I’ve been here since September 2018, and in that short period of time, I have had the good fortune to be part of a number of exciting initiatives. One of them, the Women’s Leadercast, which took place in November, 2018, made a particular impact on me. Hosted for the second time by the Oberlin Business Partnership, it held a spotlight on current women leaders, including the Presidents of Oberlin College and Lorain County Community College. But most importantly, it provided a forum for women leaders and soon-to-be leaders to listen and learn from each other and to create and strengthen professional and personal networks to sustain and grow the new, emerging leadership community of Lorain County.
Community Foundation of Lorain County sponsored two tables for students of Lorain County high schools to attend the forum. The Foundation also provided important planning and logistical support to the event, where more than 210 individuals from throughout northeast Ohio attended the daylong event. The theme of the day was: “Leadership is for everyone.” Regardless of your age, gender, ethnic background, economic or social status, you can be a leader worth following. I sat at a table with seven young women from Oberlin High School. These talented, intelligent women and I spoke throughout the day about personal challenges, finding our purpose and the value of giving back to our community. By the end of the day, we had identified a number of opportunities where they were interested in my being a resource and mentor to each of them. I was thrilled.
But then, about a month later one of the students reached out to me to invite me to speak at Oberlin High School’s Oxfam Hunger Banquet. The Banquet is an event that attempts to put in perspective the prevalence of food insecurity both locally and globally. I had the honor of joining Oberlin School Superintendent David Hall, Ms. Mindi Flynn, Community Engagement at Second Harvest Food Bank, and Ms. Kamiyah Gadsden, who was representing Oberlin Community Services to talk about food insecurity in Oberlin specifically, and more broadly, in Lorain County. Students learned how the Community Foundation has supported Second Harvest’s mission for more than 30 years helping to provide food for residents in Lorain County. The Foundation has also supported the back-pack program for Oberlin City School students through Oberlin Community Services.
What started out as a single opportunity to meet a number of bright, energetic young women at the Leadercast led to another, equally important chance to support these young women in their efforts to exercise their leadership around food insecurity in the area. Because I was able to take the time to listen to them, and then to share my own experiences with this group of young women, I was able to make a connection that led to additional ways to support them. These experiences have certainly reinforced my belief that it’s easy to “Connect People who Care to Causes that Matter.”
Pictured: Noelle Ignagni, Kamyiah Gadsden, Baby Kia, Donna Shurr, Brittany Lovett, Mindi Flynn, and David Hall