Friday, November 30, 2012

Say What?! - Tereva Parham

Another MCLP session completed and as I’ve come to expect – another vital layer of concrete has been added to my newly formed foundation of servant-leadership.  Today was focused on the words we speak. From public speaking and storytelling all the way to the highly sensitive and often avoided conversations.
Time out: I REALLY value the wealth of resources that the MCLP draws from in order to bring us a variety of presenters.
As someone who has always been “lights, camera, action , ” speaking in front of others has been a place of unique comfort. The sessions today reminded me of things I’ve heard before, while presenting new concepts relating to communication. In hindsight, my impromptu Oreo speech was fun. In addition to informing the listeners of my Oreo addiction, I also persuaded…   tempted many to enjoy an Oreo very soon.
The talkative atmosphere shifted as we were moved to consider “crucial conversations”.  Crucial conversations are topics, issues and concerns that move us to a place of fear, alarm, conflict and major discomfort. They can appear anywhere but as individuals and budding leaders we need to know how to handle them regardless of their planned or spontaneous occurrence.
As the weeks progressed I became mindful of the situations that warranted a crucial conversation. Although not always bad, they can no doubt be considered tough. I considered many things…   What are the things that I need to hear from someone unashamed to smack me with the truth? What do I need to acknowledge and accept within myself?  How have I avoided people to keep the peace? What are things that I’m keeping from others that need to be addressed?
The questions and their answers naturally came as I authentically considered the concept and reality of crucial conversations.
Say what?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lenses and Barriers—Understanding Racial Injustice

by Angelique Ambers, MCLP  marketing committee member

All individuals must realize their implication in racial injustice. This was the message emphasized by keynote speaker, Tim Wise, at the Fourth Racial Justice Summit hosted on November 9 by the YWCA, Tim Wise, like the Multicultural Leadership Program, understands the importance of shared interest and how those interests are converging.

The perceptions that individuals have depend largely on their race, because the color of their skin often depicts their treatment and experiences within society. A person’s race is one of the factors that creates their lens—in other words, how they view the world and themselves. According to Wise, people of color are aware of how others feel about them and often develop a more accurate perception in terms of how other countries/cultures view Americans. Wise used the example of the common question “why do they hate us,” stating that majority of people are under the false belief that “they hate us for our freedom.” Other countries do not hate Americans for their freedom, but rather for political, social, or economic reasons.  Furthermore, Wise discussed the various misconceptions that are assumed about minorities due to lack of familiarity and knowledge. Language is captivating because of the various meanings and ideas that can be created; however, language can also serve as a barrier between people.
Additionally, experience and identity shape meaning. While minorities are required to know about white culture, white people do not have to know about minority circumstance and communities. There is the mutual understanding among the majority that some people are underserved, no coincidence that these underserved people are Black, Hispanic, Asian, or Indians. Wise argues that individuals are not underserved, but they are marginalized, oppressed, and discriminated against.

The summit continued and the group was broken up into two caucuses. I participated in the people of color caucus, where individuals discussed their personal experiences of being oppressed and discriminated against. Together the group developed a definition for racism. Additionally, individuals discussed the importance of addressing racism or social injustices head on, and not allowing incidents to go unnoticed or unaddressed. 

The two caucuses reconvened in the auditorium and discussed important topics and ideas that were brought up in their individual groups. Overall, through the summit individuals gained new perspectives and knowledge about injustice in our community. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Laughter and Gratitude—Participant and Mentor Reflect on Class Experience

by Emily Vigneri, MCLP Class of 2013 participant

Recently, my mentor, Carole, made a comment to me that I think of often—a comment about all of you, my MCLP classmates. I think about it when I get a little stressed with all of the commitments that all of us are juggling at the present moment. I think about it when I get a little insecure about my leadership capabilities and I definitely think about it when I find myself wanting to fight my own vulnerability—the very vulnerability that I now know is needed to be most impacted by what we’re learning from our program.

So, by now, you’re probably hoping that I eventually tell you what it is that my mentor said about all of you, so here I go. During dinner at the Leadership in Education session, my mentor was seated at a table with me and 4-5 other classmates. Throughout the meal, those seated at the table were actively engaged in conversation with each other, me, and Carole. There was also a good amount of happy yelling and teasing back and forth between our table and some of the other tables that the remainder of the MCLP class and guests occupied.

As we got up from the table that evening to return back in to the auditorium for the remainder of our evening session, Carole remarked to me what a great MCLP class we are. She stated that all of the teasing, laughing, and joking she witnessed was the sign of a wonderful group and that she was glad to see us having fun with one another.  Now, I admit—I am a Feeling type, so perhaps that accounts for some of this, but her comment absolutely touched my heart and I so wanted to share it with each of you.

Above all, her comment reminded me of how lucky I am to be in this program and how lucky I have been to meet each and every one of you. Although I may not have had the opportunity to speak at length with each of you, I hope you know how much I value your input in class and how happy I feel to be a member of the 2013 class with you! I also consider myself very lucky to have met all of the people that make MCLP possible for us.

As I said earlier, I have thought of this comment frequently (sometimes during times of a little stress) and it always helps me keep going. I hope that if you happen to find yourself in a moment of stress sometime soon, that Carole’s words bring a smile to your face, as they always do for me.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Who Knew We Could Play Wheelchair Basketball?

By Sonya Mau, MCLP Executive Director

It was a sight to see – 12 MCLP alumni, along with our founder Phani Aytam, playing wheelchair basketball.  It all took place Saturday, April 21, at Kingsley Junior High where we played against the amazing University of Illinois Wheelchair Basketball Team.

Yes, we lost to that wonderful group of athletes.  But that’s OK because the game was all about raising money in support of LIFE Center for Independent Living.

Joining Phani in Team MCLP line-up were:  2012 Graduates Anand Bhende, Carrie Broquard, Johnny Nguyen and Henry Walker; 2011 Graduates Paul Hursey (associate coach), Peter Stroyan, Nida Kazim and Yoon Yim; 2010 Graduates Bert Neptune, Gary Williams, Mark Walcott; great friend of MCLP, Chuck DiVerte, friend of LIFE center Matt DeMatteo, and our coach Rory Nolan.

Would you believe each class even shared the honors for the first baskets made in the first half?  Peter Stroyan (2011) struck first. Then Johnny Nguyen (2012) made our second basket.  Finally from the inaugural class of 2010, Gary Williams put one in.

Macaria Lopez, Kari Sandhaas, Sally and Ken Zuhn, Sandeepa Sangras Aytam, Myra and George Gordon, Carol Hreha, and me could be found rooting in the stand with friends, family and children.

It was a thrilling game and a festive afternoon. With only 1 hour to practice in wheelchairs, our intrepid team of 15 fought for  6 points in the first half and wound up with a respectable 28 points at the end of the game. The U of I team scored 56 points, but they had more practice!

We might have done better if more than five players were allowed on the court at one time! Seriously, I was impressed by Team MCLP’s innovative and diverse plays!  Here’s a good example, the U of I team played fast break well – OK they flew across the court.  There was no way our alumni could keep up. So Team MCLP did the opposite.

Every time Team MCLP got the ball, they slowed things down. U of I didn’t know how to respond, at first. Then to my happy surprise (and U of I’s unhappy surprise) MCLP stationed a player at their end of the court and began lobbing the ball down court for a clear shot.  That worked for a while too.  In the end we lost, but every player said s/he had a great time.

Everyone off the court had fun too. A  Lion cheerleading squad composed of kids with disability created amazing 3-story cheers!  A young choir sang the Star-Spangled Banner and an amazing puppet show entertained kids and adults.  A number of MCLP friends and alumni won baskets at the silent auction. 

In fact, everyone won because all the proceeds went toward helping others at the LIFE Center for Independent Living and to two scholarships to the University of Illinois youth Wheelchair sports camps this summer.

Like many things in life, even with leadership decisions, there is no second chance. LIFE invites a different organization each year. So our one-in-a-lifetime chance to play wheelchair basketball as an MCLP team is over.

But we can all say “it was worth it and it was fun.”   May we all say that about our leadership journeys with MCLP and beyond!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Inspired Graduate Ready to Make a Difference

By Craig Luchtefeld, 2012 MCLP Graduate
I spent last Saturday night celebrating what’s right in our community and the world with people I care about the most. It just doesn’t get any better.

It was graduation for my MCLP Class of 2012.

It was a celebration of those who make the program possible. It was a celebration of the family and friends that sacrificed their time to allow us to participate fully. It was a celebration of those that strive to make a positive impact within our community. It was a celebration of those that strive to do the right thing, no matter the circumstances.

What made the night so special for me was spending it with my family, my fellow classmates, and my co-workers. These are the folks who inspire me to do my very best, each and every day. So, to be able to relax on a beautiful Saturday night, alongside the people who matter to me the most, to celebrate and be inspired by local leaders as well as Paul Rusesabagina, is truly something I will always cherish.

Graduation marks the end of our nine-month journey. And, it also signifies the beginning of something bigger and better. We’ve been given the tools to make a difference within our community and our world. Personally, I’m very excited to take what I’ve learned and pay it forward.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Team "Roof Raisers" Get Air Time

WJBC Radio Bloomington has provided an opportunity for many of our Multiculture Leadership Program community projects to be featured on the local airwaves.

Click HERE to listen to one of those interviews featuring Team “Roof Raisers” whose project goal was to increase awareness of Habitate for Humanity of McLean County through the implementation of a marketing plan.

Thanks for the support, WJBC!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Final Community Projects Presented

By Monica Palmer, Eurest Dining Services

On Saturday March 3, I was happy to be in the audience to witness presentation of the final results of community projects taken on by members of the Multicultural Leadership Program Class of 2012.

Strategically split into five teams, the participants were matched with a community project to research. They then successfully worked together to constructed a project plan, allowing them to accomplish a common goal. Sounds like leadership in action!

I hope you’re as impressed by the results as I am:

Community Health Care Clinic (CHCC)

Team “Scrubs” goal was to develop a Cost Savings Analyst tool for CHCC. The tool tracks and shows the cost savings associated with a reduction in Emergency Department (ED) visits and hospitalizations. Components include: cost of running CHCC for a given year, revenues CHCC generated, savings associated with ED, hospitalization reductions, and benefit estimates associated with productivity.

Illinois Prairie Community Foundation

Team “I Can” (Increase Community Awareness Now) goals included implementation of a new website, development of social media strategy and presence, and creation of training to support technology initiatives. It was also very important to the team to incorporate social media into the webpage along with a Donate Now! button.

Heartland Head Start

Team ‘The Consolidators’ consolidated 10 educational parental lessons into four crucial ones and made them available in English and Spanish. The group reached out to numerous other organizations and people to help with this program, including the Hispanic Employee Resource Organization (HERO), and professors, teachers and students from Illinois Wesleyan University, Illinois State University and local high schools.

Ecology Action Center

Team “E.A.C.H and Everyone Matters” concentrated on recycling awareness within the West side of Bloomington. The team hosted an event in the community where approximately 75 residents attended to decorate and personalize recycling bins to be used daily in their homes. Also, the event was made family-friendly by having face painting available and the fire department attended.

Habitat for Humanity of McLean County

Team “Roof Raisers” had the goal to increase awareness by implementing a marketing plan for Habitat for Humanity. The team implemented a SWOT (Strength Weakness Opportunity Threat) analysis and received a lot of actionable feedback from it. For example, an internship program is in the works to begin either this summer or fall.

Looking for new projects

I applaud the community work the current MCLP Class completed. But it doesn’t stop there. Soon we’ll have a Class of 2013 and they’ll need project work too.

So, if you’re a local non-profit with a project need, please submit your proposal to MCLP. Go to here for more info. Initial requests need to be submitted by May 15 with June 15 as the date for final project proposals for the 2013 Class.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Learning Benefits from Gift of Space

By Sonya Mau, MCLP Executive Director

Business Furniture, Inc. hosted the Multicultural Leadership Program (MCLP) learning event Thursday, Feb. 16 at their new Bloomington Conference Studio & Showroom, 205 N. Main Street in downtown Bloomington. This inaugural event for the studio highlighted Business Furniture’s strategy of giving back to the community by providing free meeting space to community organizations. In turn, we as a community organization, experienced working spaces that actually helped MCLP work and learn better!

“We believe that form must follow function,” said Kathi Builta, manager of the Bloomington Furniture office. “For organizations, we design working spaces that promotes collaborative conversations, during a meeting or between meetings.”

Here’s how the MCLP-Business Furniture connection happened.

Business Furniture first met with me and Carolyn Davis, of MCLP Curriculum Committee about our program for Feb 16. We moved from the traditional table and 25 chairs to a different solution with colorful individual Node chairs. Each chair had its own “work surface, storage area, comfortable seat & back, plus each was on rollers!” Because we had two sessions and a presentation planned for that evening, Business Furniture also provided a more casual area for dinner that included “i2i” chairs, a business lounge area that could be used to make PowerPoint presentations and cafĂ© tables with paper covers for drawing up business plans.

I was amazed at how the furniture naturally became a useful part of the learning experience. For example, the Node chairs allowed the class to move around as needed. When a class discussion occurred, people easily turned to face the person speaking because the whole Node chair could turn. It made discussions richer. In our Transformational Leadership session led by Christina Schulz of the Hile Group Inc., I saw the class turn easily to each flipchart she used as she moved through the room. The whole class seemed more engaged…naturally. The furniture the participants sat in made a greater difference than I expected in keeping all involved.

“I also appreciated their outstanding service,” added Carolyn. “Kathi Builta was our point of contact and she made sure we considered all the factors during our decision-making. She was with us during the meeting even though it is mostly after hours on Thursday. That eliminated any surprises we might have experienced during our learning event.”

Bill Grace, Vice-President of Business Furniture, Inc. said, “We see ourselves as an organization that can add value to the community AND increase the understanding of all organizations about the major advances in business furniture design. We hope to demonstrate that good furniture design is also good business.”

I’m convinced Bill is right. A well-designed space with well-designed furniture did improve our learning process on Feb. 16. We are proud to collaborate with a company like Business Furniture, Inc, who shares our belief that collaborative efforts which consider diverse perspectives (in this case diverse designs) will result in better solutions. It certainly did result in a great learning experience for us!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Important Balance of Work and Life

By Monica Palmer, Eurest Dining Services

Early Saturday, Feb. 4, while many people were still in bed, members of the Multicultural Leadership Program (MCLP) Class of 2012 were shouting “I am wonderfully made. I love me. I’m worth it.”

The shouts were at the encouragement of Life Coach & Inspirational Speaker Felicia Shaw. Excited for the MCLP Work Life Balance session, Felicia begins to truly inspire the class.

“Often stress happens because we don’t say NO often enough.” How right is Felicia!

A lot of people have difficultly balancing career and a healthy personal life. Having a career which provides a sense of worth and financial stability is important to many, however it is also crucial to have the time for a healthy personal life.

Felicia came to the MCLP group with worksheets and exercises to help the participants narrow down what is important to them and provide them with time for reflection.

“If I look at your calendar and bank statements, will I see that you are spending your time and money on things that are important to you?” With this question, Felicia had the wheels turning in everyone’s head.

Highlighted in this session was scheduling, making AND completing goals, and celebrating the completion of goals. Thank you Felicia for all your tips to reduce stress, motive, and take accountability for goals!

More about the Feb. 4 MCLP session can be found here.