Sara Barber, South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
There are many clichés we use when speaking of learning experiences. We absorb information like “a sponge,” we appreciate “the roadmap” we’ve been given, we find “our voice.” At the base of all clichés lies the truth, and their seeming banality can hide the importance of our experiences.
I attended my first Carolina Academy seminar as an inexperienced director of a nonprofit with little idea of how much I did not know. I had worked for the organization for many years and knew the field well, but I had been promoted to a leadership role without any structural support or guidance. In that seminar, I learned of the Nonprofit Leadership Certificate program and the tremendous gift of learning and knowledge this year-long class was providing its students.
I was accepted into the next cohort of the certificate program and began class a few months later. I was filled with trepidation, a feeling amplified during our first round of introductions when everyone else seemed experienced, more knowledgeable. The first exercise focusing on the strengths of different leadership styles began to allay my self-doubt and laid a base from which I could start to build my self-confidence. “Leadership” started to seem approachable and multifaceted, accessible to introverts as well as the extroverted
“gunslinger” our culture presents as the ideal. During our monthly sessions, the instructors guided us in learning the practical skills we needed to strengthen our organizations, and also promoted our class interaction to deepen our thinking and ground our experience. As the months went by, I grew in confidence and began to enjoy speaking out in a way I had not expected. Recognizing that my opinion was as valuable as others, and that others wanted to hear it, is the greatest gift this program gave me, and for this gift I will always appreciate my fellow students and the faculty.
I have continued to attend seminars at the Carolina Academy since my graduation in August 2012. I believe in learning as an ongoing experience and continue to benefit from both the specialized knowledge presented and the experiences other attendees bring.
My involvement with the Foundation can be accurately described in the series of clichés outlined above. I did absorb information like a sponge. I now have a roadmap of knowledge, and I certainly found my voice, but the depth of my experience was so much more. I recognize the identified core value of integrity remains as central to my professional life, but it has blossomed and matured into a comprehensive system of effective thought and action around organizational leadership.