Raegan Rinchiuso never thought of herself as someone who was particularly privileged, but she has been surprised by what she has learned about herself from reflective exercises, including a poverty simulation, that have been part of her experience as a member of the Multicultural Leadership Program's 2018 class.
"We had to identify our privileges we don't think about and it really is infused in everything you do as an employee, as a leader, as a friend, as a colleague, and so that was something I wasn't expecting and sometimes it's hard. It's hard to look inside but I think it's been very beneficial," she said following a final practice before her group presents its efforts to date in helping a local nonprofit.
The MCLP partners with agencies in need of help from a diverse group of leaders with support for efforts to expand outreach, awareness, services or fundraising.
Rinchiuso and her fellow participants are helping the Illinois Heart and Lung Foundation develop an Attack Asthma camp for children 12 and under to reduce the number of medical visits for asthma attacks.
Kathi Franklin, executive director of IHLF, said the group's contributions will be invaluable. While there are asthma camps across the country, there are no camps for kids in Central Illinois. The one-day camp would offer fun activities to help children learn what kind of exertion and exposures can trigger an asthma attack and how they can better manage the disease throughout their lifetime.
The group that also includes Troy Clark, Beth Marsh, Anetha Jayaram, and Karyl Karlson is doing a lot of time-consuming research.
"They are looking at camps across the country and how has it been done and how can we do it here? Who are our community partners? What kind of money is going to take? Where can the funds come from? Who are the medical professionals who need to be involved? Who are the children that need help and how can we safely identify them?" Franklin said.
She added, "We could not do it without them (MCLP group) because it is a lot of hours and even though we are small and we feel we're mighty, we know we're mighty because of our community partnerships and the Multicultural Leadership Program is a huge community partner."
What They’ve Learned
So far Clark said he has been surprised by the cohesiveness of his group, but he said when members had challenges, they’ve talked them through and quickly resolved issues. He said participants are applying what they’re learning while working on their project for IHLF.
“We’ve learned about asserting ourselves. Leadership courage, which means being able to speak our minds and no one is going to hold it against us, I think, has been an important part of that collaboration and that everybody leads when they feel comfortable to lead," Clark said.
In fact, the group made the conscious decision not to have a project manager. Rather they’ve divided the work into five phases and assigned one phase to each team member. That member will lead when their phase is the focus of the work.
Marsh said she felt pretty self aware before this experience but she learned what is typically viewed as a strength, something called the Woo, can be a distraction. It’s her ability to connect easily and her desire to make friends with everyone.
“I think sometimes that desire can overtake what the goal of our meeting is or the goal of our get together is and so I need to be conscious of that and dial it back a bit.”
Learning that, Marsh said, has served her well on the project and in her day job as a supervisor at Country Financial.
The 2017-2018 nonprofits and projects also include:
- Growing awareness of the Bloomington Public Library’s online and mobile services while increasing the number of active card users, especially in under- served areas.
- Creating an efficient volunteer application and scheduling process for Heartland Head Start.
- Developing a plan for the University of Illinois Extension Project’s Food Forest which includes promoting and measuring use of the forest while also creating more resources for users.
- Expanding Western Avenue Community Center’s annual Cinco de Mayo event to boost attendance and total revenue raised.
If you are interested in seeing the MCLP community service presentations, the sessions are open to the public from 8:30-10:30 a.m. Saturday at the IAA Building at 1701 N. Towanda Ave. in Bloomington. A reception will follow the presentations.
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