Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Advice for A Cohort

From a speech given at Cohort 8's Graduation, August 30, 2013:
My name is Mary Turner and I am a proud LA Fellow graduate of Cohort 7.

I was sitting where these Fellows are just 5 months ago. It has been my distinct pleasure to be the Program Assistant for this Cohort, seeing them through orientation, those first nervous interviews and - sorry guys – horrendous resumes, through their acceptance into the program and all the hard work, camaraderie and victories that followed. (Including *much* improved resumes!)

My Fellows of Cohort 8, you’ll get praise and congratulations and recaps all day from others, so I’ll leave that to those who are more eloquent than I am. You deserve it.

What I will offer you is some brief advice from someone who sat where you are sitting now poised to go forth and conquer the world once again.

Remember who you are. You are adaptable: bonding with a group of strangers from a diverse array of backgrounds and quickly becoming a team is a skill that served you well in this adventure and will carry you far in the next one.

Remember that you are in charge of managing your career. Make mindful decisions to get to where you want to be, don’t let fear make the decisions for you.

It’s okay to use a stepping stone to bridge a gap, until you’re ready for the next step, but don’t settle there if it’s not your destination. You may need to take a job to take care of finances or get the education you need for your goal, and that’s okay. Just remember that you are in motion, know your target.

Re-evaluate from time to time. Ask yourself:  Is what you’re doing working? If not,  make adjustments.

Stay in touch. You will not lose the need for your network once you’ve landed your next job. Or the next one. Or the one after that.  This is a support team you will be hard pressed to match anywhere.

Even if your career doesn’t take you toward the nonprofit field, stay connected to the nonprofit world. It needs the talent, intelligence and heart you have to offer. This is such a giving, caring group of people. Giving back will strengthen you wherever you go.

Never stop learning. Never stop sharing your knowledge. Your time in LA Fellows is a gift – pay it forward.

Never stop saying yes. Keep your search in motion. Be ready.

If your job search stalls, and you start to slide into old habits, call a fellow Fellow. Go over your action steps again. Ask yourself: What would Lynnette tell me to do?

My last piece of advice is advice I got from my favorite Fellow, Geni from Cohort 7: if you don’t feel like you’re making progress, get your face in front of people. Go to a conference, a board meeting, a seminar,  volunteer for your professional organization, find a new nonprofit to assist with something just beyond your comfort zone, but get your face in front of people.

This is especially true for this group: you are amazing human beings, and anyone who meets you can’t help but be impressed. I have been honored to be able to help you on your Fellows journey and hope you never doubt that you can do this and do this well. I hope you will stay in touch and return to regale me with the tales of your future successes. I know you will each do great things. Congratulations.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Cohort 8 Graduation - Photo

A fresh group of "bright, shiny pennies" took center stage on Friday August 30, 2013 to claim their graduation certificates and celebrate their experience as proud participants in Cohort 8 of the LA Fellows program. We congratulate them on their accomplishments to date and look forward to hearing about all the great things they will do as a result of the inspiration they've received from their instuctors and the great work they've done using what they've learned.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cohort 8 Graduation- Terry Proctor

Thanks to the camera of Fellow Danny Syto, we are able to bring you a video of Cohort 8's other graduation speaker, Terry Proctor, giving his thoughts on their completion of the LA Fellows experience.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cohort 8 Graduation - Katie Mills

On Friday August 30, 2013, Cohort 8 of the LA Fellows program celebrated their graduation. One of their chosen speakers was Katie Mills. Here are the words of reflection she shared to celebrate their LA Fellows experience:

Was I shouting? Was I yelling? I hope so, because our teacher Larry taught us to start our public speaking by yelling like crazy people – he thinks this conveys confidence. I’m not sure that was loud enough, so can I ask my cohort to stand up and help show Larry and our guests today that we have learned to greet people?

(Everyone in Cohort 8 yells together):


Thank you  – This teamwork is just a small demonstration of the camaraderie that we have built over the past eight weeks in LA Fellows, and we’ve done so by watching each other go through embarrassing activities that took us out of our comfort zone.

In early July, we came in here as 22 isolated job seekers and have become over these past seven weeks a transformed community dedicated to supporting one another in becoming the bright shiny pennies that our teacher Lynnette coached us to be.

Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man, the Lion and the Scarecrow, we’ve been on a transformational journey, and today we’re celebrating because we HAVE found our courage, our hearts, and our brains through LA Fellows. We’ve melted the scary Wicked Witch, we’ve pulled back the curtain on the all-powerful Oz, and we’re here today to mark this amazing journey from downbeaten job seekers to eager and excited interns who are ready to land a rewarding job. Thanks to LA Fellows, we have learned to have a vision today rather than merely a survival plan.

Like the travelers on the Yellow Brick Road, we in Cohort 8 have bonded because we’ve survived so many challenges together. Standing in front of your peers and yelling “good morning” might not seem so scary to you in the audience, but it was intimidating to actually sit and watch while each one of us stood in front of the class like little mice yelling in squeaky voices and doing it over and over and over again until we sounded like big, brave lions. Ditto for leading the beat in the amazing and wonderful afternoon of the drum circle with Roberto. I won’t even mention how Jim tied us up with rope on the very first morning of class, or how Lynnette forced us to be confident and proud of ourselves.

I want to credit Lennie Ciufo, Allison Silver, Mary Turner, and Keri Luna for providing a fantastic, well-planned curriculum that took us at a good pace on a journey of reflection, action, and intentionality. They also recruited truly wonderful teachers, and I speak for all of us when I say thanks to Jim Marteney, Lynnette Ward, Larry Braman, Andrea Mitchel, Kim Eberhardt, Roberto Gutierrez, Tony Jaramillo, Doug Card, and Allison Silver.

Some of our most important bonding experiences were not on the curriculum. For me, our cohesion began early, in our second week of classes, when one of us had a medical emergency. Seeing one of us down while the EMTs rushed in – that symbolized our vulnerability:

·         first of all, as humans, w/ the mere fact of mortality,

·         but also as unemployed adults living on budgets, no one sure if the other even had medical insurance or someone at home to take care of us.

We recognized then that we were all in this together, that we had already become comrades on a team, no longer isolated individuals. (And, I’m happy to report that our friend bounced back immediately.)

Seeing people step up and take responsibility for someone in need is empowering, and it set the tone for the rest of our time together. Allison, Mary, and all our teachers had always embodied an ethos of support, caring and respect. When we collectively embraced this during that second week of classes, it snowballed, expanding exponentially as we all authentically began enjoying, appreciating, and looking out for each other.

The sweet moments were when Danny made us all Filipino deep fried bananas, when Mark brought the pie made by his mother, Mrs. Barbara Washington, when Daryl brought the flowers and Dawn brought the strawberry cake for Allison’s birthday.

I’d like to thank LA Valley College, the Job Training Department and the LA Fellows Advisory Board for supporting a program whose positive impact radiates out into our society as a positive response to the economic challenges that characterize the past five years. Globalization and technology have altered job stability, and weakening wage power makes more and more workers vulnerable in our tough economic times.   

I want to note that today’s graduation takes place just before the Labor Day holiday and two days after the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, which was also called the March for Jobs & Freedom, fighting for economic justice alongside civil rights.  There is an intimate link between employment and our nation’s political wellbeing, and the contribution being made by LA Fellows is significant and deserves recognition.

I want to thank our families and friends who have supported us through these eight weeks – I’m especially grateful to my husband for taking on more than half of the cooking, grocery shopping, and dog-walking responsibilities, and for his support of the goals I set during LA Fellows.

Let’s have a round of applause for our supporters.

We’re happy to have our supervisors here from our nonprofit organizations. Our internships allow us to use our skills, even those that have been buried under pragmatism and responsibilities, and to give back to society some of the caring and generosity we have been so privileged to enjoy in LA Fellows.

Cohort 8 greeted you in one voice at the beginning of my talk, and yet there will be 22 different endings to our story as we leave our program and move on. We are graduating into the important role of LA Fellow alumni, serving as ambassadors in our nonprofits and – soon -- in new jobs of the transformative work being done here at LA Valley College by Lennie and his team.

So Cohort 8, let’s click our ruby slippers and remember:

There’s no place like LA Fellows, there’s no place like LA Fellows, there’s no place like LA Fellows, and for that, we thank you all for supporting us as we journey forth.