As Black History Month comes to a close, I wanted to share some thoughts and reflections about my ten years at Sheltering Arms. Stepping into this role has been both challenging and rewarding at the same time, and I’ve learned (and continue to learn) so much about myself, leadership, and the impact of the organization.
Sheltering Arms continues to address issues of systemic racism by removing barriers and offering families hope, inspiration, and real help to live their full potential. This journey takes work. We all know that children born with few resources are likelier to live with fewer resources. But did you know that Atlanta is one of the most challenging places in our country to reach your full potential if you are not born with many resources? At Sheltering Arms, we work WITH our families. We provide high-quality early childhood education to give children a fantastic educational start and we provide resources so families can experience financial, emotional, and physical well-being. In a word, equity is what drives our work.
It is not lost on me that who I am as a leader is as important to the families we serve as the way I lead. Our children need to see leaders who look like them in our organization so they imagine bigger, bolder futures for themselves. I want all of us at Sheltering Arms to have high expectations, be willing to hold ourselves accountable, and see the brilliance and potential of the children and families we serve, particularly our children of color.
I am reminded of my first day at Sheltering Arms when one of our volunteers, an older African American retired woman (who we refer to as one of our classroom grandmothers), came over to me, grabbed my hands, and said, “I am so proud of you. You being here means so much to the children, families and staff.” She also said, “It is fitting that you start here on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday.” She hugged me. It was an emotional moment. Ten years later, I continue to think about my responsibility daily. I know I am where I am supposed to be… doing the work I’m supposed to be doing.