work with the diversity of the city to bring more people together, and promote integration.

“It’s not about competition, but it’s about coming together to provide a unique experience that everyone can enjoy,” Shaw said. “It showed that we can be unified. At the end of the day, we are human beings, we respect one another, and we all deserve to live a good life.”

The Hawks’ MOSAIC Program, Model of Shaping Atlanta through Inclusive Conversation, is currently organizing its second event. The program tackles different issues and topics impacting the community, and brings together thought leaders from across Atlanta.

Last year’s event was held at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, and revolved around the theme of race and gender in sports. Grant Hill, Atlanta Hawks owner and seven-time NBA all-star opened the program with “fireside chat” with his mother, a former MLB consultant. The two discussed the challenges that people of color face in moving up the ladder in professional sports. The event also included a panel discussion on multi-dimensional diversity in professional sports.

This year’s MOSAIC event will be held on March 14 at the Georgia Freight Depot, and will center around the theme of sports as a catalyst for social change. “I think social action is really what we need to be talking about this year,” Shaw said.

Invitations to the event are first extended to the Hawks’ community, including sponsors and partners. Then, remaining seats will be opened up to the general public. More information on the event and tickets can be found on the Community section of the website at www.hawks.com.

To listen to the full episode of The Good Works Show, click here.

In Case You Missed it…Literacy Action and First Step Staffing on The Good Works Show

Last week on The Good Works Show, two local nonprofits shared how they are making lasting impacts on the community. In the first segment, Literacy Action’s Executive Director Austin Dickson said, “Our mission is to teach literacy life and work skills to undereducated adults and help them reach their highest potential wherever we find those adults in the community.” As an adult literacy nonprofit, Literacy Action helps adults learn to read, learn math skills, and even receive their GED.

Dave Shaffer from First Step Staffing joined the show in the second segment to explain the idea that there is more to finding a job, than just finding a job. The nonprofit helps those with barriers to employment find steady work. While most staffing agencies are for-profit, First Step uses their “profits” to provide additional wrap-around services for their clients. In addition to finding employment opportunities, they help with job coaching, mentoring, and transportation to interviews and work. “First Step Staffing seeks to end poverty and homelessness by providing sustainable income and income streams,” he said.

To learn more about the work these nonprofits are doing in the community, listen to the full show here.

Kidz2leaders and Leadership Johns Creek on The Good Works Show

Mother Theresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

This week, The Good Works Show features two organizations creating those ripples. First, Atlanta’s kidz2leaders works with children of imprisoned parents, teaching them leadership and life skills, and hoping to break the cycle of incarceration. Then, Leadership Johns Creek offers development opportunities for Atlanta’s emerging leaders. Creating a pipeline of effective professionals, the program also provides avenues to give back to the community.

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In the show’s first segment, Executive Director Nancy Staub talks about the 17-year-old kidz2leaders program.

“Kidz2leaders exists to change the direction of the lives of children of inmates,” she says.

The 501c3 was founded by Diane Parrish, who encountered three generations of women from the same family, all in prison.

Leadership Johns Creek board member Todd Burkhalter joins the show in its last segment to talk about the program, and the impact it has on its participants and the community at large.

“We are a series of structured learning environments,” he says. “It’s a pretty unique thing that we design ourselves to create leadership talent and mature our current talent in our community.”

The program selects 25 individuals to go through a nine-month leadership training. They are broken up into groups to also work on a project to help the community in some way.

To learn more about these “ripple effect” organizations, catch the show Saturday at noon on News Radio 106.7 FM or listen at your leisure to the podcast.

Leadership Tip from Usher’s New Look Alumna Kamera Cobb

Usher’s New Look alumna Kamera Cobb learned a thing or two from going through the four-year program. One of the many leadership tips she picked up while participating with the nonprofit? Networking, and how you present yourself, is key.

Usher
Usher

She emphasizes this with the current students of the program, with whom she advises. “It’s all about eye contact, a firm handshake, and speaking clearly,” she tells them.

These tips are also critical when interviewing for a job. First impressions are key, and even the littlest component of the initial meeting can contribute to the overall success of the interview. Beyond eye contact and confidence Cobb suggests, here are a few more ways to make your mark.

  1. Don’t be late. But don’t be too early. The potential employer might have a very busy schedule, so don’t show up too ahead of your interview, making them scramble to be available.
  2. Dress appropriately. This will likely be the first time you have met the employer face-to-face. Make sure you wear something that fits well, is ironed and clean, and is professional.
  3. Practice your elevator speech. All interviews are different, but it’s usually a given that you’ll be asked to tell the interviewer a little bit about yourself, and why you are a good fit for the job. Be prepared with this answer.
  4. Treat everyone with respect. You aren’t just trying to impress the interviewer. Make sure to be kind and appreciative to everyone from the secretary to the CEO.
  5. Send a handwritten thank-you note. Emails and quick communications are the norm. Stand out by taking the time to write, and mail, an appreciation for the time of your interviewers.

For more job and leadership tips tune in to The Good Works Show on Saturdays at noon on News Radio 106.7 FM or catch the podcasts at https://soundcloud.com/thegoodworksshow.

Goodwill Spotlight: Local Leadership

Leadership-QuoteA leader can be made in many ways—on the field, in the office, or even in the community. Through hard work and dedication to their team they gain confidence and the respect of their peers. Leaders show grit and determination, and a passion for whatever the task at hand.

This Goodwill spotlight is all about these leaders—cultivating them, and giving them the opportunity to shine and succeed.

“BlazeSports America is the legacy nonprofit organization of the 1996 Paralympic Games that were held here in Atlanta,” says Cynthia Frisina, Executive Director of BlazeSports. “We are a nonprofit organization that serves children, teenagers, and veterans in adaptive and Paralympic sports. We also do international work in several different countries, as well as training and education nationally. We are the only organization nationally that is certified in adaptive sports and recreation training.”

From children to veterans, Frisina talks about how everyone can find a place in sports. “We believe that everyone can participate in sports,” she says. “We have seen how sports have changed people’s lives. It becomes the highlight of what they do.”

One example Frisina offers is the story of a wounded veteran who came back from war paralyzed from the waist down, depressed, with PTSD, and attempting multiple times to commit suicide. He is now participating in track and field with BlazeSports, and is on the road to making it to the Paralympics.

She also shares the story of an eleven-year-old athlete with a severe spinal cord injury. He participates in four different sports, and his family gotten involved with the organization. This year they were awarded “Volunteer Family of the Year.”


Another local organization championing leadership is Portara Consulting. “I’m a consultant psychologist, and I’ve been in this business for about 18 years,” says Karen Foster of Portara Consulting. “I’m really a single-practitioner, but I have others in my network. I consider myself to be a trusted leadership adviser.”

Foster offers her services to individuals and organizations around the topics of leadership and leadership development. She meets with the individual seeking leadership development, in an interview of sorts, and they both determine if the other is a good fit. “It’s the fit that really makes a difference,” she says.

Once hired, Foster starts with a 360 degree evaluation to gather data around the individual. She talks to the individual, but also their peers and coworkers. This feedback paints a fuller picture of the individual’s leadership style.

They then discuss an action plan and how to address the feedback. Most work lasts about a year, as the individual is constantly growing and developing in their leadership. The two meet at least once a month, sometimes twice a month, for 1.5 hours.

Foster encounters a lot of lopsided leaders, or those who are very analytical and less in tune with how they have an impact with people around them. She also works with reluctant leaders, or those with great technical skill, but who are a bit ambivalent about leadership and managing people.

“I try to adapt how I’m talking and my values based on the values of the individuals I am working with and the organization they are in,” she added.

To contact Foster, interested individuals can go to www.potaraconsulting.com or email at kfoster@portaraconsulting.com.