Is it possible to improve high school graduation rates, or reduce the number of homeless youth in our communities by December 2017? These questions and others were explored on September 15th and 16th, when leaders from 10 LSA member organizations traveled to Washington D.C. for the first LSA Results Based Leadership Institute (RBLI). Results Based Leadership is a highly regarded leadership development program developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation for health and human service providers, and it combines results based leadership techniques with hands on implementation. At the start of this session, each LSA member committed to making a measureable impact toward the goal of ensuring that All children in the US are nurtured and on a pathway to successful adulthoodby December 2017. This is a very ambitious goal to achieve in a short period of time, but operating with a sense of urgency and call to action is a key component of the RBLI. LSA is offering this unique opportunity to LSA members through a partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation who is generously covering the cost of the RBLI faculty, AECF design staff and travel expenses for participants. I am so proud of this partnership, because this is what we strive to do at LSA--bring resources and opportunities to LSA member organizations to help strengthen Lutheran social ministry organizations and improve the lives of the most vulnerable.
No metro. No car. No Uber. I walked. For my first two weeks, in the blazing, DC summer heat, I chose to walk the 30 minutes from my temporary place of residency to the headquarters of Lutheran Services in America (LSA). Aside from collecting rare Pokémon along the way, I walked to get a feel for DC, a place that I would be calling home for the next year. As I walked, I was captivated by the scenery. I marveled at the ambitious people: locals waiting for the bus, little children walking to day camp, joggers, Hill interns, White House staffers, tourists, and government officials. My daily walk to LSA confirmed that the road to resilience for this Buffalonian would be one full of growth and adventure.
Last week, Cedar Lake hosted 30+ Lutheran Services in America Disability Network (LSA-DN) members at their corporate headquarters in Louisville, KY for the LSA-DN 2016 Summer Meeting. In an effort to better understand each other's organizations, we decided to forgo holding our summer meeting in a hotel, as we have in past years, so that we could take a deeper look at a member organization. And to my surprise, everyone preferred meeting in a member conference room with meals brought in by Panera and snacks from the grocery store as opposed to the carefully curated environment of a hotel! DN members were able to better grasp how the host organization, Cedar Lake, was delivering long-term services and supports to people with disabilities and how they might be able to partner with, learn from, or help grow Cedar Lake.
Ever since I was a young child I was taught to cherish and value community. In my life, this has looked like Sunday afternoons eating coffee cake in a church basement long after the service had ended because my Mom made a point to check-in with everyone who yearned a listening ear. Or when I would tag along with my Dad for a meeting of leaders strategizing about how to prevent yet another factory from entering our neighborhood ridden with dirty industry. It has also looked like a late summer night gathered around a campfire in my aunt’s backyard in Canada, ending a long day of play with my cousins and making every moment matter of the few times we met during the year.
I have never been a fan of change. Until college, I lived in the same house my entire life. I’ve gone to the same church since I was a toddler. I attended the same school from preschool to eighth grade. And my taste in food hasn’t changed since I was eight (corndogs continue to be a staple in my diet). So when I had to move (a whopping two hours away) to Valparaiso University (Valpo), you can probably imagine my feelings on the topic. You know that Yellow Man on Google Street-view Maps that you drag and drop to different places? Have you ever noticed how much that Yellow Man squirms when you move him? That’s how I felt about college. Squirmy.