To Our iCouldBe Community:
How are you?
Like so many of you, we are grieving, angry, disappointed and exhausted to find ourselves once again facing glaring systemic injustice in our country. Our hearts are broken for the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and the many murdered innocent Black people before them.
At iCouldBe we unequivocally support the broad need for systemic change and racial justice in America. We also know that it’s critical to engage in our own self-assessment. We must examine our individual and collective privilege and what that means in the way we work with each other and how we serve our mentees. It’s important that all youth-serving organizations ask hard, and often uncomfortable, questions, especially white leadership since up to 80% of nonprofits are run by white executives. And it’s imperative that we don’t just ask these questions now when racial injustice is dominating the news, but continually as an integral part of our work.
What is iCouldBe asking of the thousands of young people in our program? What are all of us in the youth development, youth leadership and mentoring fields asking of the kids we serve?
We ask mentees to stay in school, but their schools are not adequately funded to provide the structure and support that most adults would demand for their own children. We ask mentees to apply to college, but we know that high tuition costs and institutional barriers keep many people from earning their degrees. We ask mentees to explore and prepare for careers even though if they achieve their post-secondary education goals and apply for a job in their field of choice, they will likely be paid less than white peers and overlooked for promotions.
What. Are. We. Doing?
At iCouldBe we grapple with these questions and continually evaluate and reassess our approach and our programs to make the most significant impact.
But the work is never done—and it shouldn’t be. As an organization that supports a community of largely Black and Brown students, we must fight against systems that don’t support, and are often hostile to, our mentees. Black lives matter not just in moments of crisis in the spotlight, but in the everyday work when no one is watching. It’s our duty to constantly re-evaluate what we are as a mentoring organization, and to provide space for each member of our team and our community to assess, challenge, and evolve our professional and personal beliefs and actions.
Where do we go from here?
We invite our partners, mentees, and mentors to join us in conversation and collaboration as we commit to the following goals:
- Approve the pending succession plan proposal to transition the Executive Director position to M. Michelle Derosier, our current Chief Program Officer. Kate Schrauth, Executive Director, believes, “It is time to lift up and prepare our Black and Brown colleagues and trusted advisors to lead the movement that has, in fact, always been theirs to lead. In early February, I reached out to Michelle to ask her to be my partner in a succession plan that would result in her promotion to the Executive Director position. She took her time to reflect and pray and now, together, we will make it happen.”
- In summer 2020, members of the iCouldBe Board are engaging in a training series that focuses on best practices in diversity, equity, and inclusion in board recruitment and retention. The board is committed to equitable board recruitment and ensuring diverse leadership.
- To our mentees: We will work to expand your voices in our strategy and decision making, by inviting you to have a seat at the table with the Board of Directors, management and through more frequent focus group interactions.
- To ensure our work does no harm to the youth we serve, iCouldBe will engage with our youth and experts in the fields of mental health and wellness, and trauma informed youth services to analyze and improve our curriculum and programs.
Where we go from here is, we admit our flaws, we enact the change we control, we speak truth to power, and we fight for justice that has so long been denied. Above all, we must show up for young people to support them in reaching their goals and to amplify their voices.