Q: Tell me about your career background and how you got to your current position?
A: I have been a youth worker since I was a youth myself. At 17, I left my hometown in upstate New York and moved to Boston. There, I worked as a front-line staff for one of the youth centers in the City of Cambridge. When I was promoted to program director, I ran the after-school programming for elementary-age school children, and evening programming for teens, and then in the summer months, we ran an extensive sports camp for about 100 students each week. I did this for nine years until I decided to go back to school. I got my undergraduate degree in American Studies because I wanted to ignite change in the world and I believe that to combat a lot of the systemic and institutional issues, one should really understand the origin of those issues.
After graduating from the University of Massachusetts, I went back to working for City Year again as a program director. I oversaw 6 different program managers and 150+ volunteers. While there, I learned about a master’s in public policy program at Tufts. I applied and got my master’s degree in the same vein of really wanting to ignite change. Right after I graduated, I moved to the Bay Area and continued my work in nonprofits. I’m a nonprofit lifer. At least for now.
Q: Why did you choose to work for Larkin Street?
A: It’s a no-brainer for me when it comes to choosing Larkin Street. I want to be a role model for black and queer young people. I want to be a living example of what is possible for them because representation matters. I could have very easily been one of the young people at Larkin Street and so I wanted to be a resource or a part of a system of resources to help them on their path.
Q: What excites you about the future of the organization?
A: I hope to work myself out of a job, you know what I mean? I would love for us to not even be necessary at some point in the future. I think what excites me is seeing the gains, no matter how small or how big with young people. The passionate people who work at Larkin Street come from all walks of life which lets me know the power of diversity and lets me know that this is an issue that impacts all of us. And you don’t see that in every organization. You don’t see that for every cause.
Q: What does leadership mean to you?
A: I don’t want to sound cliché but for me, it’s leading by example. So, no matter where I sit in the hierarchy or in an org chart, it’s being able to be a teammate, to show up, roll up my sleeves and get the work done. I think it means being transparent and providing opportunities for your team to grow and learn. Another huge one for me is powerful vulnerability. I’m a human too and I want people to see that because it’s necessary when building relationships and trust. For me, I just want to be human with a human. We’re here working for a common mission, and I want to be seen as a teammate and not as an authority figure.
Q: What career advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
A: This was not always the message that was taught to my young self but — show up as you are. Be who you are. Be your authentic self and trust in yourself. Take advantage of resources and find mentors that you can connect with. And the last thing I would say is to take your time. I didn’t take the traditional route. I kind of approached my professional life a bit backwards. I started working full-time before getting my degree. And then I ended up going to school later in life. Do not feel pressured by others or societal norms. Create your own path and stick to it.