Navigating Organizational Change & Centering Equity as a New Professional
My original post grad plans leading up to senior year were to become a high school history teacher.
I saw becoming a teacher as a position from which to challenge structural racism, homophobia, transphobia, and many other historically institutionalized power imbalances of K-12. However, my introduction to teaching in K-12 public education made me question the degree to which I could challenge those systems from within my classroom. I struggled with how complicit I would be in the structures of educational inequity that I wanted to dismantle, and doubted how effective any intervention I could make as a teacher would be. Rather than begin my career in education from a place where I already felt disillusioned, I began to look for other levers of change within public education that still allowed me to interact with students in the classroom. Eventually, my job search led me to the FAO Schwarz Fellowship opportunity at Generation Citizen (GC).
Balancing direct service with strategic work behind the scenes, the FAO Schwarz Fellowship position was a perfect fit for what I was looking to learn in my first few years after university, particularly as I looked to center equity in my work as a new professional. As the lead team member for our college volunteer program and our summer programming for GC Alumni, I have helped deliver voting rights and political representation workshops to our alumni, shaped our college volunteers’ cultural humility training, and, supported by my site’s executive director and program director, wrote a memo to our national team identifying the equity issues with our college volunteer model and suggested a shift in programming that would offer a means to continue working with our GC Alumni. In my capacity as a Recruitment and Outreach Associate for the FAO Schwarz Fellowship, I have been able to do some research about how and where to recruit applicants from HBCUs and elevated a more intentional and nuanced consideration of gender in our internal analysis of applicants for the upcoming year.
Looking toward my second year of the Fellowship, as Generation Citizen develops a new strategic plan with racial equity in mind and current CEO and founder Scott Warren transitions out of the organization– I am playing an active role in shaping what my position will look like come next fiscal year. Alongside being given a voice in the direction of our site-level programming, I have been able to serve on the strategic planning team and be a part of working with our consultants to build national strategic direction for the next 3-5 years. In this role, I’ve been able to take a step back and learn about nonprofit management– from vision and planning to budgeting and development– from the position of an organization trying to center racial equity as a thought leader in their field. However, learning the ropes of the nonprofit world and grappling with the white supremacy culture of the field has been a steep, and often exhausting, learning curve. As a queer Latinx person in a junior position within my organization, I am often frustrated with the limits of my own power and the consolidation of power among like-identified folks who do not share my experiences, nor the experiences of the students our organization is looking to serve. Having a supportive supervisor and a steadfast team of coworkers has been instrumental in my success and growth in navigating this new field.
My first nine months at Generation Citizen have been challenging, but also rewarding– giving me ample room to grow and step up for equity in our programming with the support of my peers, while also contending with the growing pains of a changing organization. As the landscape of my organization shifts and I get closer to entering the second year of my time with the FAO Schwarz Fellowship, I hope to build skills in coalition building and change management with continued support from my peers and coworkers in the FAO Schwarz Fellowship and throughout Generation Citizen.
Angela Ortiz is a first year FAO Fellow at Generation in Boston.