My first six months of being a Bush fellow has been an exhilarating one. It started with a whirlwind of congratulations, recognitions, speaking opportunities (e.g. Pollen panel’s, Generation Next and Bush Connect), meetings with a variety of leaders from the profit and non-profit spaces as well as connecting with even more people at Bush Connect. Several people are very happy with and supportive of my Fellowship. It has opened doors to new networks and opportunities that are proving to be invaluable. More importantly I have evolved significantly as a spiritual person as a result of my executive coaching sessions. At Medtronic, my award has increased the awareness of the Bush Foundation in my company and my commitment to education. It was publically announced at our all employee staff meeting and has since sparked the interest of many who either stopped me in the corridor to discover more or people eager to tell me about their interests in education and how I’ve inspired them to become involved in community initiatives.
During a Medtronic Marketing Leadership Academy my experience was presented as a good way of leveraging ones skills to contribute to the community.
Looking back on my project plan I’m pleased to report I am achieving my goals in the anticipated timeframe. My focus for the first 12 months is on education and my professional development. In both of these areas I have expanded my knowledge, my ways of thinking and more importantly I am much further aligned with my true path and purpose.
My spiritual development is very important to me and the Bush fellowship has allowed me to access resources that are accelerating my spiritual growth. One of the first things I did was sort out and engage an executive coach fully equipped to help with both my professional and spiritual development. I was fortunate to find a phenomenal spiritual and executive leader, who essentially has rocked my world on so many different levels. This is very hard to explain as the spiritual journey is a very personal one. My executive coach has opened me up to new ways of thinking, provided solid tools, guidance and insights on how to converge the spiritual with my everyday being in all aspects of my life. She challenges my thinking, helps to accelerate my learning’s and pushes me to new heights in terms of my awareness. It’s an amazing journey and I never ever thought it would be so powerful. The weekly detailed reflections I write help me examine my successes and challenges, see how these align with my goals and what my learning’s are from these experiences. Interestingly my successes evolved from being very materialistic/tangible to very spiritual; I now primarily view success as inner growth, peace, being present, enjoying each moment without an agenda or expectation for the next and acts of compassion and kindness even in the most difficult circumstances. Consequently my leadership style has changed for the better. My style and approach has even impacted the way some of my colleagues show up at work. I’m more comfortable bringing my full self to work, being more compassionate and sharing experiences. This has influenced or shifted people’s attitude as well as connected me with like-minded people who I would not ordinarily have connected with. I’ve been introduced to new experiences, environments, books, spiritual practices and learning opportunities. It’s still my intent to attend a spiritual retreat next month for a few days of reflection. I’m currently looking into which would be the best for me at this stage in my journey.
The second part of my fellowship plan is on contributing to closing the academic achievement gap between white and African American children in the Twin Cities. I’m helping to develop and start a Charter Management Organization (CMO) in north Minneapolis to support the growth of the Harvest Network of Schools. This work started in earnest and I’m very pleased with the progress we have made. We have developed a comprehensive five year business plan, incorporated the CMO, filed for IRS tax exempt status, established a board which I am Chair, held our first Board retreats and board meetings plus established a process for our yearly and quarterly strategic plan. It’s an exciting time and the Bush Fellowship has allowed me to spend more time at the school experiencing some of the day to day activates, successes and challenges it takes to successfully run a school. This is a steep learning curve that just keeps on rising! It’s an eye opener and at the same time reassuring to know how I can leverage my skills to help in any way I can to support the schools growth. I spent considerable time with the schools leadership team, external consultants and partners to support the development of the business plan. Here is where my knowledge expanded on the steps and decisions required to replicate successful schools. I’ve had access to organizations that specializes in charter school management and have benefited from these interactions, increasing my knowledge and exposure in this area. I have attended several Charter School meetings both national and locally where I’ve acquired current information on charter school law, polices, challenges and best practices.
One of my highlights in the last six month was attending the Conference Board’s Contributions Council a few weeks ago. This council comprises of the heads of Foundations and Philanthropies that contribute a minimum of ten million dollars a year. The Contributions Council meets once a quarter to share best practices, and stay abreast of new policies and/or procedures etc. They have a different focus each time they meet and this quarter the focus was on education. My VP of Medtronic’s Foundation was unable to attend and he asked me to represent him in his absence. A huge honor as the participants are the who’s who in Foundation world from across the country. I was amongst people I would not have had the opportunity to connect with and I attended the most informative sessions with education experts in Washington DC like Arne Duncan’s Chief of Staff, Strategic Planning Director and the authors of the common core curriculum. We had complete access to them to ask questions and figure out together how we can best help close the achievement gap and provide equity education for all. I was in heaven, plus I was asked to give a presentation to the group on education collaborative’ s in MN. Whilst developing the presentation, I realized how connected I am in this space and how my understanding of the education landscape has improved over time. I thoroughly enjoyed providing this overview and it reinforced my desire to focus on identifying ways to leverage my connections to accelerate the development of an ecosystem centered on high quality education in under-served communities. I left the meeting feeling inspired to make this happen and over the next few months I will develop a plan, explore new ideas, network, learn more about the education system, policies and processes and identify how I can use my connections to make a positive impact. The urgency is now; the time is now, so I better get a move on!
A new part of my plan is to start planning and writing a book during the next calendar year with one of my Bush Fellows Sherman Patterson. We are both passionate about our mission and would like to do something collectively to impact our community in the Twin Cities. We are in the process of forming and storming ideas and I’m super excited by this possibility. I have identified the perfect team I would like to work with on this project to make it a reality. The book will be anchored around our Bush experience, projects and common interest to build vibrant communities in the deprived areas of the Twin Cities. We also intend to use the book as a method of increasing the awareness of the Bush Fellowship program, the crisis in our community and potential solutions we can achieve in a short timeframe.
This is the beauty of the Fellowship - connecting people to spark ideas and work together to build vibrant communities. I love it as this is grounded in my personal mission; to transform the lives of African American children by dramatically improving their educational outcomes. Looking back on my project plan I included a statement I made on my Bush application:
‘When I witness the atrocities, travesties and tragedies that still exist in our community I am compelled more than ever to help make the sustainable change necessary to live in more vibrant, healthy and safe communities. By addressing the root causes, namely education disparities amongst socially and economically disadvantaged children, I believe this is achievable’
Believe it or not I’m even more compelled now than ever to achieve this goal.