Monday, October 13, 2014

A view from 90 days in…

Blog by Linda Bollivar

I’ve just celebrated 90 days as the Program Director at MCLP. The time has gone quickly, and the biggest thing I have learned is the astounding amount of volunteer hours that are invested year-round to make this program so rich and successful.

A year ago, I was on the other side, participating in the class of 2014, and relishing the opportunity to learn from wonderful presenters and my fellow participants. I was impressed with the depth of the program; including presenters, mentors, non-profit board experiences, and the community project teams. Our project team, Let’s Care, developed training for the Community Cancer Center staff, and I was pleased to see what we could produce in a few short months with a team of diverse leaders and the expertise of our project advisor and technical consultants.

As the MCLP program year drew to a close, I was pondering how to best use my newly strengthened leadership skills. I absolutely loved my job as the Director of Faith in Action (FIA), a local non-profit. When I saw MCLP advertising for a newly formed position, program director, I was intrigued, but thought I wanted to spend a few more years at FIA. My analytical side made pros and cons lists about applying, while my faith-based side prayed for guidance as the vacant position nagged at me. I felt that the work I was doing at FIA was very important (getting seniors to the doctor and grocery shopping). However, I couldn’t get the thought of MCLP out of my mind.

One day, I was listening to WGLT and I heard a heartbreaking story about a human rights issue. The realization that I could do nothing to alleviate the suffering of those affected was like a punch in the gut. I thought to myself, “I can’t do anything about it. I’m helpless. I don’t have the time, money or expertise to fix this.” Suddenly, I was struck with an image of many stones being cast onto a pond, their ripples spreading out across the pond. I realized instantly that it was a representation of MCLP: Each year, a class full of participants is launched into the community like stones onto a pond. The leadership skills and network of support allow the MCLP participants to each follow their passion and make a difference in the causes near and dear to their hearts. The answer was clear to me: I can’t personally run all over and ‘fix’ every problem. But, I can play a role in an organization that is a catalyst for forming diverse leaders who can each follow their own passions.

So, here I am, celebrating 90 days at MCLP. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve realized that scores of volunteers have given hundreds of hours, and some volunteers have given thousands of hours in the past six or more years to establish MCLP. I’ve learned that we have an incredibly generous community—from our financial sponsors to our presenters, to the universities who provide us with office space. (ISU provided space the first five years, and now IWU is providing space.) In the past 90 days, we’ve launched a new class, hired an office assistant (Pollyanna Spears), moved to a new office (1309 Park Street), and received our 501(c)3 nonprofit designation. I’ve gotten to see the work that goes into each and every session, and see the way the class of 2015 is growing.

So what do I see happening in the next 90 days? As we go through the program year, I will get to find out all of the work behind the scenes as we plan for midterm project presentations, the networking fair, graduation, and recruitment. We will be looking to strengthen our processes and improve our documentation so we can make the best use of our volunteers. We are gathering community support to provide a strong financial foundation for MCLP for the future. I look forward to seeing how this class develops and who may be recruited for the upcoming classes. And speaking of recruitment, if you know leaders who might be interested in MCLP, invite them to the midterm presentations on December 6th. We hope to see you there!

Friday, September 5, 2014

MCLP—Organizing to Meet Our Future

Blog by Sonya Mau, MCLP Executive Director

Fall of 2009 unfolded with the excitement of creating a uniquely transformative leadership program—MCLP. Now in the Fall of 2014, we begin our sixth MCLP class and move into the next phase of the MCLP journey—with you.

It’s YOU, our wonderfully generous community of supporters: speakers, facilitators, sponsors, donors and alumni, who’ve made the last five years such a joyful success. You provided both time and money to help MCLP develop leaders who are comfortable with leading in complex environments with diverse and often opposing viewpoints. With that comfort comes the courage from within each graduate to make wiser decisions, “to take action” and to deliver the innovative solutions needed for a stronger, better community.

Our 2014 annual report reflects the growing number of organizations MCLP graduates support and lead. MCLP graduates have taken greater charge of their lives, contributed more to organizations, and made a greater difference in our communities.

Even as our graduates move to the next phase in their lives, MCLP is moving to its next phase, where we take on greater responsibilities to the community and to our sustainability. In preparation MCLP has:
  1. Expanded our support staff by hiring Linda Bollivar, an experienced director in the non-profit world.  As MCLP’s new Program Director, Linda will work closely with our board to ensure that people, process and functions are aligned. Pollyanna Lopez Spears is our new part-time office assistant, with a focus on process and database accuracy. Both are key to MCLP’s sustainability.
  2. Moved to larger facilities. As we carefully add part-time staff, we needed more room. For the past 5 years, we were blessed with an office at Illinois State University, generously provided pro-bono. We are sad to move from our friends in the Vrooman Center. However, our new expanded space at Illinois Wesleyan University is critical for our organization’s future.  We thank both great institutions for their support of MCLP in this move.
  3. Obtained our 501(c)(3) nonprofit status so we’ll be able to more directly honor those who donate to MCLP. We gratefully acknowledge Tim Leighton, of the Leighton Legal Group, LLC, for providing the pro-bono service and advice that made this possible.
There will be more decisions made, more actions taken as we work toward greater success in the next phase of our journey. We move forward with the clear standard for making a difference, a standard set by Robert K. Greenleaf for measuring true servant leaders, “The best test…is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous?”

We invite you to continue the journey with us. Our expanded staff, larger office, and new non-profit tax status put MCLP on a firm foundation to sustainably continue to develop servant leaders into the future.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Transformative Leadership Opportunity Unlike Any Other

blog by Maddy Holstein

I have attended numerous recruitment and informational sessions throughout my college career, none of which compares to the Multicultural Leadership Program. There was a sense of passion, confidence, and professionalism with each speaker that left me believing one would gain not only heightened leadership skills, but also would become a better individual overall. I am genuinely proud to say I live in a community where this wonderful program exists. 

This was the first experience for me where recruiters of a program primarily consisted of alumni. Who knows the ins and outs of a program from the participant perspective better than its graduates? There was a genuine enthusiasm emitted from each person who spoke that could not have been scripted. I never once heard anyone voice, “This will be easy” or “This program is for everyone.” What filled my ears was not a planned speech set to influence the audience, but instead truthful testimonies, passionate answers, and friendly remarks. I was also delighted when I found out these graduates, among others from the program, are still working with it presently as mentors, board members, or volunteers.

Alumni representing previous classes were present during the recruitment meeting, allowing the audience to ask questions and gain insight on the program. Each individual spoke openly and honestly of the program, promoting it whole heartedly as a transformative experience in his or her life. Hearing the testimonials from these past graduates projected a sense of accomplishment over the crowd. As the informational session progressed, the audience of prospective participants eagerly asked more questions, none of which were left unanswered. It was admirable to hear how the hard work put into the program led each person to become a stronger leader, an innovative thinker, and a better person.

The Multicultural Leadership Program is creating a new group of leaders each year in our community that exhibit courageous leadership skills and an innovative, diversely thinking individual. If you are 21 years of age or older and either live or work in McLean County, I enthusiastically recommend looking into this program. The time commitment, program objectives, and session information can be found on the MCLP website. I highly encourage any individual striving to make a difference in the community and within themselves to become part of this program.