It Takes A Village To Empower People

The SPS Training and Development program was initially launched in 2006 and was influenced by our Internship Program. My goal was to create a program in order to give back to those who were not afforded the resources provided to me.  I was inspired by these words my grandfather shared with me, “Let your dreams be bigger than your fears and your actions louder than your words.”

Ten years later the program has been widely expanded and enhanced because of the commitment and expertise of our trainers.  The program evolved because of the support of our Executive Leaders; the mentoring of our Managers; and the coaching of our Supervisors. There is truth to the words “it takes a village to raise a child.” Over 1000 youth between the ages of 18-24 have experienced the good leadership of our village.


Good leadership is good leadership, regardless of employees’ racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic backgrounds. To a large extent, good leadership—leadership that is engaging, relevant, multicultural, and appealing to a variety of modalities and learning styles—works well with all employees of an organization from the top down.

The instructional and leadership strategies we use to facilitate the curriculum can be adapted to any industry. They are as much about attitude and general approach as about specific leadership styles and workplace application. They have a few characteristics in common:
  • They are inclusive, not exclusive.
  • They work best in context with other ideas and concepts, not in isolation.
  • They focus on employees working within social situations, rather than alone.
  • The activities, techniques, and goals are interactive and interdisciplinary, realistic rather than esoteric.
  • Possibly most important, they empower employees to be actively involved in the processes of their own learning, rather than passively receptive.
My team and I focus on ideas at work rather than ideas that work.  Because “ideas that work” implies a kind of guarantee of effectiveness. No single strategy, approach, or technique works with all employees. But the concepts have proven themselves over time, with a multitude of Opportunity Youth of diverse backgrounds and widely ranging abilities.

Throughout the history of business, employees have had to adapt to managers and managers have had to adapt to organizations. As workplaces evolve, this pattern is beginning to reverse. Managers and organizations are now adapting to employees. This means that businesses must challenge and reimagine everything they know about work.

The demographics of employees are changing and so are employees’ expectations, values, attitudes, and styles of working. I have a responsibility to rethink our traditional structure, how we empower employees, and what they need to do to remain competitive. This is reflected in the positive impact our training and team development strategies have on the lives of our current and future employees.

The beginning of our development strategy starts with empowerment. We teach our youth to take pride in all they have achieved in our organization and the lives they have impacted.  We remind them that their life is much bigger than they can possibly imagine.  Today is now here. And with it has come the opportunity for them to move in the direction they choose. Along these lines, we share and reinforce this message:

If you have been knocked off your feet, today is the day to get back up and get going again. If you have made choices that led to disappointing results, today is the day you can change your direction. If you have been holding a treasured dream in your heart, you can begin today to make that dream happen. If something has been holding you back, today is your chance to start moving beyond it.

All that you’ve done and all that you are, has now arrived at today. In this day there are opportunities that have been building for a lifetime. You’ve learned what works and what does not, experienced pain, joy, sadness and fulfillment. Today you know, better than ever before, just which way to go. So breathe deeply, feel the fresh air of real meaning and true purpose as it fills your spirit. And make today the best day yet.

Graduation photos

Now in its tenth year, the program has evolved but the principles have not, and nor have the goals.   Over 1000 young adults have experienced the developmental journey we provide and approximately 85% of them are proudly working today.

And I will close with a client quote from a CEO from a banking client “This training program must be  excellent. I have asked two of your youth about it and they both stated that it was a “life changing” experience!”

Enjoy the stories of the Opportunity Youth who recently graduated from our program on June 9th, 2016.

The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here.

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