Around the Table with Dr. Renee DeBoard-Lucas

Welcome to Around the Table, a regular series where we talk to people in our network and share the incredible work they are doing in their industry. Pull up a chair and join us for conversation and connection.

Name: Renee DeBoard-Lucas, Ph.D.

Company: TRUE Center

Where to Find You: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram

What is TRUE Center?

TRUE Center is a trauma-focused mental health organization whose mission is to increase access to affordable, trauma-focused, evidence-based care and prevention for DC-area children and families. Starting this fall, we will offer a variety of intervention and prevention services for children, families, community members, and professionals in the DC area. We will provide:

  • Consultations to help families answer questions about their child’s response to trauma
  • Child and family therapy, that is shown to work with children who have experienced trauma.
  • Cognitive-behavioral treatments designed to eliminate and prevent incidents of what is known as ‘problematic sexual behaviors’ in children
  • Assessments and interventions to help immigrants heal and thrive
  • Informational sessions for caregivers and community members
  • Training presentations for professionals

We launched officially this week and are excited to continue preparations to support services this fall.

What inspired you and your fellow co-founders to create TRUE Center?

At TRUE Center, we believe passionately that all children deserve access to affordable, effective trauma treatment. Although nearly half of kids and teens in the D.C. area have experienced trauma, we were seeing that most children who need mental health support in the aftermath don’t receive it.   We’ve seen that it can be hard for families to get trauma support due to expensive services, inaccessible hours and locations, and ineffective treatments, all of which are impacted by systemic and structural racism. This is where we hope TRUE Center comes in.  

We’re making a space where families can more easily find the support they need and get treatments that work. We train others to help, making our schools and communities more trauma informed. TRUE stands for Trauma Resilience Understanding and Education. Our name not only reflects the services we provide but also our commitment to provide every child with effective, compassionate care and the space to share their truth.

What kind of impact do you hope TRUE has in the Washington D.C. community?

At TRUE, we know that the pandemic has amplified existing inequities in access to healthcare. In the DC community, we are hoping to make it easier for neighborhood kids and families to connect to trauma services, to help answer parents’ questions about their kids’ reactions to trauma, to empower kids and teens to talk about their experiences and develop tools for coping, and to train professionals so there are more people providing trauma-informed care.

How can readers who support TRUE’s mission get involved?

There are lots of ways to get involved at TRUE! We are looking to expand our Board and build our volunteer base. We love meeting new people who are passionate about increasing access to care and to treating and preventing trauma in kids. And as a developing agency, donating is crucial to helping us grow, so we can begin providing services to kids and families in the community. Visit our website or connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram to learn more and get involved.

What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career?

“Be yourself.” When I was in graduate school, I was trying too hard to emulate how I thought a clinician should act in a therapy session. I had a supervisor who pointed out to me that she wasn’t seeing my personality in the therapy sessions that she saw in our other interactions. Once I took her advice to be myself, I found my own footing. It’s important to me now to maintain that long after grad school. I find that I connect best with the kids and families I’m working with when I’m being my authentic self.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?

I love spending time with my family and friends. I love being outside, traveling, and reading a good book!

If we were literally around the table right now, what food would you have brought to share?

I would bring cinnamon rolls or donuts from a local bakery I love.

Around the Table with Nitasha Chaudhary Nagaraj, Ph.D

Welcome to Around the Table, a regular series where we talk to people in our network and share the incredible work they are doing in their industry. Pull up a chair and join us for conversation and connection.

Name: Nitasha Chaudhary Nagaraj, Ph.D

Organization and Role: Assistant Professor, Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University

Where to Find You: LinkedIn

What drew you to the world of public health? 
I graduated college in the post 9/11 era where, jobs were hard to find. I landed myself an internship working on issues related to public health preparedness and informatics and how we can better prepare state health departments for future man-made and natural disasters. This led me to pursue a master’s in public health (MPH) from The George Washington University. After spending many years working on public health preparedness issues, I moved into issues related to health behavior as I realized my true passion was to understand how populations function, how we behave and how our entire lives (environmental, hereditary, social factors, etc.) impact our health status and the generations after us.

In my current role as an Assistant Professor, I teach courses on Reproductive Health and Evaluation. I also spend much of my time conducting research and evaluation on studies as they relate to women and girls here in the U.S. and in South Asia– better understanding gender norms and attitudes, voice, and agency; and the impact of primary and secondary education on health outcomes such as maternal mortality, infant mortality, child marriage, and violence. I also sit as on the board for Global India Fund (GIF) and the Domestic Violence Resource Project (DVRP).

How has the pandemic affected how public health organizations communicate with their communities? 
The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on how much organizations do not communicate with each other and their communities. There is much misinformation and distrust that has resulted due to the ever-fast-evolving pandemic. I hope as we navigate ourselves and move from the pandemic to an endemic, public health organizations work more closely with their communities to build trust, communicate effectively, and provide equitable resources to everyone so when the next emergency hits us, we are better prepared to respond.

What is a critical lesson about addressing health disparities that you share with your students/future leaders? 
You need to listen. You need to engage communities and you need to work at the ground level to understand what the real needs are. We cannot move on health issues without the collective effort of those that need the most help and the only way to do that is to work with those communities vs. telling them what to do. They are the true experts.

What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career? 
No one is going to change their behavior unless you meet them where they are.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do? 
I love to spend time with my kids (ages 7 and 4, and another on the way), hike, read and binge watch terrible TV.

If we were literally “around the table” right now, what food would you have brought to share? 
Anything Indian! There is so much comfort and love in the food, not to mention it is SO delicious.

Transit Equity Day: Carrying on the Legacy of Rosa Parks

In 1976, then President Gerald Ford honored Rosa Parks on her birthday by declaring February 4 as Transit Equity Day. A civil rights icon, Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery, Alabama city bus and sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Public transit provides basic mobility and plays a critical role in the economic, social, and environmental well-being of a region. Everyone has a right to safe, reliable, environmentally sustainable, and affordable transit that is accessible to all.

We’re commemorating the 2022 Transit Equity Day by sharing insight from a well-respected changemaker, Fatima Ghani. Throughout her career, Fatima has researched and presented studies on environmental equity, sustainability, and community planning and participation. In fact, we attended Fatima’s presentation at the 2021 NAEP Conference and have admired her work ever since.

What does Transit Equity Day mean to you?

It is such a shame to mention that something like basic public transportation has/had equity issues. People had to struggle to get a ride on public transport, not because the transit network had issues, but just for being “who they were.” Imagine being denied access to take a bus or a train to commute to work, school or other destinations because of who you are! For being you! Isn’t it a citizen’s vital right to commute?

Let’s give it up to Rosa Parks, who took the first step and fought for many unknown faces. It is her courage, protest, and bravery that brought about the concept of “transit equity for all.”

A public transit network to a city is like the arteries and veins to a human body. A flourishing city not only relies on an efficient public transportation network, but more importantly an equitable one, which is all-inclusive, sustainable, and resilient.

Could you describe the important role you play in researching outdated infrastructure and designing more sustainable and equitable transportation systems?

I got an opportunity to assist Ron Deverman, Vice President/National Environmental Planning Leader at STV Inc., in his transportation project presentations. The titles of our research project presentations were “Community Conversations: Effective Community Outreach for Equitable Outcomes” and “Interstate to Boulevards,” respectively. The former was a railway project focusing upgrades and improvements on old infrastructure. The latter was about redesigning aging highways into boulevards. The focus and vision of both projects was to redesign more equitable, sustainable, and resilient transportation systems.

The main findings and highlights of these research studies were twofold:

  1. There were extreme equity and environmental justice issues in several highways constructed in the 1950s and 1960s.
  2. Public involvement and effective outreach early in the planning process led to equitable and sustainable outcomes/solutions.

What’s the best advice you would share to anyone interested in getting involved in making transportation systems more equitable?

The best advice I would share with anyone interested in getting involved in making transportation systems more equitable would be to involve the local community/area residents/business owners early in the project planning process. Community conversations are extremely important in understanding the project needs, finding opportunities, and working out solutions that are equitable and sustainable.

Learn more about Fatima’s projects by following her on LinkedIn.

The Avid Core team is committed to helping our partners create equitable public engagement processes. We work with planners, government agencies, community-based organizations, and community members to build and plan for sustainable and inclusive transportation systems.

Around the Table with Betsy Overkamp-Smith

Welcome to Around the Table, a regular series where we talk to people in our network and share the incredible work they are doing in their industry. Pull up a chair and join us for conversation and connection.

Name: Betsy Overkamp-Smith

Company: BetsyOS PR

Where to Find You: LinkedIn

What drew you to the world of public relations? 
I was a newspaper reporter/editor, and, after my first child, I was looking for a career that would give me more balance, timewise. My mom was in non-profit PR, so I knew what the career entailed – or, at least, I thought I did! I didn’t realize at the time how challenging public school PR would be, but at least I’ve never been bored!

How has the pandemic transformed crisis communications, particularly in education? 
Crisis communication in education had been evolving for quite some time, mostly due to social media and the 24-hour news cycle. I think the pandemic taught us all more than we ever thought we’d need to know about health-related crisis communication. It also gave us a little bit of a reprieve from crisis PR related to the day-to-day happenings in school buildings – especially when schools were closed.

The pandemic has taught me to remember that every COVID-related communication must be more than just the facts. People are worried and scared and just not sure when the next shoe will drop. As communicators, we need to remember that and help provide as much clarity and compassion as we can.

What could social media look like in 2022 and beyond? What trends are you seeing in your work? 
I think many school divisions are rethinking how they use social media. When a division posts something of importance to its students and staff, social media isn’t necessarily the best medium because people from around the world can then take the post/information – without any real sense of context – and run with it. 

I think 2022 and beyond will further emphasize the need for and use of digital tools that are specifically directed to those who have a personal stake in the division – parents, staff, local community members. That said, I think social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) is an important component of a comprehensive communications plan, and it can be used strategically to build community, engage families, and share innovation/successes.

What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career? 
In my first school PR job, I worked closely with the Chief Operations Officer. His background wasn’t education – he was a former Naval officer – but he made such a positive and long-lasting impact on the division and its success. He told me early on to not enter his office and tell him I made a mistake and then expect him to fix it for me. He wanted me to learn how to fix my mistakes and then walk in his office and tell him my plan. Ownership and problem-solving are two skills that have served me well throughout my career.

He also taught me to not hold onto all the mental and emotional baggage that can surround you (and your staff) when you make an error or when things don’t go the way you expected. Deal with it and let it go. 

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do? 
I have a Cricut addiction. A Cricut is a machine that you can use to make a whole bunch of things – T-shirts, signs, greeting cards, promotional materials, stickers, the list goes on! I enjoy trying out new skills and sharing my results with friends and family. I also use it for work, so whatever I learn can help my service to clients.

I also just love hanging out with my family. We have great game nights, and we are all focused on one task: not losing to my son! Pick a game, he will master it. It’s quite annoying!

If we were literally “around the table” right now, what food would you have brought to share? 
I am a Texas girl, so, of course, it would have had to have been some type of Tex-Mex food. I make a mean margarita, and they go great with chorizo and cheese dip!

Building Confidence through New Experiences

Wet palms, shaking legs, scratchy voice— we’ve all been there, feeling the nerves and excitement ahead of something unknown.  Confidence can be built when you least expect it, and new experiences give us opportunities to showcase strengths we didn’t even know we had.

As we start a new year, I’m looking back on some of the strengths I have gained and continue to hone. My internship at Avid Core has been filled with opportunities for growth but one of the biggest lessons I gained through this experience actually started before I was even hired to the team.

When I applied to Avid Core in July 2021, I had just finished my sophomore year at West Virginia University. I was taking communications courses and had an interest in the legal profession but had no idea where or how to become involved. I saw the Avid Core posting and sent off my application without thinking anything would come from it. Getting the call for an interview helped me start to gain confidence and realize that the quality of my work was not defined by the length of my resume. 

I was born and raised in a small town in West Virginia surrounded by values and beliefs unlike other locations across the U.S. In 2021, I had also worked up the courage to come out as a gay man to my family in West Virginia. Those from West Virginia are often perceived negatively based on the stereotypes that come from movies, television, and folklore, and I was worried I would be prejudged during my interview. But after learning more about Avid Core’s work, I realized my upbringing was one of my strengths. I was able to bring a fresh perspective, share my experiences, and offer a voice that was missing from the Avid Core team.

My internship has taught me how vital it is to listen to people and ensure their voices and perspectives are heard and understood. Avid Core’s most successful projects are rooted in listening to and learning from diverse groups of people and the team here helped me see how my own unique world view and experiences can play a role in that process.

Next time you find yourself looking at an amazing opportunity and feeling too nervous to go for it, think back to the small-town boy from West Virginia who got a job with Avid Core. Find the confidence to grow, lead, and be yourself. Apply for that job. Lead that project. And take that chance because you never know what the outcome might be if you don’t try.

Photo Courtesy of Trevor Swiger

Trevor Swiger is a junior at West Virginia University. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Two Sweet: Celebrating Avid Core’s Second Year

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

Our second year in business was “two” sweet, a period of amazing growth and adjustment. While our first year was filled with unique challenges, this year we found a way to continue to grow our work and professional relationships while expertly adapting to the ever-evolving situation of starting a company in a pandemic.

In 2021, we were certified by the Commonwealth of Virginia as a Small, Woman- and Minority-owned Business (SWaM) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE). We received local and international recognition and none of it would have been possible without our incredible team of creative and passionate communications professionals. I am so grateful to be surrounded by people who show up every day ready to support one another, our clients, and the communities our clients serve.

As we start our third year, we’re expanding our transportation work by helping communities be more involved in transportation planning and helping agencies coordinate on their transportation management plans. We’re working with our new partner Kimley-Horn and hope to continue growing this service area and supporting agencies as they reach local communities across Virginia and beyond.

We’re also working to communicate important local diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives with our partners at KL Scott & Associates. Avid Core is committed to creating inclusive environments and supporting equitable initiatives both internally and in our client work.  

We’re starting to book media trainings and message development workshops for 2022 and are excited to support our clients as they hone their talking points and learn to communicate clearly and with impact.

Avid Core is continuing to look at ways to expand consultation and coordination efforts with tribal governments. We are working with our current clients to ensure Tribal Nations are considered in their outreach and coordination efforts, and recently won work with our partners at Cogstone Resource Management and Kearns & West to facilitate a series of conversations and workshops on land access, the development of a land acknowledgement, and an evaluation of systemic harms.

Additionally, we are continuing our environmental planning work alongside our partner DAWSON and are looking at ways to help other agencies and organizations conduct comprehensive communications and public involvement as part of their environmental planning.

Beyond our client work, we look forward to continuing to build our team of fun, talented professionals and to the return our leader Virginia Quiambao Arroyo, who welcomed a baby boy at the end of last year!

Photo Courtesy of Virginia Quiambao Arroyo

Thank you for your continued support and let me know if you want to connect as we kick off our exciting third year as a business.  

Looking Back at 2021 at Avid Core

Avid Core’s second year was a period of growth. At the beginning of the year, we publicly set a few goals and are proud of the steps we have taken to achieve them.

In 2021, we took on new and exciting projects in different sectors, built new partnerships, and grew as a team.

We are so grateful for the new opportunities we have had as a company and want to extend our deepest thanks to everyone who has supported us over the past year.

Here’s to many more!

Unleashing My Inner Tommy Pickles: Lessons from My Avid Core Internship

Growing up, one of my favorite TV shows was Nickelodeon’s The Rugrats. I loved following along with the baby adventures and wild imaginations of Tommy and Dill Pickles, Chuckie Finster, Phil and Lil Deville, Angelica Pickles, and Susie Carmichael. Tommy stood out to me for his bravery, charm, charisma, and devotion to his friends and fellow Rugrats.

Going into my Avid Core internship I thought I had it all figured out, but as in Rugrats, there was always something new to learn and explore. Taking a cue from Tommy and his friends, here are three key lessons from my internship.

Value Collaboration and Celebration
A baby dressed in a blue t shirt and brown cowboy hat looks to the right. Below the image reads the text "Im heading home to have myself a juice, snuggle with my blankie, and go nap nap".
Image Courtesy of Nickelodeon Studios

Tommy taught me about work-life balance from an early age. He always prioritized an afternoon nap after a morning of teamwork and adventures. Similarly, I’ve witnessed Avid Core prioritizing hard work, collaboration, and celebration. We all work together, capitalizing on each person’s unique skill sets, to complete project needs and I always felt like my contributions were heard and valued. Whether it was writing media pitches for a client’s launch, incorporating feedback throughout an assignment’s review chain, or having team working sessions on client projects, Avid Core always shared in the spirit of teamwork. After working hard and reaching our goals as a team, we celebrated our wins big and small together. And Tommy and his band of babies have the right idea. After a satisfying workday, who wouldn’t want to curl up with some juice and have a relaxing nap?

Embrace the Unfamiliar
On the left a small child with red hair, and on the right another baby looks at a bald baby dressed in a blue t-shirt and white diaper in the middle of the image. The text below the image reads" a baby's gotta do, what a baby's gotta do".
Image Courtesy of Nickelodeon Studios

Tommy never backs down from a challenge and he is always up for learning new things. During my internship with Avid Core, I have learned to embrace new and unfamiliar things. Our clients span industries I had no experience in – transportation, non-profit healthcare, infrastructure, and environmental planning. Our team finds beauty and community in each different sector and shares it with the world. Whether I was crafting a social media strategy for a new non-profit’s launch, editing letters sent to the leaders of Tribal Nations, or creating website designs for an archaeology and historic preservation company, I learned how our communications and outreach work makes an impact. Like my favorite ambitious baby, Avid Core embraces new projects and clients with a go-getter attitude, even when the challenge feels impossible.

Stay Flexible
On the left, a bald baby in a white shirt and white and brown diaper looks down at his brother. His brother lays on the ground resting upon a blue and red bag wrapped in a blue blanket.
Image Courtesy of Nickelodeon Studios

Just like Dill Pickles was lucky to have his adaptable and resourceful big brother Tommy, I was lucky to witness Avid Core’s creativity and flexibility. Utilizing their 4L Process, Avid Core meets their clients right where they are and delivers solutions and strategies customized to each client’s goals. Getting involved in this process taught me how to ensure you are meeting client needs even when things don’t go as planned. We were flexible and nimble, investing time to go the extra mile for all their clients and evaluating and adjusting throughout. Tommy always found a way to provide the best help possible to take care of Dill, an admirable quality I found over and over at Avid Core.

Just like Tommy, I do not know where my next adventure will take me, but I do know that the lessons I learned here will stay with me. Whether I’m headed home for a nap, or beginning my next career opportunity I will always remember to channel my favorite Rugrat.

Angel Dennis is a communications graduate from Bowling Green State University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Avid Fans of: Winter Traditions

Avid (adjective) – having or showing a keen interest in or enthusiasm for something. It’s more than just our company’s namesake. Passion for our work and for the things we love is part of our core values. Each month we’ll share some of the things we’re Avid Fans of with you. 

Along with the freezing temperatures, winter brings holiday festivities, the ringing in of a new year, lots of scarves and fashionable coats, and time with family and friends. Bundle up and get cozy as the Avid Core team shares some of our favorite winter traditions!  

Angel – Chris Brown, Cookies, Christmas Trees, and Movies 

I am not an avid fan of winter, but I do love the traditions that come along with it. On December 1, my mom wakes us up bright and early by playing Chris Brown’s rendition of “This Christmas” through the house. My sisters and I rush down the stairs, full of the knowledge that Christmas cookies were in the oven or cooling down waiting to be eaten for breakfast. We grab the Christmas decorations and the Christmas tree out of the storage closet in the basement and begin transforming our home into a winter wonderland. Each year, my grandmother comes over with homemade brunch and places the star on top of the tree. We gather around the living room with full bellies as we kick off the Christmas season by watching The Polar Express as a family.  

Image from the Polar Express film. A small boy stands outside in the snow in a blue trench coat. A massive black train with bright lights on stands in front of the boy.
Image Courtesy of Warner Bros. Studios

Steph – Art You Can Enjoy with Your Eyes and Mouth 

Although we come from different backgrounds, the one thing we can agree on in my family is that cookies are a delicious way to celebrate the season. It’s even more fun when we transform into cookie artists and make edible art. We’ve been decorating Hannukah and Christmas cookies for the past eight years. I really loved sharing this tradition with our daughters’ classmates a few years ago.  Watching preschoolers and first graders go wild with decorations taught me new, creative cookie decorating techniques (and to never turn your back or the sprinkles will mysteriously disappear). Pick up a cookie decorating kit, blast a festive playlist, and enjoy! 

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Mace

Sarah – Following Yonder Star —> Toward Mimosas 

My approach to tradition-building is a bit haphazard, caused in part by all the awesome opportunities for winter fun in this area! There’s so much to choose from and you just can’t do it all. Good thing the grandparents have it together! One of my favorite traditions comes from my husband’s family. They are Catholic, so they celebrate the three kings’ visit to Jesus (Three Kings’ Day / Feast of the Epiphany) at the end of the 12 days of Christmas. When my husband was little, they did stockings and had a nice meal. Now it’s grown into a mini-Christmas, where they invite family and close family friends over, and we all gift a little something (from post-Christmas sales!) and have a huge brunch. It’s great to have an event to look forward to during that post-Christmas, post-New Year’s Day, back-to-the-routine-blues phase.   

Cartoon by Michael Leunig

Ashley – Krampusnacht 

My parents have very set traditions for Christmas and I really just have to show up and enjoy them. They are all very rooted in family and a traditional Christian Christmas and it is lovely and amazing. But my husband and I wanted to make sure we had a tradition of our own, outside of our respective families. When we were living in Germany in 2015, we finally found our perfect winter tradition – Krampusnacht! Krampus is the counterpart to St. Nicholas/Santa, who beats naughty children with sticks and takes them away to his lair. In the legends, he visits children on December 5, the night before St. Nicholas Day. We went to a Krampusnacht festival in Bavaria and now recreate the festivities with friends at our annual Krampusnacht party. It’s filled with German Glühwein, traditional Bavarian recipes, and some party food favorites. It has been a great way each year to kick off the holiday season, share some of our favorite Germany memories, and have some fun.  

Photo Courtesy of Ashley Dobson

Trevor – Monopolizing the Opportunity! 

Growing up in northern West Virginia gave me plenty of opportunities to enjoy the snow and get into the holiday spirit…if only I liked the cold temperatures! Lengthy snowfalls and negative temperatures meant fun snowball fights and sled rides around the state. However, for me, winter and the holidays bring countless memories of indoor activities fun for all ages. If I had to choose one, I would choose the days where schools closed thanks to heavy snowfall, and my family would stay inside and play Monopoly together. The game was filled with happiness (and anguish) as we would roll the die and test our luck with the Community Chest and Chance cards and bankrupt each other with every roll. The holidays are special for their own reasons but playing Monopoly on snow-filled days with no school takes the cake…or should I say the hot chocolate! 

Image Courtesy of Hasbro Games

Amanda – To Be Determined 

As a parent of young children and having just moved to a new neighborhood last year and figuring out life in a pandemic, our family’s traditions are still being formed. My hope is that our new traditions will allow us to celebrate with family and friends of all backgrounds, support local businesses, and let my children get their energy out! I’m fortunate to live in an area where there are so many winter and holiday celebrations and can’t wait to see what sticks for the Roberts’ household!   

Around the Table with Brelan Hillman

Welcome to Around the Table, a regular series where we talk to people in our network and share the incredible work they are doing in their industry. Pull up a chair and join us for conversation and connection.

Name: Brelan Hillman

Company: JMI

Where to Find You: Connect with me on LinkedIn!

What drew you to the world of community engagement?

Community involvement is literally in my DNA. Looking at the legacies of both sides of my family, you can find several examples of individuals embodying servant leadership for the betterment of their communities through elected office, education, houses of faith, volunteering, philanthropy, and business. Working in community engagement professionally and personally provides me the opportunity to further that legacy and, interestingly, I often find myself operating at the intersection of those spaces.

How has the pandemic affected how organizations communicate with their communities?

It has posed significant challenges, especially when engaging historically underserved populations. We kicked off a stakeholder and community engagement project just as the world was shutting down and had to quickly pivot from our traditional strategies and tactics. While virtual meeting solutions have been a lifesaver, they are not the end-all-be-all given broadband access limitations, scheduling challenges, and ZOOM fatigue. It ultimately comes down to going beyond just checking the box, being intentional about the channels you leverage, and putting in the groundwork to connect with those with deep, longstanding relationships in the communities. You also must be mindful of how to clearly articulate the value proposition of what you’re proposing given all the competing priorities many of us have on our plates.

What is a critical element of telling a story?

Authenticity. Our experiences have the unique ability to move people, but to be most affecting, you need to ground what you’re sharing in your personal truth, find opportunities to be vulnerable, and go deep. You’ll lose people quickly by resorting to surface-level platitudes. People want to identify with what you’re saying, but you have to give them something tangible to connect to.

What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career?

“Let the work speak for itself.” If your work is driven by seeking attention and validation from others, you’ll never be fulfilled and will likely often be distracted from walking in your purpose. I’ve found that focusing solely on doing great work often leads to making an incredible impact, which can speak volumes on its own.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?

I referee basketball at the high school and college level. I like to think it’s another way where I can engage communities through service.

If we were literally around the table right now, what food would you have brought to share?

Since we’re in the holiday season, I’d love to bring some homemade baked macaroni and cheese if I can get my mother to share her recipe.