Adilene Delgadillo's LDI Story

Adilene Delgadillo ,  California Teaching Fellows Foundation - Fresno

Adilene Delgadillo, California Teaching Fellows Foundation - Fresno

My LDI fellowship experience started with the simple task of selecting a quote that we connected with. The quote I gravitated to was that of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you’ll be criticized anyway.”

When someone holds a leadership role, it comes with knowing that the role comes with power and, for some individuals, unwanted or unpleasant responsibilities. I am an individual that did not see the power I hold, but rather the impact I can have. In our opening retreat we did a lot of reflecting. We set up and developed goals and asked ourselves questions I had avoided thinking about.  These questions made me aware and reflect on what kind of leader I am and the kind of leader I strive to become.  

As I work to be the person I want to be, I think about the sacrifices, hard work, and everything it took for my family and myself. And as I reflect on my journey, it was easier for me to realize what I knew I did not want, and what I deserved to have in this life.

Growing up, my parents were my example of hard work and the “American Dream.” Little did I know that they were trying their best to make my world as beautiful as possible and shield me from the bad. As a child I was not aware of the power and privileges others had, other than those of authority. But unfortunately, the world is not always as beautiful as it’s made to appear.  Life happens and it doesn't come with a manual. As I think about my childhood, my struggles, the struggles of my family I keep reflecting on one of Tupac Shakur poems:

Did you hear about the rose that grew

From a crack in the concrete?

Proving nature's law is wrong

It learned to walk without having feet.

Funny it seems, but keeping its dreams,

It learned to breathe fresh air.

Long live the rose that grew from concrete

When noone else ever cared.

I’d like to think I was that rose that grew in the circumstances where the odds were against me. Not only did the typical social factors impact my growth, but they made me who I am now. As the adult I am becoming and with the knowledge I’ve gained, I’ve chose to grow and be someone within my community. I reassured myself that I was not going to become a statistic for my family, but rather be someone with a purpose they would be proud of. My experience with LDI has made me recognize we are all our own rose and we all serve communities of roses growing on concrete. Being surrounded by such inspiring leaders has enlightened my ability to continue to be the best version of myself for those I come in contact with.  It has impacted me to see how my own experience and journey can help someone else and, although my struggles may not have been as big or impactful as others, I've learned to value them.

As I wrote my press release, I found a common denominator and that was me continuously helping my community and making those meaningful connections with the families I served. As I matured and became the individual I am now, I realized I’m an includer and want to make sure everyone has what they need and/or is supported as needed. I am a giver and will continue to give

A rose that rose against all odds.

Tighist Bihon's LDI Story

Tighist Bihon ,  Girls Inc. of Alameda County - Oakland

Tighist Bihon, Girls Inc. of Alameda County - Oakland

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart”.  I remember my first day at LDI I picked this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt. I also remember reflecting on this quote through the fellowship. When we met once a month, our cohort requires us to make space for others’ stories, pride, disappointments, joys and sorrows. As this fellowship has held that space for us all, I have learned the value of having it. Each month, coming in to the leader’s circle felt like a breath of fresh air. I could finally be myself and say what I was really thinking and feeling about work. Having that kind of place made me want to shift my own professional experience to have more spaces like that.  I have not only been able to build camaraderie with my cohort, which has been an amazing journey, but also been able to create that sense of camaraderie in my day to day work by improving the culture of my site team. I always want to improve in my ability to communicate a compelling vision of what our afterschool program can be: a safe place where each person has value and a voice - from the youth to the staff, and school community.

Before LDI, I didn’t know the importance of self-reflection and how to make time for self-reflection.  I was very caught up in the chaos of my work life. But due to LDI, over the year I have come to realize the power of introspection and taking the time to reflect honestly on my behaviors and feelings. I also realized that the only way to achieve great impact is not by being in charge or being the boss, it’s about having self-awareness. Through the fellowship, I have developed a clearer understanding of my authentic leadership.     

Through the fellowship I did experience challenges, especially when I discovered my own weaknesses. I hated conflict and I’d avoid confrontation at all cost with my staff.  Because of the fellowship, I learn the importance of non-violent communication. Non-violent communication helped me express my concerns in a correct way with my staff. It helped me realize it’s important to be real and understanding with others. It also helped me guide my consciousness to a new awareness. Due to that, the cohort has given me the confidence to have courageous conversation with staff and deepened my consciousness of power, privilege and oppression. I have been able to explore and come to terms with the way each of these plays a role in my leadership.

Over the year, LDI has deepened my consciousness of power, privilege and oppression, especially in education. I have been able to explore and come to terms with the way each of these plays a role in my leadership. I will continue to work to overcome the historical legacy of discrimination, marginalization and underinvestment that disadvantage specific groups of people (especially those defined by race) by providing support tailored to specific needs of students. I will also continue to provide the youth and their families with the support they need to reach and exceed the bar so they’re preparing for college, a career, and life. I know now that good leaders aren’t born overnight, but that it’s a journey of continuum.

Amy Jewett's LDI Story

Amy Jewett  -  City of San Jose - Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services - San Jose

Amy Jewett - City of San Jose - Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services - San Jose

When I began the LDI Fellowship, I was comfortable with my professional position. My supervisor at the time was a mentor as well as a friend, my direct team dynamic was strong and supportive, and I truly enjoyed my work. I had no aspirations to grow and had repeatedly told my supervisor that I had no wish to move up within my organization, primarily because I was happy with what I was doing.

After the first Leadership Retreat, my thought process began to shift. As a white, middle class, educated professional, I understood that I held privileges many did not. As we explored the concepts of power, privilege, and oppression, I started to think about the implications of carrying these privileges without taking action to help others.

Through the exploration of strength-based leadership, and how to leverage them in our professional aspirations, it became clear to me that I needed to do more with what I had. The concept of ‘if I can do more, I should,’ resonated louder and louder within my soul. It was serendipitous when, in March, a Supervisor position became available within my organization. I decided that it was time for me to leverage my skills, my privilege, and my power in a greater capacity to help others.

Throughout the application and interview process, I utilized many concepts from the LDI Leader Circles to frame my answers. Specifically, the need to provide equitable services and programs, as well as staff development, were the focus. I would not have had such strong answers without the in-depth conversations surrounding the strong need of our community. In May, I obtained the position as Supervisor of all Out-of-School Time programs within my organization.

With this new position, my actions have a greater reach in the community. I am able to strongly advocate for lower prices to ensure accessibility, as well as scholarships to serve those who most need access to our programs. Additionally, with the support of my team, I am better able to identify areas of opportunity within the programs offered, and strategically plan ahead to address these deficits.

My favorite part of my new position is the ability to guide professional development within my department. Previously, the trainings offered by my organization were reactive and only scheduled when a dire need was identified. As a Supervisor, I am better able to assess the true training deficits of staff, and coordinate trainings, workshops, and other development opportunities. For example, this year I have scheduled a citywide training in January specific to the out-of-school time realm. This is the first citywide winter training that we have offered that is program specific, and will result in over 200 staff receiving 8 hours of professional development that they wouldn’t receive otherwise.

On a personal level, this year has been very tumultuous. Through my grief and struggles with the loss of my cat, as well as my marriage to my now husband, the LDI cohort has been there to help ground me. Through phone calls, texts, and social media posts, members of our LDI family have reminded me that there is constantly opportunity for growth and reestablishment of priorities and goals. I will be forever grateful for the genuine, caring friendships fostered in this fellowship.

At the end of this year, I have come out a different person. I am stronger. I have a heightened sense of duty and responsibility towards my community and the environment. I feel empowered. I am no longer hesitant to speak my mind candidly when I feel there is an injustice, but have also learned to navigate these conversations in the most productive way. I have also accepted that as I change, my goals, priorities, and career objectives may change, and that’s ok. Through this fellowship, I now have the self-reflective skills to truly identify my intrinsic motivations, which will ultimately ensure that I have a sense of fulfillment with my future career.