Friday, April 13, 2012

The Gift of Leadership

by Joseph Zolobczuk

About once a year, YES Institute offers Leadership in Action to the community. This is a course that delves into the background principles of YES Institute as a community organization – the how of our work. We share a handful of core principles that have made a difference in our continued success so that others can learn and use them.

Rachel Sottile with course participants. 

This course is a gift we give to our community. When other human service and nonprofit organizations are better at what they we do, we all win. More bold leaders and stronger nonprofits means more people, families and communities are also strengthened and healed.

It's also a gift for us to be joined by some amazing leaders this afternoon. With us is Terri Cooper, Founder of 305 Yoga; Marisol Tamez, Director of Yoga Gangsters; Amy Garcia, Coordinator of Miami Mollies; Jowharah Sanders, Director of N.V.E.E.E.; and Erin Healy, Director of Youth L.E.A.D.  Each of these women are taking bold new actions with their organizations and are up to making a difference.

Here are a few of the key principles we've been discussing today:

When it's "about you," it's hard to be bold. When people say "yes" or "no", they are not saying no to you. But often, we make rejection and failure about us and take it to a personal level. With purpose as our focus, we are unstoppable.

Give your word, and keep it. What would our community look like if we all kept our word to everyone (or at least cleaned up the mess when we broke our word)? Can people count on you?

Communication is the problem. Communication is also the solution. MIT researchers on team effectiveness report, "How we communicate turns out to be the most important predictor of team success, and as important as all other factors combined, including intelligence, personality, skill, and content of discussions. The old adage that it's not what you say, but how you say it, turns out to be mathematically correct." What does communication look like in your community? Are there things not being spoken? Is there resentment or conflict? Who will go first and be the one to break the ice?

If you would like to request Leadership in Action for your organization or program, please contact YES Institute at 305-663-7195 or

Friday, April 6, 2012

“Bully” Movie: Thoughts and Reflections

by Caro Hernandez

YES Institute staff and volunteers attended a screening of the new movie Bully before its nationwide release on April 13. The new documentary film, directed by Lee Hirsch, looks at the effects of bullying on children and their families. With over 13 million children in America reporting instances of bullying each year, it is safe to say this is a problem facing all schools. 

The film was shot from 2009 to 2010 and chronicles the lives of students who have been physically and emotionally bullied. This is coupled with the perspective of parents who have lost their children due to suicide brought on by bullying. Supporters of the movie are hoping to ignite much needed attention about the very real dangers of student harassment. 

One of the problems the film highlighted is that both teachers and parents don’t know what the solution is. Jowharah Sanders, the founder of NVEEE and host of last night's screening, held a Q&A session after the Miami premier. She said, “There is no ‘quick fix’ answer that will work for all schools. It will take the whole community to change hostile environments in schools today.” 
There were many public high school students in the audience. I was lucky enough to be sitting next them. Getting to hear their whispers and insights was eye-opening for me. Jowharah asked the audience, “What is the number one slur students are taunted with when they’re being bullied?” Instantly, every student around me yelled out, “that’s gay”, and “faggot”. 

While the question was not about gender and orientation, the answers made it clear–these topics impact everyone, especially youth. Expectations and fears surrounding gender and orientation are among the main roots of bullying. This is why we see education on these topics is so necessary. As we continue our work, providing community dialogues and courses for teachers, parents, and students, we also hope this movie inspires more people to join and learn together and become a part of finding solutions.