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Community Leadership Training Days

Featured Stories

November 2, 2018
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Every generation has a chance to remake history. But if you’re a young person who wants to change the world, where do you start? We created Community Leadership Training Days to help young people answer that question.

The Community Leadership Training Day is a one-and-a-half-day experience designed to inspire and equip young people between the ages of 18 and 25 with the skills and tools they need to create change in their communities. We’ve already hosted Training Days in cities ranging from Tempe to Oakland to Oklahoma City. Take a look at the experiences of some of our recent participants in Dallas below.

A deep skin toned Black woman with short cut hair is leaning on a short wall with her body turned to the left. She is facing the camera with a straight expression and her left hand in a loose fist under her chin. She is wearing a denim button up shirt with a blue and red flannel tied around her waist, pink nail polish and several earrings in her left ear. The background appears to be a hallway within a building.

"I am now accepting the fact that “I belong” and that my community needs real voices and direct representations of who we are."

Tiara Cooper, 25

Client Services Coordinator, Student

she · her · hers

South Dallas to me, is the heartbeat of Dallas. It’s where you have your history, where the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X landmarks are, where the State Fair is held, and overall just a very intimate part of Dallas. It’s small, but lively! The people in my community are lower income, but you wouldn’t even know. The pride and resilience is undeniable, which is what makes my community special.

I care about people and finding the fundamentals needed to create successful plans for everyone in my community to live better. I care about better education, and equal access for my community. I believe if my community had more resources and life education we would make better decisions and thrive.

I’m always looking for positives and how to make my community better. I encourage creativity, and finding a way out when there seems to be no way out. I have made many mistakes. I am a single mother. At 16 my mother passed away from a long battle of HIV, leaving myself and my two siblings to figure a lot out. In time I feel I learned a lot and gained useful wisdom. I have been able to share my experiences and resources to help the next individual develop and make better decisions.

On the impact of the Training Day: My experience was groundbreaking—and honestly shocked me. We were given the opportunity to be ourselves and not who we are on paper. I was expecting things to have a boardroom feel, but this experience helped me look deeper within myself as to why I care so much about my community. I gained so much internal knowledge on what it means to be a great leader and left feeling certain as to what I wanted to do. I am now accepting the fact that “I belong” and that my community needs real voices and direct representations of who we are, what we can be and what we plan to do!

A White man with short and curled light brown hair is leaning against a wall in a building. He is smiling with his mouth closed and his arms folded, showing a watch on his left wrist. He is wearing a dark blue button down shirt with the collar open and the sleeves rolled at the elbow.

"I show up by creating spaces for others to live their truth."

Hanlyn Tyler, 19

Student

they · them · theirs

I am a student, a sibling, a part of a wonderful family, an aspiring lawyer, a traveler, a Texan, a vegetarian, a white person, an organizer, and a female-to-male transgender person. These labels show who I am and who I want to be, both chosen and not.

I show up by creating spaces for others to live their truth, from founding a high school Gay-Straight Alliance to passing legislation in my University Senate to making the student code of conduct for my university use inclusive pronouns.

On the impact of the Training Day: I learned how to better organize and execute plans to empower my community. I am meeting with my school’s pride alliance to set up a trans-specific mentoring program to help the younger or inexperienced trans students on campus know that they can do anything and they are not alone.

A dark skin toned Black man with short cut dark curly hair is sitting on a table. in a classroom with his face turned forward. His body is turned to the side, arms are crossed at the wrist in his lap and he has a straight expression. He is wearing a red and blue multi-colored polo, blue jeans and clear framed glasses.

"I care about my community because it’s comprised of people with different experiences who want an equal shot at the same thing: happiness."

Uzodinma Mgbahurike, 20

Student

he · him · his

I see myself as human and this means I get to be able to understand the experiences of others regardless of their background, race or ethnicity. It’s the reason I care about my community because it’s comprised of people with different experiences who want an equal shot at the same thing: happiness.

On the impact of the Training Day: I walked into this training as someone inexperienced and clueless on ways to affect change in my community. There were all these people my age doing amazing things and I just could not add much to the conversation.

The beautiful thing about this experience was that these people, my people, made me feel welcomed regardless of my inexperience, and they worked with me to find out what my strengths were and how to use them effectively. Instead of feeling jealous, I felt inspired.

Now I know where to focus my energy regarding the issues I care about. I know that I have a network of individuals passionate and ready to help and lend advice with whatever obstacles I face. And most importantly, I know I can do more and I will.

A medium skin toned Black woman with blue, close cut hair is standing with her arms crossed look at the camera with a straight expression. She is wearing gold framed round glasses, a red and black striped t-shirt and an earring in her right ear. The background is a classroom.

"When I Hold a Vial of Insulin in My Hand, I Hold Someone’s Life and Means of Survival."

Danielle Carty, 19

Certified Pharmacy Technician

She · Her · Hers

In my community I care most about those who cannot afford their medication. Most people don’t have a complete understanding of what pharmacy technicians do, but we see the effects of the pharmaceutical industry firsthand. When I hold a vial of insulin in my hand, I hold someone’s life and means of survival.

Although there isn’t much a technician can do when it comes to drug prices or insurance, I do my best. I educate customers on coupons and cheaper alternatives, but I dream of starting a non-profit that educates patients on their medication and actually assists people with paying high copays.

On the impact of the Training Day: The Training Day helped me to connect with others who share the same level of passion for the community. I was able to be myself and navigate key skills to further my goals. I was also able to share my story, identify my values and understand what I have to offer my community and the world.

A medium skin toned Brown man with short black hair and a beard is sitting at a desk in a dark classroom. He is wearing a T-shirt that reads HOWARD UNIVERSITY, a gold necklace and a silver bracelet on his right wrist. He is facing the camera with a straight expression.

"As a Country, We All Have Imperfections and We're Not Embracing Them. We're Attacking Each Other for Them. We Are All Imperfect, but We Also Have a Lot to Bring to the Table."

Jonathan Pena

Vice Principal

He · Him · His

Growing up in east Oakland, California, it was very gritty. We call it the mud. That’s kind of what defines me as well—because I’m from the bottom, because I picked up aluminum cans from dumpsters with my dad at four in the morning, because my cousin was murdered at 19. I am who I am today because of that. A vice principal. A person who values security and safety in his community. A person who values not criminalizing kids, young people of color, just because of a mistake and their young age.

Others may see a “bad kid” who’s always in the vice principal’s office, but I see a child who has limitless potential. I sometimes sit back while I’m chastising a kid who just cussed out his teacher and think, it’s so crazy I get paid to change your life, man.

On the impact of the Training Day: What brought me here was a desire to extend that impact and continue to leverage my strengths, crystallize my assets, and embrace my weaknesses, because we don’t hear that enough in our lexicon. As a country, we all have imperfections and we’re not embracing them. We’re attacking each other for them. We are all imperfect, but we also have a lot to bring to the table.

A medium skin toned Brown woman is leaning to the right against a set of blue lockers in a hallway. She is smiling with her teeth showing and looking away from the camera with her arms folded. She is wearing a multi-colored scarf that covers her hair and neck, a black T-shirt and a gray zippered hoodie.

"My Goal is to Spend My Life Serving and Uplifting the People in This City."

Sommer Iqbal, 23

Legislative Coordinator, Dallas, Tx

She · Her · Hers

I can define myself in many ways but I ultimately see myself as a student. I am constantly learning and growing from my experiences and the people around me. This mindset is important because it allows me the space to continue growing without any limits and to forgive myself for the mistakes I make. I don’t envision a defined end goal for myself. Instead, I see myself as someone with the opportunity to make life what I want it to be.

As a visible Muslim and a child of immigrants, I’ve experienced microaggressions and hostility based on the clothes I wear, the way I look, or the religion I practice. I’m lucky that I’ve never been directly harmed by Islamophobia, but that wasn’t always the case for my family, friends, neighbors, and other Muslims in America.

However, the love and opportunities I’ve experienced here in Dallas motivate me to give back to my community. There are several issues here that need to be addressed, from poverty to education to homelessness, and my goal is to spend my life serving and uplifting the people in this city.

On the impact of the Training Day: I was so inspired by the innovative work people are doing here. I came away from this experience energized by their spirit and friendship and with a renewed sense of hope. I also loved the emphasis on knowing yourself and taking care of yourself. The activities during the day guided me in reflecting on my identity and leveraging my experiences to tackle community issues.

A medium skin toned Black woman is leaning to the right against a wall smiling with her mouth closed. She has long dark hair with a braid in the front and is wearing a white T-shirt, red belt and a pearl necklace. Her arms are crossed in front of her; the background appears to be a hallway.

"I really care about children, they are the jewels in our future. If we don't grab their hands now and teach them to become one, there will be no unity in the country."

Lamontria Edwards, 18

Entrepreneur, Student

she · her · hers

My community is my community because of the similar struggles that we all face. We all know what it’s like to have absolutely nothing, so we show remorse to one another when it comes to borrowing sugar or helping someone pay the rent because we have all been there. It’s special to me because it allows you not to forget where you come from, to stay strong even when times are hard and to have faith that change comes to the community.

I really care about children, they are the jewels in our future. If we don’t grab their hands now and teach them to become one, there will be no unity in the country.

When I was 16 years old, my dad lost custody because of child support, and it truly broke me. Then one day I was getting out of my car, and I saw these two beautiful children who had no socks on their feet, runny noses and dirty clothes. I asked if they were ok and said, “come to my house tomorrow, and I will take you to go get a haircut.” They come by my house the next day straight off the bus, and knock on the door and say, “I’M READY!”

It was truly so beautiful. We go to the barbershop, and as the barber turns him around in his chair he begins to touch his face while looking in the mirror. I knew from that point forward that even though I didn’t have much that it was up to me to help them.

On the impact of the Training Day: There was an exercise with an amazing artist that allowed you to elaborate and see details about someone whom you would never have noticed otherwise. The ironic part of the exercise was that my partner wanted to be a City Councilman. Then I told him I wanted to be President. Building a strong connection with him was super amazing and now we talk every other day.

A deep skin toned Black woman with ear length dark hair is smiling with her teeth showing. She is wearing pink framed glasses, a black T-shirt and a denim jacket. She is leaning to the right against a set of blue lockers in a school hallway.

"In the Homeless Community, There Are So Many Brilliant People; People With Potential, People Who Have Something to Offer and Want to Offer It."

Alicen Brown, 25

Contributing Writer

She · Her · Hers

I’m a woman of faith, a friend, and an aspiring writer. I’ve dealt with mental health issues and I’ve dealt with homelessness. Those things did not define me, but experiencing them definitely taught me lessons and opened my eyes and made me sensitive to things that I don’t think I would’ve been aware of otherwise.

I feel that the perception of the homeless—a lot of times people think that they’re lazy or that they don’t have any ambition. It’s something that can kind of strike anybody at any time. It affects people of all backgrounds.

I felt personally that I had no value. I felt people perceived me as a joke. The things they would say to me or talk down to me or jokes that they would make when I’d walk by. How can I want better for myself when this is the way I’m constantly being treated by everyone else? I didn’t see the good in myself, or the potential I have, or what I have to offer the community.

Once I was able to be in a positive environment that was constructive towards me rebuilding who I am as a person, I saw a real change come.

In the homeless community, there are so many brilliant people; people with potential, people who have something to offer and want to offer it. We’re real people with real emotions. Just acknowledging someone as a person, and where they’re at, and where they’re coming from. I feel like that can be the start to positive change.

On the impact of the Training Day: I’m excited about my future, not only for myself but what I can bring to my community now. It’s definitely helping me to see myself in a positive light, the positive impact I can make on my community, and just encouraging me that I can bring something to the table. I feel excited, empowered, and inspired.