Friday, March 27, 2015

LA Fellows Shows: There's No Replacement for Personal Interaction

On Friday, March 13th, the LA Fellows program celebrated the graduation of its 11th Cohort (class) of job-seeking professionals. Two individuals from the class were chosen by their Cohort to speak at the ceremony. The second speaker was Barbara Ige, who agreed to let us post a transcript of her thoughtful and uplifting speech:

Good morning everyone. I believe that I speak for my fellow Fellows--current, past, and future -- that we cannot thank the LA Fellows’Advisory Board enough for understanding the ever shifting economy, and for your progressive and innovative vision to create a program like the LA Fellows, because no one is immune to the economy’s fickle and unstable nature.
We would also like to thank the Worksource Centers for providing the funding for a much needed program that should be the model for community colleges across the country. If it were not for you, we, but here, I mainly speak for myself, would be in a very different emotional space. This space, was one of a fractured spirit. We---Fellows---came together not out of desire, but of need, and for me it was the reintegrating of a sense of self, the rebuilding of my soul.
The LA Fellows drew us out of our isolation---be it emotional or mental---to provide us with the tools and structure to rebuild, heal, and move past what some described as “mourning.” We wept for our former selves, the selves that identified with a job, a career, and how others saw us---in the admiration of a superficial construction---in our titles, offices, and paychecks. After our careers were stripped away, we wondered, “What’s left?” This is when we could have let the world pass us by, waited for someone else to solve our problems, stayed in our old patterns without recognizing that we had become broken records that skipped---sounding of dissonance and discord in our hearts and spirits asking---“What did we do wrong?”
I was broken. In a rut. Unable to push that needle forward, because as time passed I felt more comfortable in this rut, but it devolved into an emotional, personal, and employment trench warfare. I could not see out. I lobbed blindly, resume-after-resume, cover letter-after-cover letter, applying for jobs that seemed to fit my criteria: a paycheck.
Asking others for help either seemed like admitting failure, or it sent friends and former colleagues running away as if unemployment was contagious. This response only turned us into “sad, tired, and angry” job seekers. What we did not realize was that we needed a different type of help.
Into our lives by fate, email, recommendation, or flyer, We few, We happy few, We band of LA Fellows, for he that day filled in the application and committed to 100 hours of volunteering, 140 hours of classes, guided by our compassionate but unwavering commanders--Allison Silver and Mary Turner--to guide us, to give us our plan of action, or in our case, Action Plans.
Allison and Mary put together a stellar team of instructors who pulled us out of a seemingly unwinnable battle of fruitless job hunting to turn us around.
We looked inward and “peeled the onion” of our selves. But this time the tears were of self-discovery, examining how we were describing ourselves in respect to the roles we held and played in our past jobs, and how, or if, we wanted to “re-language” our futures. Under the humorous, expressive, and determined mentoring of Lynnette, I took to heart, what she said on the first day, that, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be Kind. Always.” She beautifully set the tone for the cohort and so my rebranding, re-languaging, and healing began.
The seamlessness of the courses created building blocks upon which we rebuilt our battle scarred selves. Just as children acquire language, they react to the way the parent intones a question verses a demand. Sam provided us with linguistic tools to avoid confrontational work situations by understanding when to “inquire” rather than “advocate” a position. As we - okay I - struggled in class with this seemingly simple model, at home I noticed that I advocated the heck out of my husband, and so, another onion was peeled and I asked myself, “What Would Oprah Do?” I then became a more patient and inquiring partner. Sam and Lynnette, my husband thanks you.
Language is just one component of our rebuild. Another level is emotional and group intelligence. Enthusiastically taught to us by self-diagnosed ADL -- Attention Deficit Lecturing -- Jim. He changed and challenged our perceptions: encouraging us to think like Navy Seals, and realize that to survive and flourish, we needed to play at work and in life like Happy Fishmongers. That getting the last word does not mean you won the office argument. You may have just stranded your life boat, because you chose the wrong leader (I still think Mr. McKay is the best choice, but I digress).
As we honed our soft and not-so-soft skills, our Henry the V reciting instructor, Larry, helped us to recognize our strengths and refine our job searches. We wrote down our likes and dislikes of our past 3 positions and then we shared them. One of the observant Fellows noticed a pattern in my assessment. A pattern that I had been denying for years. “Hmmm,” she said, “You keep saying you are not going back into the classroom, but at the top of your ‘Likes’ you list ‘working with students.’” As is my wont, I quickly changed the subject. Denial isn’t just a river.
Someone who will definitely pull you back into a conversation is grant writer extraordinaire, Queen of the High Desert, Andrea. Her thorough class on grant writing was so thorough, you could write a book on it, in fact someone else actually did, because that is how good she is. When she suggested I pursue grant writing, I quickly said no, but not because I was unable to do it, I finally recognized and accepted that I wanted to be back in a community, where students are the priority.
Insight is an amazing quality in all of the instructors. One in particular, Keri has the photographer’s eye. She wanted us to see ourselves, literally, so she video taped us during a mock interview. This, I must warn you, is not for the faint of heart. I will forever be attentive of anyone clicking a pen during an interview: this is kiss of death. But we, Fellows now know how to avoid the dreaded clicking pen, because Kim has shown us that if someone moves our cheese: Will we go back to our ruts? Our trenches? Or starve? No, we will not. All we have to do is imagine a Hammer with a Bow hanging over our heads, telling us to “Embrace change,” and “become the solution to solve their problem.” Be their Advil.
Unfortunately there were times when we were unable to solve problems: computer problems. But never fear, Doug Card was here! He is the inverse of cigarettes: he adds years to your life, by showing you all of the Microsoft shortcuts.
And the program was not without other surprises. If you want to learn about organizational bonding and the Super Bowl Shuffle (that’s right, the one with Walter Payton and Willie Gault), meet Roberto, the only person on this planet who could get me to write a rap, recite it and tell you which instrument I am and why. That man has powers. I saw creativity, enthusiasm, and excitement as the cohort rapped our way into Fellows’ history. What happened that day with drums, noise makers, and our spirits was something you had to experience, a video or short story would not truly capture its essence.

Barbara Ige (right) poses with classmate Valerie Kamaya during training
Having taught for many years at universities and colleges, I know the importance of being in a classroom: of being with and part of a rapping “cohort”, listening to Attention Deficit Lecturing, working in groups, and creating a network of friends. There is no replacement for personal interaction. I could have read books on job hunting, in fact I did, lots of them.
But you can never replace the classroom where I watched as Fellows came out of their shells and found their voices; as Fellows addressed frustrations and past wrongs; as Fellows helped and supported one another. These are things you cannot do online, with a book or an article.
You cannot replace a volunteer experience with a PBS special. Walking into the Ronald McDonald House, to be greeted by a smiling boy in a wheelchair, who is left without any hair because of chemotherapy, who handed me a piece of chocolate and told me, “this is your chocolate for the day.” This was priceless.                  
The cohort, the instructors, the directors: the LA Fellows…..priceless. Thank you.

Barbara Ige is an education and training professional, and is currently providing 100 hours of volunteer service at the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House as a Communications Audit Manager. She will be teaching an English 028 class at Los Angeles Valley College this Spring semester, starting on April 13th. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

LA Fellows Cohort 11 - Official Graduation Photo

LA Fellows Cohort 11 displaying their certificates, surrounded by instructors,
staff, and honored guests. The graduation ceremony was held at
Los Angeles Valley College on March 13, 2015.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"We are LA Fellows Because We Act on our Dreams."

On Friday, March 13th, the LA Fellows program celebrated the graduation of its 11th Cohort (class) of job-seeking professionals. Two individuals from the class represented their Cohort by speaking in the ceremony. The first speaker was Fred Johnson, who agreed to let us post a transcript of his heartfelt and inspiring speech: 

To Los Angeles Valley College President, Job Training Staff and Advisory Board, Mr. Lennie Ciufo, our awesome and dynamic job training leaders - Allison and Mary, to the WorkSource Centers who have generously funded the LA Fellows program, particularly Anthony Rodriguez and Candis Noel with the West Hollywood WorkSource Center who believed enough in me to fund my position within the LA Fellows, and to our nonprofit partners who have given us opportunities to volunteer within your organizations to regain our confidence, pride, and  job skills, and to our families and friends whose support have played an instrumental part in us being here - THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
I am Fred Jackson and I am proud to be a Cohort 11 LA Fellow and honored to speak on behalf of my Cohort.
On January 2nd, a diverse, motley crew of individuals came together to listen to Allison and Mary give us an orientation on the transformative journey that we were getting ready to embark upon. Little did we know what we had signed up for…
In our own different ways, we were all scarred, frustrated and depressed with the internet suck of job searching and sending our resumes into corporate electronic black holes and then being further pulled down by the repeated defeat and rejection of not being fully productive and gainfully employed.  So each of us decided to commit to the LA Fellows Program, challenging us to focus our job search efforts and to move beyond our comfort zones, shedding layers of negativity.
Over the next nine weeks, we learned from our incredible and dedicated program instructors – Andrea, Doug, Keri, Kim, Jim, Larry, Lynnette, Roberto and Sam how to assess the psychological and practical aspects of our career transition. We learned to develop an action plan and how to tackle opportunities with structured and focused approaches detailing our strengths, areas of expertise, interests, and values to uncover the hidden job market.
We studied how to rethink our thinking and change our brains, how to control our fears with emotional intelligence, and how to improve our resumes with SOAR stories - highlighting our expertise, the problems we have solved, and outlining our transferrable skills.
“Can you walk me through your resume?” or, “Can you tell me about yourself?” were the painful interview questions we learned how to tackle along with developing an elevator speech that will captivate an audiences within 90 seconds or less.
We were taught to have a personal brand always and consistently showcasing our unique qualities and being able to back it up with proof statements and in a changing world, we learned how to embrace change when someone moves our cheese.
We also studied the growing world of nonprofits involved in everything from health care, education, the arts and culture, and so much more! Through our volunteering at nonprofits, not only are we being re-engaged back into the working world, but we are making a difference and impacting the lives of burned children, developing parks and open space in economically disadvantaged communities, helping sick kids fight their illness, and much more at the various nonprofits where my cohorts are volunteering.
While improving our job search strategies and interviewing skills, we learned so much more about one another: who were the direct, task oriented Eagles, the wise, systematic Owls, the spirited Roadrunners, or the considerate Doves.
I could continue for nine more weeks talking about all we learned in the LA Fellows Program, However, today is the graduation for Cohort 11, so to Cohort and friends ….
Alan: I’ve witnessed you wrestle with your employment gap and I know that you will return to the Healthcare Industry as the trainer and leader that you are.
Brian: You’re Dr. Scientist and nothing can stop you because you are the “Master of your fate and the Captain of your soul.”
Justin: You are the teacher/leader that any employer would want and the Foundation for Pierce College is lucky to have you as a volunteer.
Gus: Move out of your way, trust and embrace your gifts. That is the only thing stopping you. You are a brilliant and creative writer
Diane W: Cleveland is in the house! Your background maybe varied, but your skills and ability to connect with people are solid.
Ruth: You don’t know this, but you share the name and characteristics of my beloved and departed Mother. You are smart, caring, passionate, creative, and talented! And the job you seek is just a few connections away.
Jen: You’re focused, funny and know what you want. Get ready grant writing world, Jen is coming and she is serious.
Ava: Ms. Diet Coke, you have the knowledge, connections and leadership skills that will see you involved in policy work real soon.
Parvene:  You have co-owned and lead an award winning marketing firm for years. Winning is second nature to you and you will make a successful career transition.
Carol: You were the first Cohort that I met.  You are incredibly smart and moved to LA to be close to your children. It was only a matter of time before you were discovered in LA and now you are employed.
Denise:  You have walked with kings but kept the common touch as an airline executive. You have the emotional intelligence we all want in a leader.
Frank: You were taught to always do things right the first time. You got it right and now you’re employed as a Vice President of a bank.
Barbara: Once you land a teaching job with a Community College, let me know because I want to take any class you teach! You’re an empathetic instructor willing to go the extra mile to help your students achieve their “aha” moments.
Dianne M: Tenacious D, our Eagle, there is no denying you are a New Yorker and a natural leader and the executive position you deserve is looking for you.
Haisela:  Our prayers are with you. You walk quietly but carry a big stick! Teaching is in your blood.
Richard: You’re young, smart and gifted. The world is yours, go and conquer it!
Alex: My fellow Dove, you are smart, considerate, passionate, and creative. Don’t second guess yourself because the creative job you seek is just around the corner.
Bismark: You are smart, understanding, and a motivational leader and manager that I want running my team because you won’t let the ship sink.  
Erica: The once quiet, shy girl has said left the building. You have made tremendous strides and Shonda Rhimes better snatch you up while she can afford you. You will be an extraordinary writer, just believe in yourself!
Peter: You’re a smart, gifted and talented attorney. “Fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of a distance run.”
Paul: Don’t worry about the crutches, pun intended, they get in the way of employers seeing you stand with your skills, experiences, and background leading teams and managing a portfolio of buildings.
Nancy: Our Oklahoma Attorney who has the fortitude and will to “Hold on” and will soon be employed again.
Thor: Our Thunder God of Wealth! With the name Thor Gold, you are destined for greatness and you are the “Bright Shiny Penny” of our Cohort.
Valerie: You’re the powerful superhero that became employed first among our Cohort. You showed us how having drive, dedication, and a zeal for learning pays off.  
Bill: You struggled mightily with change, but ultimately you did it and are now employed.
Mark: You are confident, methodical, driven and employed! You are being all that you can be and thank you for serving our Country!
And last but not least,
Regina:  You’re thoughtful and resourceful with so many talents. Continue being who you are, because you’re fantastic and the job you desire will soon be yours!
In closing, no one can go back and make a brand new start, but everyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. We came to LA Fellows with our individual issues and baggage, but we are leaving and graduating uplifted, confident, prepared, and optimistic about our future.

We are LA Fellows because we are armed with tactics, higher self-esteem, and we have each other. We are LA Fellows because we plan and believe in ourselves. We are LA Fellows because we act on our dreams. We are LA Fellows because we will be employed and accomplish great things!
And, I thank you.

Fred Jackson is a Real Estate Development and Asset Management professional. He is currently volunteering with the Trust for Public Land, completing a 100 hour project to develop an opportunities report and working in park/open space development.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Challenge for Cohort 11

After four years and helping over 300 LA Fellows, it’s exciting to receive updates from the Fellows to hear how their lives have changed since going through the program. We were moved recently when we received an update from Nick Koutouras from Cohort 2. He wrote:


I hope all is well.  I just wanted to share some good news. 

Four years ago, almost to the day, I started Cohort 2 as a mid-career professional trying to find my way into the next stage of my life. This year, on January 1, 2015, I officially started my year as Chairman of the Board for the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House. 

Four years ago, I had never raised even a single dollar for charity.  Today, I am honored to let you know that I have helped bring in thousands of dollars to the organization through both personal and professional contacts.

Four years ago, LA Fellows introduced me to Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House.

Today, I thank you, Allison, and the rest of the team for creating the LA Fellows program. 

Today, I thank Lynnette Ward for suggesting I attend LA Fellows. 

And, today I thanked Jeffrey Janis, Director of Development at Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House, for posting a volunteer opportunity with LA Fellows.

However, we need some help out here. 
My challenge to Cohort 11 is simple.  Engage with your LA Fellows program leaders.  Listen and hear what they say.  Apply their advice and tools. Accept their critique.

Courageously make a change in yourself.   Proudly own your destiny.  Be that shiny penny. 

Passionately execute your responsibilities with your non-profit partner.  Make a difference.  Make a profound difference in yourself and in your community. 

I want to hear about another LA Fellows success story.  Will you be that success story?
Best regards,

We are so proud of Nick and all of the over 300 graduates to date who’ve made LA Fellows a success. The fact that they keep giving back is another testament to the strength of  the program's teaching. We hope that, as graduation approaches, Cohort 11 will rise up to meet the challenge Nick has put forth. 

For more information on the Los Angeles Ronald Mc Donald House and how you can get involved, please check out their website at

Monday, March 2, 2015

LA Fellows Cohort 11 Shines

 Cohort 11 of the LA Fellows program wrapped up the eighth week of training last week and are preparing for their upcoming graduation. The Fellows have enthusiastically embraced the instruction in communication and leadership, made great strides in upgrading their resumes and interview skills and taken advantage of optional instruction in Microsoft Office and grant writing.

They are in the process of starting their volunteer assignments. They have teamed up with an impressive list of organizations this time including The Trust for Public Land, Silhouettes for Vets, the Valley Economic Alliance, The Center for Nonprofit Management, Councilman Paul Krekorian’s Office, and many others.

We are looking forward to seeing all the accomplishments that will come as a result of the initiative they have taken to move their careers forward in new directions.