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April Curtis

Youth Guidance

United States

April is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. April, a diligent advocate, and leader, now works to help youth and families in her community solve problems, advocate for themselves, and improve their lives. April is passionate about ensuring kids like herself make it, they never forget their culture, and they take advantage of education.
She has served as Program Director for Youth Advocate Program, Inc. for 11 years and serving our families in Chicago Public Schools, in prevention, juvenile justice, and violence reduction programs, workforce development, she served as Chief Strategy Officer at ASPIRA Il focusing on continued service to our families in the community, schools, and the Miguel Del Valle Youth Leadership Development Center. April is a co-chair of the Violence Prevention Committee for the 20th Senate District. She sits on several community committees such as the Health First Advisory Council, Northwest Collaborative, National Positive Youth Development Council, Transition-Age Federal Coalition, and National Housing for Child Welfare (Senior Policy Fellow), CWLA National Child Welfare and Mental Advisory.
Currently, she is the Chief of Staff at Youth Guidance. Where she serves as a key advisor and strategic partner to the CEO, ensuring smooth operations and effective execution of organizational objectives. April's passion for ensuring the success of youth, preserving culture, and promoting education reflects her resilience and commitment to creating positive change. As a leader, advocate, and strategic planner, April Curtis continues to shape conversations, secure funding, and inspire change in the lives of individuals and communities she serves. Recently April received recognition as the 8th District Unsung Heroine Peggy A. Montes Award.

April Curtis

About
Me.

What is your story?

What drives your work?

My story is one rooted in resilience, empathy, and a deep-seated commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of others. Growing up in foster care has instilled in me a profound understanding of the challenges and adversities that many individuals face, as well as a passionate desire to support and uplift those who may be navigating similar struggles.

My personal experiences have shaped my perspective and drive my work in profound ways. Having firsthand knowledge of the complexities of the foster care system, I am uniquely positioned to empathize with the needs and experiences of vulnerable youth and families. My journey has fueled a sense of purpose and determination to advocate for systemic change, striving to create a more equitable and supportive environment for all individuals, regardless of their background or circumstances.

At the core of my motivation lies a belief in the inherent potential and resilience of every individual. I have experienced firsthand the transformative power of support, encouragement, and opportunities for growth, and I am deeply committed to paying it forward by helping others unlock their potential and achieve greatness. Whether through mentorship, advocacy, or direct service, I am driven by a sense of responsibility to use my voice and platform to uplift and empower those who may feel marginalized or overlooked.

My work is guided by a profound sense of empathy, compassion, and a steadfast belief in the value of human connection. I understand that meaningful change often begins with individual acts of kindness, understanding, and support, and I have always been dedicated to fostering a sense of belonging and empowerment within my community. By sharing my story, educating, advocating for change, and leading by example, I transform lives but also inspire others to join me in my mission to create a more just, compassionate, and inclusive world for all.

Describe your biggest strength as a leader

My strength as a leader is in building people up and connecting them for greater collaboration not only enhances individual growth and team effectiveness but also fosters a culture of innovation, inclusivity, and collective achievement. I use this strength within my ability to empower, inspire, and unite others to foster the development of transformative leaders capable of driving meaningful change and creating lasting impact.

Describe your biggest challenge as a leader

My most significant challenge as a leader lies in my reluctance to confidently advocate for myself without feeling the need to overjustify. While I am adept at advocating for others and articulating their needs, I find it more difficult to assertively advocate for my own needs and desires. This struggle stems from a tendency to downplay my own worth or prioritize the needs of others over my own.

As a result, I often find myself in situations where I hesitate to ask for opportunities, resources, or recognition that I know I deserve. I may over explain or rationalize my requests, fearing that they may come across as selfish or unwarranted. This challenge not only hinders my personal growth and development but also limits my ability to fully leverage my skills, talents, and contributions as a leader.

To overcome this challenge, I am actively working on cultivating greater self-confidence and assertiveness in advocating for myself. I recognize the importance of valuing my own worth and acknowledging my achievements without feeling the need to justify or minimize them. By adopting a more self-assured mindset and assertive communication style, I aim to advocate for myself more effectively and advocate for the opportunities and recognition that align with my goals and aspirations.

About the
Organization
and the Project.

Sector

Not-for-profit

Vision & Mission

Mission: Youth Guidance creates and implements school-based programs that enable children to overcome obstacles, focus on their education and, ultimately, to succeed in school and in life.

Vision: Youth Guidance sees a bright and successful future for every elementary and high school student. Because we believe that success in school is not only possible but should be achieved and celebrated, we are present in the schools to facilitate an environment that truly engages students in the learning process, and through careful guidance, enables them to realize their full potential and graduate with a meaningful plan for successfully managing life.

Year Founded

1924

No. of Employees

609

Years in the Organization

About 1 year

Annual Budget (USD)

$52,000,000

Geographical Area Served

Chicagoland, Waukegan, LA, Seattle, Dallas, DC, Kansas City (MO/KC), Boston and UK

Organizational /

Project Description

Advocacy Empowerment:

1. Goal: Develop and implement a comprehensive advocacy training program for youth, parents, and staff ambassadors to enhance their advocacy skills and knowledge.
- Task: Identify key advocacy training topics and resources relevant to the organization's mission and initiatives.
- Task: Design and conduct advocacy training sessions, workshops, and webinars tailored to the specific needs and interests of ambassadors.
- Task: Provide ongoing support and mentorship to ambassadors to strengthen their confidence and effectiveness in advocating for important causes.

Education Engagement:

2. Goal: Increase awareness and understanding of the organization's programs and services through educational initiatives led by ambassadors.
- Task: Create educational materials, including brochures, presentations, and videos, highlighting the organization's impact and offerings.
- Task: Organize educational workshops, seminars, and informational sessions in communities served by the organization to educate residents about relevant issues.
- Task: Collaborate with schools, community centers, and other organizations to facilitate educational outreach events and activities.

**Civic Engagement Activation:**

3. Goal: Mobilize ambassadors to actively participate in civic engagement activities that promote community involvement and social responsibility.
- Task: Identify local volunteer opportunities, community events, and advocacy campaigns for ambassadors to participate in.
- Task: Organize volunteer projects, community clean-up events, and voter registration drives to encourage civic engagement among ambassadors.
- Task: Facilitate meetings and discussions with local government officials to advocate for policy changes and address community concerns.

Community Engagement Enhancement:

4. Goal: Strengthen community engagement efforts by fostering connections and partnerships among ambassadors and community members.
- Task: Organize networking events, community forums, and collaborative projects to bring ambassadors and community members together.
- Task: Establish community advisory boards or committees comprised of ambassadors and stakeholders to provide input and feedback on organizational initiatives.
- Task: Support ambassadors in organizing outreach events, such as health fairs, resource fairs, and neighborhood clean-up days, to engage and empower community residents.

Youth Empowerment:

5. Goal: Empower youth ambassadors to take on leadership roles and advocate for positive change within their communities.
- Task: Provide leadership development training and mentorship opportunities for youth ambassadors to enhance their skills and confidence.
- Task: Create platforms for youth ambassadors to share their ideas, concerns, and solutions through youth-led forums, focus groups, and campaigns.
- Task: Recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of youth ambassadors to inspire and motivate others to get involved in community activism.

**Parental Involvement Promotion:**

6. **Goal:** Increase parental involvement and engagement in the organization's initiatives by recruiting and supporting parent ambassadors.
- Task: Develop outreach strategies to recruit parents from diverse backgrounds to serve as ambassadors for the organization.
- Task: Provide training and resources to empower parent ambassadors to advocate for the needs and interests of parents and families within their communities.
- Task: Create opportunities for parent ambassadors to participate in decision-making processes, advisory committees, and parent support groups to foster collaboration and communication.

Staff Advocacy Support:

7. **Goal:** Equip staff ambassadors with the tools and resources needed to effectively advocate for organizational goals and priorities.
- Task: Offer training sessions and workshops to enhance staff ambassadors' advocacy skills, including communication, networking, and public speaking.
- Task: Provide staff ambassadors with access to advocacy resources, such as research reports, policy briefs, and advocacy toolkits, to support their efforts.
- Task: Recognize and reward staff ambassadors for their advocacy efforts and contributions to advancing the organization's mission and initiatives.

**Multi-Site Collaboration:**

8. **Goal:** Foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing among ambassadors across different sites to maximize impact and effectiveness.
- Task: Establish communication channels, such as online forums, newsletters, and social media groups, for ambassadors to connect and exchange ideas.
- Task: Organize virtual or in-person meetings and conferences to facilitate networking and collaboration among ambassadors from various locations.
- Task: Encourage ambassadors to share best practices, success stories, and lessons learned to inspire and support each other in their advocacy and engagement efforts.

Measurement and Evaluation:

9. Goal: Develop a robust system for measuring and evaluating the effectiveness and impact of the ambassadors program.
- Task: Define clear metrics and indicators to assess the outcomes and achievements of the ambassadors program, such as advocacy milestones, community engagement events, and participant feedback.
- Task: Implement regular data collection methods, such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups, to gather feedback from ambassadors and stakeholders.
- Task: Analyze and interpret data to identify strengths, areas for improvement, and opportunities for innovation in the ambassadors program, and use findings to inform future planning and decision-making.

Sustainability and Growth:

10. Goal: Ensure the long-term sustainability and growth of the ambassadors program by fostering a culture of ambassadorship and investing in organizational capacity-building efforts.
- Task: Develop a comprehensive sustainability plan outlining strategies for funding, staffing, and resource allocation to support the ongoing operation of the ambassadors program.
- Task: Cultivate leadership succession plans to ensure continuity and effectiveness of the ambassadors program over time.
- Task: Explore opportunities for program expansion and scalability, including partnerships with other organizations, replication of successful models, and outreach to new communities and populations.

Why is this project important and timely?

What is the target population of your project? 

Target population - youth, parents, staff. Impact of 50-100 at each site.

1. Advocacy Empowerment: Empower youth ambassadors, parent ambassadors, and staff ambassadors to advocate effectively for the organization's mission and initiatives. Provide training and resources to equip ambassadors with the necessary skills and knowledge to advocate for important causes relevant to their communities.

2. Education Engagement: Engage ambassadors in educational initiatives aimed at raising awareness about key issues and promoting understanding of the organization's programs and services. Offer workshops, seminars, and informational sessions to enhance ambassadors' knowledge and capacity to educate others.

3. Civic Engagement Activation: Activate ambassadors to participate in civic engagement activities that promote community involvement and social responsibility. Encourage ambassadors to volunteer, participate in community events, and engage with local government officials to address pressing issues affecting their communities.

4. Community Engagement Enhancement: Enhance community engagement efforts by leveraging the collective influence and networks of youth ambassadors, parent ambassadors, and staff ambassadors. Facilitate opportunities for ambassadors to connect with community members, build partnerships, and organize outreach events to foster a sense of belonging and collaboration.

5. Youth Empowerment: Empower youth ambassadors to become leaders and advocates within their communities. Provide mentorship, leadership development opportunities, and platforms for youth to voice their concerns, ideas, and solutions for positive change.

6. Parental Involvement Promotion: Promote parental involvement and engagement in the organization's initiatives by recruiting and supporting parent ambassadors. Offer resources, support networks, and opportunities for parents to actively participate in decision-making processes and contribute to the organization's goals.

7. Staff Advocacy Support: Support staff ambassadors in advocating for organizational goals and priorities within their respective communities. Provide training, tools, and recognition to encourage staff members to serve as ambassadors and promote the organization's mission in their professional and personal networks.

8. Multi-Site Collaboration: Foster collaboration and synergy among ambassadors across different sites (LA, Chicago, Waukegan, Boston, Dallas, Kansas City, DC) to share best practices, exchange ideas, and coordinate efforts for maximum impact. Establish communication channels and platforms for ambassadors to connect, collaborate, and support each other's initiatives.

9. Measurement and Evaluation: Establish clear metrics and indicators to measure the effectiveness and impact of the ambassadors program. Regularly evaluate outcomes, gather feedback from ambassadors and stakeholders, and make adjustments as needed to ensure continuous improvement and alignment with organizational goals.

10. Sustainability and Growth: Develop strategies for the long-term sustainability and growth of the ambassadors program. Cultivate a culture of ambassadorship within the organization, invest in leadership succession planning, and explore opportunities for expansion and scalability to reach new communities and populations.

How will you know that you have achieved that impact? What data will you use to assess your impact?

How do you anticipate this unique leadership education impacting you personally? What new skills are you hoping too develop & grow through this experience?

I anticipate that this unique leadership education will have a profound impact on my personal growth and development. While I pride myself on supporting and uplifting others to help them succeed, I recognize that this often results in prioritizing their advancement over my own. Through this experience, I hope to shift this dynamic and invest in my own growth and advancement.

One of the key areas I'm eager to explore is mentorship. Just as I have mentored others, I am eager to be mentored myself. I believe that there is immense value in learning from those who have walked similar paths and achieved success in their own right. By receiving guidance and support from experienced mentors, I hope to gain new insights, perspectives, and strategies that will enable me to take my career to the next level.

Additionally, I am keen to develop new skills that will enhance my leadership capabilities. This includes honing my strategic thinking, decision-making, and communication skills, as well as gaining a deeper understanding of organizational dynamics and effective leadership practices. By acquiring these skills, I aim to become a more effective and influential leader, capable of driving positive change and making a meaningful impact within my organization and beyond.

Overall, I see this opportunity as a catalyst for personal and professional growth. By investing in my own development and learning from others, I am confident that I will emerge from this experience with new skills, perspectives, and opportunities for advancement that will empower me to achieve greater success in my career and beyond.

Where would you like to see yourself professionally in the next 3 years?

I would like to see myself as a CEO.

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