New Voices at the Table

Project Blueprint’s next session starts back up again April 8 and Lisa Cook, a program graduate and High School Principal at Summit Academy Schools, wanted to share with Stark and Carroll County the impact the program has had upon her life – to encourage others to join and learn.

The mission of the project itself is what was most attractive to me when I joined. You don’t see a lot of minority representation on boards in this area, so the idea of a program that teaches people of color board policies, procedures and expectations was a great opportunity.”

Project Blueprint is a program that focuses on increasing ethnic diversity in volunteer leadership boards and committees.

Cook said that the networking piece of the program was very valuable, but it was especially enlightening to see the unique perspective of each of the speakers. “They shared information with us that a lot of us were unfamiliar with, but we learned something new because it was broken down to the level of each of the participants – not just arbitrary terms of vocabulary.”

This program pushes personal and professional growth. It opened the door to more opportunities to be actively involved on different boards and committees for her.

“This class helped reconnect me to past friends and introduce me tonew friends who also work in industries that may not be similar to mine.”

She invited some of the class participants to come to the school as part of their Career Fair. Blueprint participants shared with the children their line of work and showed them that there’s different people who look just like them doing jobs that they may not have been familiar with.

“Now is the time to have those conversations about diversity on boards and committees. Ask for truthful opinions. A lot of it is fear ‘If I introduce this unknown then what would that mean to me or for me’. These conversations push you to be challenged, and the way that you expand your thinking is to learn how to think from a different perspective.”

Project Blueprint teaches you to look at your own agency and organization and offer advice on how to move in a different direction with diversity and inclusion representation.

“You are valuable enough that your voice needs to be heard with different audiences. Sometimes, we do not see the value within our own voice until we go through programs like this. We begin to learn that your personal voice has a ripple effect. Sometimes, we worry about how someone is going to react to your voice – but that is their responsibility, not yours. Things are going to remain the same unless people choose to use their voice. Project Blueprint is needed to help people get more comfortable sharing their voice.”

This program is designed to train more volunteer leaders to have a voice in the community – give people of color – African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans and other racial minorities – a greater voice and more opportunities to serve the community. It provides volunteers with the knowledge to serve effectively through skills, experiences, and confidence essential to these roles.

“Not everyone shares the same experience. Everyone operates from a different perception.  But, if you are willing to share it, you will incite true dialogue and communication. Conflict is an opportunity to fill a gap and bridge some holes in your thinking. The African-American viewpoint was silenced for a long time and considered unvaluable, hence one of the reasons we are in the precarious present state of racism. Let’s not be comfortable with a limited point of view, let’s be uncomfortable, challenged and growing.”

Project Blueprint training requires continuous learning, and a participant’s willingness to explore the unfamiliar and an openness to new experiences. The training gives them an opportunity to be the voice for the voiceless. To sit at a table representing countless other people who do not have the same opportunity. The program’s activities introduce participants to the roles and responsibilities of a nonprofit board, while developing skills which help them become successful board and committee members.

“We can fight the fight and help the bridge the gap of needs not being met in our community with our voices at the table. It is time to re-evaluate privilege, shine the light on the disproportionality of resources, and become passionate, active participants who create positive change. If one of your goals in life is to make a difference in someone’s life at the board level, then this is the best opportunity for you. It gives you that extra spark to say, ‘This is another way that I can make a difference because in order for change to happen, it has to happen at a bunch of different levels simultaneously.’  This is one of those wonderful ways to do that. Board and committee members are in powerful roles within the organization. They bring value to things, and should encourage someone who may not be like them to participate.”

More information regarding the spring  session can be found out