Updated: Jul 13, 2021
Three years ago, I attended my first YNPN Chicago event, Speed Networking at Joy District. I never envisioned that one day I would be Board Chair, leading through a pandemic. It has been a wild year and I am honored that I have been able to work with 17 amazing board members. I want to thank them for trusting in my decision making, pushing back with new ideas and continuing to think outside the box so that we can better serve our network. As my board term is coming to an end, I feel incredibly proud of the work we have done over the past year.
Last summer, as I was preparing to transition into the Board Chair role, I was excited, anxious and scared! I wondered: Would we be able to offer valuable events to our network? Would board members be able to build connections with each other virtually? Am I the right person to lead? It is safe to say that YNPN Chicago is still standing on very solid ground. We have accomplished so much together. This year, we revamped our Leadership Institute program to be more equitable, delivered a variety of professional development sessions, hosted a Celebration event that honored dynamic leaders in our community and awarded two Professional Growth Grants. Even though our board has been meeting virtually over the past year, we have been able to bond and celebrate so many special moments in each other's lives like job promotions and grad school acceptances. There is no guidebook that could have prepared me to lead for this year. I have made mistakes, felt like I failed, but I did my absolute best. The joy and laughter from our monthly board meetings is how I quantify my success. I have grown tremendously personally and professionally and I owe that to YNPN Chicago.
I celebrate being the first Black Chair of the YNPN Chicago Board because representation matters. It took 20 years, but progress is still progress! I was very clear about my goals to diversify our board and network, when I started in my role as Chair. I am proud that my fellow board members embraced my goals because change doesn’t happen without allies. When I joined the board, less than 20% of board members identified as people of color. I can proudly say that 50% of our current board members identify as people of color.
This spring we launched the Creating Space Initiative to build community and learn how we could support BIPOC members of our community. I was inspired to create the Creating Space Initiative out of frustration. I am a black woman, our board is more diverse than ever before, but we still are not reaching people of color in our sector. We must do more! I created this initiative as a pilot, and I am overwhelmed with happiness that the board will continue it, even after my board term ends.
Although I will miss the board, I am thrilled to pass the torch to Julissa Cruz (the incoming chair) because she will lead this board with style and grace. I cherish the past three years and I cannot believe it is time to say goodbye. I will continue to cheer from the sidelines, and I know there is so much more to come from YNPN Chicago.