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Uncategorized

Nothing About Us, Without Us, Is For Us

July 01, 2019 | BY Anthony Lopez, Executive Director, Zone 126

The end of a school year is always a good time to celebrate accomplishments and reflect on challenges before taking time to rejuvenate and starting up again. Last month I completed a week-long fellowship at American Express’ annual Leadership Academy. A shared experience with peers and colleagues nation-wide to take a deeper-dive into our individual strengths, blind spots, skills and influence as leaders in our sector for the purpose of societal advancement. The experience was very different from other executive education programs I’ve completed in that it was light on leadership theory and the typical non-profit business acumen: strategic planning, financial and people management, fund and board development etc.

Using three different diagnostics–including a revealing 360° Feedback Report—I realized that my preferred style of influencing people is to advocate and unite over rationalizing and negotiating and that I’m willing to challenge work practices that appear nonproductive or outdated. This brings me to my work at Zone 126.

From its inception, Zone 126 has been ahead of the curve: promoting community school models, social-emotional learning, social justice in schools and in communities to achieve collective impact. We now know that these organizational elements improve the lives of children, youth and families living on the margins of gentrification. At the high school level, students in Zone 126 programs are attending school 15 more days and are accumulating an additional 2.5 credits than their peers who are not enrolled in our partner programs. Our goal is to drive similar results at our elementary and middle schools in the upcoming school year.

With the 2020 U.S. Census coming, and as a visionary leader, I see change coming to western Queens in the form of more credible messengers leading our schools, non-profits and other public institutions and will support leaders who are bold enough-regardless of where they come from or who they love—to challenge the status quo on behalf of the borough’s most vulnerable. Imagine what will happen when we align vision with skills, resources, incentives and action. As a member of Amex’s Leadership Academy’s International Alumni Network, I plan on making this vision a reality. In the end, nothing about us, without us, is for us. It’s time to lead the way.

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