Alumni spotlight – Charlane Oliver (The Equity Alliance)

Alumni spotlight – Charlane Oliver (The Equity Alliance)

Charlane OliverMany of the young individuals who have participated in the Young Leaders Council training program over the years have gone on to make a tremendous impact as nonprofit board leaders in the Middle Tennessee community.  A select few have taken that knowledge, identified a specific need to address in our community, and used the training as a catalyst to build their own nonprofit organizations.  As a graduate of the YLC Nashville Class 59, Charlane Oliver felt an urgent pull to create a more inclusive, informed, and stronger democracy for communities of color. Together with fellow activist and friend, Tequila Johnson, Charlane set on a path to create The Equity Alliance, an organization advocating for equitable opportunities and systems to improve the quality of life for Black people.  YLC is proud of the impact and contributions that Charlane and The Equity Alliance have made to advance the cause of equity and social justice for the marginalized.

How are things at The Equity Alliance? 

Things are going great!  It’s always changing. Working in TN can be challenging in terms of getting people civically engaged especially in this political climate.  People tend to push everything towards race, and you’re trying to find ways to fight back when all the tools in the toolbox seem to be ineffective.  We’re trying to find new opportunities to engage people in new and innovative ways, and with that thing are going great. 

When we started, we didn’t have any staff and it felt like we were doing a passion project.  Now we have a staff of 12 and we’re doing well.  Over the years we have built a brand that is unapologetic in how we represent ourselves.  We show up as our full selves in the office and in the community.  Our culture is supportive and inclusive, and our team enjoys working in an environment where they don’t have to hide who they are at work.  At The Equity Alliance we champion their authenticity.  If we are going to fight for equity, we also have to care for ourselves and show self-love in order to fully be able to do the same for the community.  We work to create a better environment than some of the ones we experienced in previous positions. 

As one of the founders of The Equity Alliance, would you say that there was one pivotal moment in your life where you knew for certain that you wanted to build this hugely successful organization? 

It’s hard to pinpoint one specific situation, but the catalyst really was when Trayvon Martin was murdered. I was moved to get off the sidelines and take action. It impacted me because I saw my son in Trayvon.  He’s now 10 and was born a few days before Trayvon was killed.  I realized I’m raising my black son in a society that can sometimes see him as a threat. I started to think of opportunities for us to navigate these challenges and do something to change things.

You’ve held several significant professional positions throughout your career.  Of those roles, which one(s) would you say uniquely prepared you for the work that you do both in the community and as a leader for The Equity Alliance?

When I look at the trajectory of my life and my career, it truly was God ordering my steps.  My entire career has centered within nonprofit and/or government.  From the start of my career, I’ve always seen people in crisis and worked to help them at their worse. All of the jobs I’ve held as a culmination and seeing how society tends to treat the symptoms instead of providing solutions to the internal challenges that cause the struggles. I wanted to use social justice to push toward solutions.  From my own personal background being raised by a single mom and seeing how I had to really help myself succeed.

As African Americans, we are often shut out of politics. When you drill down to how change is created, every significant decision made comes down to who is placed in those positions of power.

You’re a graduate of the Young Leaders Council Nashville Class 59 Cohort.  How did your YLC training influence or support your community advocacy and engagement work? 

I started in the nonprofit space and had that unique perspective, but I believe the training provided by YLC and the level of engagement it provided with instructors like Attorney Trace Blankenship (Spencer Fane Bone McAllester) set a foundation that gave me the tools and confidence to start a nonprofit organization. YLC prepares individuals to successfully serve on a nonprofit board, which was invaluable as we worked to set the foundation that helped to create The Equity Alliance.  

We are so proud of the work you’re doing as a YLC alumna, and I am specifically excited to see you thrive as an African American woman and executive leader in the Nashville nonprofit community.  What advice would you give to other future leaders looking to elevate their impact in a similar fashion?

Don’t overthink the level of impact that you as an individual can have on the world.  We can’t solve every specific problem.  Don’t overthink it to where you never stop.  If I had never sent that text to my friends and thought too much about it, I would have never done it.  Find a cause that you are really passionate about – that you wouldn’t mind doing it for free.  If you could wake up every day and would do that work for free, then that’s your path.

Young Leader Spotlight: Erica Rivero

Young Leader Spotlight: Erica Rivero

Erica Rivero, Director of Inventory and Systems Management at Thistle Farms, is a member of the Young Leaders Council Nashville Class 76. In a recent discussion, Erica shares how participating in the YLC program, where she received training on how to be an impactful board member at a non-profit, enhances her capabilities as a professional in the non-profit sector.

Kate: Thank you for sitting down to share your experience with the YLC, Erica! How did you first learn about the Young Leaders Council?

Erica: Glad to be here! I first heard about the YLC because Thistle Farms, my employer, hosted a YLC intern. I am someone who is passionate about leadership and the non-profit sector, so the program sparked my interest.

Kate: We are glad that you got involved! What has been the most valuable part of the YLC program to you?

Erica: Many of my class members are new to learning about non-profits and the types of community-based organizations that we have here locally. I have worked in this space since my time as a student at Belmont so I came to the program with a different lens.

The best thing about the YLC program for us all is that the YLC instructors all have deep experience in non-profit management. They have all worked in the space for a long time. They understand the problems that non-profits face; for instance, the challenges associated with growth. We are learning from experts in the YLC program.

Through the YLC, I have gained a better understanding of how my own organization functions, which strengthens my leadership capacity as an employee. For instance, Noah Spiegel’s session on board member responsibilities included a discussion of the life cycles of non-profits. This session provided context that situated my understanding of the growth of the non-profit social enterprise where I work within the broader non-profit sector.

Kate: Thank you for sharing – and congratulations on recently completing the program! What are your hopes for what’s next, now that you’re a YLC alum?

Erica: On a practical level, I love that this program allowed me to learn about other non-profits in our community. The community response to the COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the importance of partnerships between non-profit to meet community needs. No one organization could do everything alone. I will take the knowledge and relationships gained through YLC to continue to connect with other non-profits for partnerships moving forward.

I love how Nashville welcomes immigrants, and I will serve as a board intern at Conexión Americas starting this fall. I am excited to play a larger role in connecting immigrants to resources right here in Nashville. I am passionate about leadership and social justice and I will find ways to continue contributing in this space.

That’s A Wrap – Thank you Class 73 & Williamson Class!

That’s A Wrap – Thank you Class 73 & Williamson Class!

Our two incredible groups of Young Leaders finished their final classes last week – and with distinction, might we add! We serve the most impressive young professionals in the greater Nashville area, and count it a privilege to watch them thrive in the YLC programs and beyond!

Nashville Class 73 – Kick-Off Session

Williamson Class – Kick-Off Session

As they prepare to serve on nonprofit boards, our Young Leaders engaged in 28 hours of classroom experience, participated in mock board sessions, and visited other nonprofits serving Nashville. Financials, strategic planning, fundraising, diversity, legal responsibilities–you name it, they’ve learned it!

What is next for our Young Leaders? After 11 weeks of formative leadership sessions, they will embark on their own adventures as board interns with nearly 90 different nonprofits in our city where they will exercise and share the knowledge they have gained.

Thank you to our weekly nonprofit hosts, instructors, and Young Leaders for another remarkable year!

YLC Class 72 Graduates 44 Participants on May 15

YLC Class 72 Graduates 44 Participants on May 15

Congratulations to the graduates of YLC Class 72, which had its last training session on May 15. after 28 hours of nonprofit board leadership training. The spring class of 44 participants had been meeting weekly since March 6 at nonprofits, universities and law firms around Nashville to learn about legal responsibilities of board members, strategic planning, conflict management, diversity, effective meetings and communications, and financials. All the best to the following graduates as they embark on their one-year board internships in the coming months: Eden Afriat (J.P. Morgan); Elaina Al-Nimri (Bass, Berry & Sims); Jaclyn Avara (Wells Fargo); Scott Bannach (HealthStream); Will Barlar, CPA (Deloitte & Touche LLP); William Benson (CapStar Bank); Chaz Bledsoe (Genesco Inc.); Danene Bottiaux (NOW CFO); Katie Burdette (HCA Healthcare); Adam Caplan (OptimizeRx Corporation); Jake Crandall, CPA (Cahaba Wealth Management); Katherine Daniels (InsBank); Kim Demirjian (HCA Healthcare); Samantha Dwyer (Robert W. Baird); Lindsey Ellis, CPA (Crosslin); Janelle Gallagher (CBRE); Tim Gilbert (Northwestern Mutual); Amy Goode (Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce); Marquinta Harvey, PhD (Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System); Emily Hassell (Ankura Consulting Group); Warren Hawkins (Lyft and Relode.com); CJ Higgins (Elliott Davis); Elise Karpinski (UBS); Amanda Kolesaric (Fifth Third Bank); Ally Lanahan (Foundry Commercial); Alex Marshall (TN Army National Guard); Jake Martino (Bridgestone); Rahwa Mehari, EdD (Meharry Medical College); Mary Becker Menendez (InfoWorks); Campbell Mobley (Cheekwood Estate & Gardens); Rachel Oakley (PwC); Dayton O’Brien (First Tennessee Bank); Jeremy A. Oliver (Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP); Marisa Polowitz (Ardent Health Services); Drew Powell (Martin & Zerfoss, Inc.); Bronte Prins (Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC); Shane Ramsey (Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP); Scott Ringenberg (Caterpillar Financial); Erin Rogus (Office of former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D.); Levi Sciara (Gresham Smith); Dominique Shanks (Salama Urban Ministries) Ashley Wallace (Dollar General); Angela Wynn (Wynning Essentials); and Lindsay Youngbauer (Diversified Trust Company).

See photos from the opening luncheon at Genesco on 3/6/19 here.

Christy Martin of YLC Class 61 Earns Doctorate in Education

Christy Martin of YLC Class 61 Earns Doctorate in Education

Congratulations to Christy Martin (Class 61) who received her doctorate in education with a concentration in Leadership and Professional Practice from Trevecca Nazarene University on May 4. A 2013 YLC graduate, she earned an MBA in Nonprofit Management from Lipscomb University and a bachelor’s in Business Management and Organizational Development from Bethel College. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors, Dr. Martin!