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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Inspired by empowerment

Yesterday I had the pleasure and honor of being part of a graduation ceremony at RESOURCE Inc. in Minneapolis. The Bright Futures Program of the Employment Action Center (EAC) of this organization graduated its first group of young females – teen mothers who are keen to improve their lives. These young ladies graduated from the Empowerment Course that they attended on a weekly basis – a course that was recently added to the many diverse services the EAC has been providing for many years.
While assisting in handing out a delicious meal the group’s facilitator shared with me how the women had overcome their initial objections, hesitations, fears, and worries. How they had opened up, how they had cried and laughed together, how they had supported each other, and how they had witnessed each other grow, everyone at her own pace and with her own challenges. The energy, pride, and admiration with which the facilitator spoke about ‘her students’ was nothing less then remarkable. Her heart and soul were clearly invested in using the Empowerment Program to touch and improve lives.
During the ceremony itself, each participant was provided a certificate of completion, but, most touching and powerful was the personal recognition that every woman received. This recognition described a remarkable personality trait or a stunning accomplishment, whether big or small – the ritual visibly touching facilitator as much as student. At least equally powerful was the passion, presence, vigor, and personal approach the facilitator displayed when addressing each individual - qualities that explained the strong connections that were apparent. Once again it showed that no matter how well designed and written a program, its results and impact rely heavily on the person implementing it. I am happy to have played a small part in this endeavor by proposing, designing, and writing the Empowerment Program, but, above all, I am happy and encouraged to see how a facilitator, a leader, guided by passion, purpose, and values can work wonders with a curriculum and with people. How such an inspiring, empowering leader can awaken courage, willingness, and drive in others and make such a huge difference in someone’s life. This is yet another example of great leadership, one that too often goes unrecognized.
After more than an hour in a hot room filled with excitement and joy we came to the end of a journey, or better: the end of the first leg of what I hope to be a life-long journey. “Flowers in bloom”, it read on the festive cake that was cut by an engaged program manager. I hope they keep blooming.


  1. Thank you Carolien for your beautiful comments in Inspired by empowerment about the graduation of our Bright Futures participants. These young women can overcome enormous obstacles when they have guidance, hope and a belief that their futures can be better than they ever dreamed possible. On behalf of all our Bright Futures participants and staff I want to thank you for the rich Empowerment Program curriculum you wrote for our participants and for the training you provided to our faciiltators in its use. Your gifts to us are immeasurable. Thank you for giving so much to Bright Futures participants and staff. Regards,
    Betsy McMillan
    Employment Action Center Director

  2. Thank you so much Betsy, for your kind comments and the wonderful words. Too much praise for me, though, the credit goes to the participants and facilitators. I so enjoy working with your organization, being a small part in making dreams come true. I regret you are leaving but am happy for you, knowing that you look forward to time off and knowing that you will touch lives wherever you go and whatever you do. That's empowerment in action.

    warm wishes, Carolien