Preparing for a Seat at the Table

By United Way of King County, on April 11, 2024 | In News, Racial Equity

This blog post was written by 2024 Project LEAD graduate Jay ONeal.

Project LEAD is the introduction to non-profit organizations that communities of color need. The project, which United Way of King County has been running for more than 30 years, stands for Leadership, Effectiveness, and Diversity, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to learn, at a high level and practically, how to navigate the board service that many non-profits require to complete their mission.

Project LEAD is a nonprofit board training program open to skilled, passionate, and equity-centered individuals of color. It empowers people who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color to take the first step toward board leadership. Project LEAD graduates are a testament to our community’s commitment to service and diversity.

This year, more than three dozen people completed the Project LEAD training program and are now well-positioned to serve on boards of all kinds, including the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

Project LEAD class of 2024

Of course, tangentially, I knew about United Way’s work and the caliber of people who work there. But up close, I was amazed at this resource that is presented—for free—to the community. Classes always began by breaking bread from a local vendor. The seats were filled with talent from all levels of the non-profit system, and I always found myself saying “wow” and “tell me more” when hearing about my peers’ journey to this point.

I’ve led organizations of many types for more than a decade, and I’ve learned a lot! However, Project LEAD filled holes in my repertoire and introduced concepts that I could use immediately in my daily life.

One class exercise that was particularly revelatory for me was drawing a river representing my journey in racial equity. I am an artist at heart, so I drew a salmon migrating upstream, from the calm waters of the sound, over the waterfalls, through the rocks, and finally, tired and beat up, to the spawning ground.

I feel like I’m at the spawning ground, where I can affect change in the world and inspire others as well. Project LEAD got me here – and I can’t wait for what’s next.


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