Excel. Cry. Dance.

BUILD’s tagline is “Excel. Lead. Succeed.” but tonight it was more like “Excel. Cry. Dance.

Today was BUILD’s End of the Year Celebration. We first took the freshmen on an all-day field trip to see two colleges: San Jose State and Menlo College (from 9 am to 4:30 pm).

And then in the evening, all of the BUILD students gathered at the brand new East Palo Alto YMCA for a dance. My Incubator students were also going to have an Incubator Closing Ceremony in conjunction to this dance. This was the “second annual” Closing Ceremony, meaning that last year, the event was my little brainchild, and this year, I tried to make the students take ownership of the event so that others would follow suit. I organized our leadership team to take responsibility for some of the logistics: decorations, marketing, gifts, and MC-ing the event. It worked beautifully. Our two co-MC’s for the evening did such a wonderful job, our student speakers made people cry, and the awards hopefully motivated the students to do better. I can’t really sum up how I feel about what happened tonight, but I will say that I am relieved, satisfied and happy. Tonight when the students and mentors were thanking each other in our closing circle and when our students were giving their speeches, it really rejuvenated me and reminded me why I am doing the work that I am doing.

Recently I have been getting so tired and frustrated and being so extremely tired all of the time. April and May have been outrageously busy months because of the traveling (San Diego, Las Vegas, Boston, DC, Tracy, etc.), my relatives from the Philippines visiting for a month and a half, and just a lot more work to be done in BUILD. Over the past few weeks I kind of resigned myself to being really tired and bleh, and have been waiting for this month to be over. But I realize that I just needed a pick-me-up, a reminder, a hug and some validation for what I am doing. And in some senses, maybe I subconsciously planned this end of the year celebration so I could get that, so that other staff could get it, mentors could get it, and, of course, students could get it.

Well, I hope everyone got it because if they didn’t get it after tonight’s event, I do not know what else to do with them.

The most rewarding and taxing BUILD night

Tonight I facilitated a session with all of my juniors where they each (and all) shared their personal stories. They had been working on their personal stories as precursors to their personal statements for college applications. I kind of did not know what to expect from the evening, but I knew that I wanted it to be empowering–for them to see their strengths in each other, the beautiful and unique stories they each have, and the courageous support system that surrounds them.

Tonight was also the culmination of “The Bridge,” which is a program that I co-created to help bridge the priceless business lessons that they were learning with much-needed applications into their personal lives as well as the rigorous college application process. The 11-week “Bridge” ended tonight with each junior subsequently opening up and sharing their authentic and unique stories.

Some were tragic. Some were funny. And others were insightful and artistically written. They all grabbed my heart.

Each word spoke of courage, resilience, and strength, no matter if the story was about the trials of crossing the Rio Grande, the wonders of finding your own voice, or the dread of fearing abuse or discrimination.

Each progressive word tugged on my heartstrings, beckoning my eyes to let go of the well of tears that my eyelids had dammed. Each volunteering story showed me the depth and the strength of the students that I have been working with for the past two years. Tonight I feel like I did two years of work in less than two hours.

At the end of the night, one of my historically unruly students chose to speak and acknowledge her fellow students, unrehearsed. She had, in the past, been one of the most difficult students to try to crack and understand, but tonight she experienced some sort of growth, and maturely acknowledged her fellow students and thereby validated the entire 11-week process and all of the literal blood, sweat, and tears I had put into it to make it happen.

But alas, this is not about me. It’s about them. We all have our stories–our own unique, authentic, and beautiful stories. Sometimes I wish adults had to apply to more things JUST SO they would have to write another personal statement. The process is so reflective and healing at the same time. I hope this process will help to heal some of my students’ wounds. From the looks of it tonight, they will all help each other heal from their wounds. Lord knows they’re helping to heal mine.

Rap Directing here I come

I got a pleasant acceptance email while I was away in Thailand (and by the way, I only checked my email three times in two weeks).

I recently applied for a volunteer position at College Summit for the summer workshops, and if you remember, I have been volunteering with CS since the summer of 2003 as a writing coach, and most recently last year as a writing coach coordinator. Both of the positions revolved around helping the students create strong personal statements for their college applications. The position that I recently applied for is kind of like the glue of the CS summer workshops. The rap directors (no affiliation to the musical genre) are the ones who empower the students, but rather than try to paraphrase, here is a sampling from the job description:

Rap Directors are trained youth facilitators who begin as trainees and commit to a three-year intensive professional and personal development training. During the training period, Rap Directors attend trainings and serve at workshops in tandem with another Rap Director. Upon completion of training, certification allows a Rap Director to act as a solo facilitator at College Summit workshops. The Rap Director facilitates group discussions (Rap Sessions) with the students during the four-day workshop. The goal of the sessions is for the students to see possibility in their lives and future through the world of higher education. Rap Directors introduce students to the 4 goals of the workshop and guide them as they work to reach their goals. Rap Directors also serve to remind the students that they are young and entitled to have fun!

I am extremely excited about the opportunity to change more students’ lives and about the three-year facilitation training!!!

Ashoka Induction

Remember how a while back I was raving about this book called How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein (I first talked about it in this post from July 2005)?

Anyway, the book details different stories of Ashoka Fellows, how they are located, screened and selected, and how they grow their change-making non-profit organizations throughout the world. From Ashoka‘s website:

Ashoka is the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs—men and women with system changing solutions for the world’s most urgent social problems. Since 1981, Ashoka has elected over 1,800 leading social entrepreneurs as Ashoka Fellows, providing them with living stipends, professional support, and access to a global network of peers in more than 60 countries.

I am proud to say that my very own CEO, Suzanne, was elected into the Ashoka Fellowship, and last week I attended the induction ceremony of the North American Ashoka Fellows. I caught the tail-end of the inspirational event (because I had work until 7:30 as usual), and even got the chance to hear Bill Drayton, Chairman & CEO of Ashoka, give a keynote address.

Some of the BUILD staff attended to support Suzanne, and I realized that this is such an amazing organization to work with, and it is such a privilege to be part of the org as it grows. I feel like BUILD is poised to grow, and I am lucky enough to get the opportunity to play a huge role in making the growth of the organization a success. In addition, it also gives me something to strive for. Way before Suzanne was inducted, or even interviewed for the Ashoka Fellowship, I had set my sights on it.

As Bill Drayton said, “Every citizen can be a change-maker,” and that’s what I intend to be.

Sweet Stop

Did I tell you that I have an assistant now? I must be movin’ on up in the world. Now I have a supervisee, Alison, our new Incubator Program Assistant. This is a brand new position that I have been advocating for all year long, and finally my wish has come true, and she has been a delight.

One of her duties is to observe and chronicle a brand new incubated business, Sweet Stop, as they are learning the ropes of entrepreneurship. You can read about their entrepreneurial journey at the Sweet Stop blog (click me!)

For those of you who have no clue what I do for a living (you’re probably thinking what the hell is an Incubator Manager?!?!), reading the blog would be a great way to see, not only the young entrepreneurs I work with, but the Youth Business Incubator program that I am shaping.

I never want to let that happen again

Last week I literally put my whole entire life on hold for work. I somehow got it in my head that my program would not work unless I devoted my whole entire week to it, night and day.

What a mistake.

But to my own credit, I didn’t have a choice. It was either let the program suffer or do the work necessary to make it work out. I chose the latter because I am dedicated to my students and my only reason for being at this organization is for the students.

However, recently I have been confronted with a new concept: work/life balance. I don’t really understand what this means, but slowly, since some of my coworkers are all about it, I am learning more about it. See, I come from a working culture where everyone works 100% all the time to accomplish a goal no matter what the price, and on top of that people were not paid, it was all volunteer. And now I am getting paid for doing what I love to do, and although it is pretty much in the same vein of what I have done before, it is different because I have to take staff work/life balance into consideration.

And to top it all off, I have to take my own personal work/life balance into consideration. Being surrounded by libras (my parents, Jo, Jed), I know all about balance, but need help in achieving it.

This was my last 2 weeks:

8/7-8 – 2 days of Business Boot Camp for our juniors
8/9 – 1 day of working on logistics for the week after
8/10-13 – off to 4 days of College Summit (days that started at 7 am and ended at 2 am)
8/14 – right after that I had a training day for our Executive Leadership Circle
8/14-18 – followed by 4 days of Business Boot Camp for our sophomores.

My last 5 days started at 6 am and ended at midnight. I was on all day long with no breaks, barely any time to eat because I was supervising 45 students every minute with barely any help. When I got home, all I wanted to do was vegg, but I had to prepare for the next day or the day after that.

What suffered:

I didn’t get to go to the gym at all
I was eating horrible food
I wasn’t replying to work or personal email
I was barely replying to phone calls
I came home every day emotionally drained
I came home defeated after listening to staffmembers give feedback about how to do it better (and all I could hear was “This sucked,” “It was bad, this is how you can do it better,” etc.)
I broke down, not once, not twice, but yes, three times

This is the first time in a whole year that I’ve ever felt like I couldn’t do this job, and that’s not right, especially since 11 out of the 12 months that I have worked there, I have rocked at it (to put it humbly).

Moral of the story: It’s OK to love your job (because I still do love my job). But when your job and you start to have a codependent and hurtful relationship, it’s time to change something up.

So I’m going to change it up a bit. How? I don’t know yet. But I will.

A fortune from a fortune cookie

I got this from Eric’s Chinese Restaurant:

Reasonable people endure; passionate people live.

How appropriate.

I just interviewed 8 candidates back-to-back for our Incubator Program Assistant and E1 Program Assistant positions through Public Allies (an Americorps program), and I swear… if you don’t have passion, you need not apply. Passion is so important when you’re applying for a job and for when you’re actually working in the job.

I don’t know how people can live life without being passionate about what they are doing. It would eat away at the very core of me if I were to do that.