Project LEAD Graduates Shape Our Community

Nonprofit board service is a real gift to the community. Board members shape and influence which communities are served, how they’re served and how voices of our most vulnerable are heard. When nonprofit boards don’t reflect their community—when they’re too white, too male, too ‘anything’, really—we all miss out.

On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, the celebration of 47 people of color about to serve their community had us extra proud. Project LEAD (Leadership, Effectiveness and Diversity) is a month-long training program to prepare people of color to serve on nonprofit boards. The training comes to an end with a recruitment fair, where nonprofits get to meet potential new board members, and a graduation celebration.

Families and friends turned out to cheer on these graduates, so there was already a sense of pride that filled the room. But speakers Abigail Echo-Hawk and Crystal Gamon took that pride to the next level.

Echo-Hawk is an enrolled member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and Chief Research Officer of the Urban Indian Health Institute. She serves on 13 boards and her speech about the power of using your voice had the crowd fully engaged.

Gamon had been chosen by the class of graduates to speak. She decided to describe the power of United Way by telling the story of a teenage girl, who as a result of abuse and neglect was homeless. This teenager found emergency shelter at a United Way grantee; she earned her GED through a United Way supported agency. Later, when she became a single mom, it was a United Way grantee who helped her keep food on the table. Years later, when she became more stable and was fully self-sufficient, this former teenager received training from United Way to serve her community. This teenager was her.

With that, Gamon brought the room to their feet.

Congratulations to all of the graduates – and thank you to Project LEAD sponsors Microsoft and Perkins Coie for making it all possible.

View pictures from the event and connect with us here.

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