“There’s nothing really above me I can’t do.” These words, by Nourishing Tomorrow’s Leaders graduate Charles Rivers, encapsulate the intent of the program. Charles participation in NTL’s 2016 sessions were transformational. NTL, which is accepting applications now for the 2018 class, is a 9-week training program to increase inclusiveness and diversity on non-profit boards; enhance the pool of effective board members and new leaders in the community; educate and inspire those who participate and provide quality training.
Simply put, NTL is partly for those who have never considered themselves as “board material,” or don’t fully understand what is involved. Charles affirms this: he initially “was interested because I needed to seek more of myself. I realized I had been ‘self-excluding’ myself from things that I didn’t think I knew how to do.” Since 2014 the program has graduated 104 community leaders and connected them with over 50 local boards.
Charles’ personal journey has been varied, and at times difficult. He was imprisoned when younger, and suffered health setbacks. But he now owns his first home, has a college degree and pursuing a Masters, is president of the Syracuse Inner City Rotary Club and just graduated from Leadership Greater Syracuse. Charles works for PEACE Inc. as a Program Coordinator and is active in his community. His success is of course due to his own abilities, passion and commitment – but NTL also offered certain life lessons as well as specific knowledge of nonprofit boards.
“Among many things, I’ve learned how to be a leader – how to choose my words, and be aware of my goals and the strategies I pursue to get there,” he states. The workshops in NTL provide an overview of how board members add value, how to make the connection between your passion and area nonprofits, what it means to be a nonprofit and more. Topics include Board ABCs, organizational lifecycles, group dynamics, networking and conflict resolution. Charles’ favorite sessions were in networking and the board simulation at the end of the course. “Both taught me about how to present myself, to change the image of myself,” he says. “I saw an example of how boards actually function.”
From seeing boards as a “big thing” that felt exclusionary, Charles has come to realize the value that he can bring to a nonprofit organization. Now he realizes how important believing in a mission can be: “A board is nothing more than a group of people with a goal.”