Why I Serve: The Power of Leveraging Diverse Voices
I always thought that being on a local board, commission, or committee meant that I had to be a prominent politician, a well-off C-Level Executive, or a proven community leader with decades of working experience. Turns out I was wrong.
Anyone, regardless of experience or background, has something to contribute. We all have lived experiences and perspectives that differ from one another and provide valid insight. And we are all capable of affecting change. Many people think that they have to pay their dues and work their way up the organizational latter or become managers and bosses before they can embrace being a self-assured leader in their profession or in their community. I think this is misguided.
The Board Game, SA2020’s leadership development program that connects San Antonians interested in serving their community with local Nonprofit Partners, aims to break that misconception by encouraging an array of residents with diverse backgrounds and skill-sets to lead in selfless service to the community. As one of the committee members for The Board Game, I am eager to see how the matching process works. The 47 participating nonprofits have more than 200 board openings among them. Moreover, SA2020 believes in the catalytic power of organizations that represent the communities they serve.
I firmly believe that what you do for work and your current job title should not define who you are. We spend so much time being held back by this concept and erroneous sense of identity. You forge your own path by seizing opportunity and pushing yourself to grow. Your passion for a cause, a place, an idea marks who you are. A willingness to learn and contribute to the larger community—and a shared ambition to make our city a better place to live, work, and play—warrants a seat at the table.
Currently, I serve as a board member for the Hemisfair Coalition. For me, this marks the first time on a board of any kind. It has been an incredibly eye-opening experience. The coalition aims to grow membership, increase community awareness for Hemisfair, and continue to support the Hemisfair Conservancy in fundraising and volunteer opportunities for the downtown park.
I’ve learned to interact with other members in the community and provide perspective and ideas among my peers. I’ve helped organize events and represent the coalition at various locations. This alone has made me more aware of people’s perceptions of the park and all the good that Hemisfair’s free community events are having all over San Antonio — not to mention the inclusive programming for children of all ages and abilities. And yet, I’ve come to learn that many San Antonians still don’t know about the park and all that it has to offer.
The park has had 2.1 million visitors and 85% are San Antonians from every Council district. Additionally, Yanaguana Garden, populated daily by families and children, recently received a State Landscape Architecture Award for its contribution to the quality of life for all residents of Texas. I bet you not many of our residents know some of these facts and impact numbers. Through trial and error, coupled with experimentation, I’m still learning how to move the needle and connect more residents to the park.
As a proud Latina who bridges two countries, two cultures, and two languages, I know that my lived experience and unique perspective is an asset to any organization. Ensuring that people from all walks of life, people of color, (especially women and gender non-conforming folks of color), residents from all City Council districts, and folks under the age of 40 participate in our local boards makes community impact more equitable. It gives everyone a voice.
Beyond board service, I still find myself in places or meetings where I’m often the youngest woman in the room, and deep inside, I feel insecure or suffer from imposter syndrome. It takes courage to speak, especially in places populated by men who are twice my age or more experienced. Whenever I feel that doubt creeping up, I remind myself that I truly care about making a positive change no matter the task and that my voice matters. I’m slowly learning to embrace my seat at the table valiantly and without doubt. There is much work to be done in our own organizations, neighborhoods, and workplaces. Applying to The Board Game is a great way to start.
It’s okay to be the youngest person in the room. Embrace it. It’s okay to learn as you go. Doubt should not dictate your decision to pursue a leadership opportunity. We are all worthy to serve and give back.
To learn more about The Board Game and how to apply, click here. The deadline is Sunday, June 30. As SA2020’s own President & CEO Molly Cox always says, “Do the thing!”