2018 Young Professionals of Color Mentorship Program

Young Professionals of Color Mentorship Program

Are you looking to improve your communication and personal skills? Are you interested in developing leadership and management qualities? How about increasing your confidence and reinforcing your own and knowledge? If so, then the Young Professionals of Color Mentorship would be a great fit for you!

The Choose Clean Water Coalition values our members, but more importantly the interpersonal relationships that are built when working together. Established in 2016, the Young Professionals of Color Mentorship Program is a united effort to support individuals working in the environmental sector. Our program is intended to provide mentorship to individuals seeking to excel in their careers and strengthen a mentors leadership abilities. Participating in this unique partnership will foster better relationships among clean water partners and will help build a pipeline of diverse leaders interesting in advancing our watershed goals throughout the Chesapeake Bay region.

When and where?

The program will kick off at the Choose Clean Water Coalition’s Annual Conference on May 23, 2018, at the Lancaster Marriot at Penn Square in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. During a breakfast program, potential mentors will be paired with young professionals to begin a journey towards fulfilling a supportive professional relationship.

What you can do to get involved:

  • Nominate a young person of color who might want to participate so we can make sure they receive an invitation to our kick-off event OR nominate yourself!
  • Agree to be mentor or a mentee, today! Responsibilities include:

o   Attend kick-off event on May 23 from 8AM-9AM in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

o   Commitment to one year of engagement

o  Monthly conversations with your mentee

o  Minimum of three in-person meetings with your mentee

o   Ability to be a thoughtful, effective, and insightful listener and communicator

o   Desire to build and strengthen the environmental community

This is a short term commitment to foster a diverse and long-lasting community.

Sign up today by emailing Mariah Davis at davism@nwf.org.

Please note that this program is open to all of our members- regardless of class, race, ethnicity, age, and gender.

Young Professionals of Color Meet in Annapolis

On Friday, January 27, the Choose Clean Water Coalition held the wrap-up for the inaugural session of our Young Professionals of Color (YPC) mentorship program. The informal happy hour was a blast. The food was delicious and the wine was flowing. But more importantly, the mood was one of camaraderie and excitement. The Coalition is very proud of what we were able to accomplish with the YPC program since the kick off at our conference last May, and on a personal level, I am extremely proud of the program as well. Chante was the brains behind the operation, but she graciously let me take the lead last year. It has been educational and enlightening every step of the way.

By all measures, the program was a success. We were initially unsure of how much interest there would be when we decided to start the program. Fortunately, we received requests to join from a robust group of people for the pilot program—eight mentor/mentee pairs all told. Not bad for a first go around.

We asked each pair to have at least one monthly call and at least three in-person meetings throughout the duration of the program, and by my count, participants went above and beyond; the pairs seemed to truly connect by exchanging regular texts, meeting for the occasional coffee, helping each other plan events, etc. If the conversations at our happy hour were any indication, it seems as though the mentors and mentees became trusted friends. One participant shared, “I really enjoyed the trusted relationship I was able to build with my mentor. It was really nice to have someone to vent to and ask for advice, knowing they would provide me with honest and experienced expertise.” That’s powerful, and that’s just the kind of relationship we wanted to foster through the YPC program.

Like any program, however, we want YPC to grow and get better with every iteration. We plan on rolling out the second session at this year’s Choose Clean Water Conference in Charlottesville, Virginia (breakfast kick off on the morning of May 24th). Based on input from this year’s participants, we’re going to have more consistent check-ins between mentors and mentees, more topic-driven goals, and will aim to have more program-wide get-togethers and team building exercises. Who knows, we may even have t-shirts!

We’re hoping to grow in size, too! If you or anyone you know would like to be part of this year’s YPC program, do not hesitate to drop me a line (morgand@nwf.org). Please note, all mentors from last year identified as people of color. We are opening up the mentor pool to those who do not identify as such for this coming year. We believe that this will go a long way in ensuring a rich group of experiences to share going forward. 

When Chante passed the YPC torch to me, I was admittedly a bit confused—why would a young professional of color hand the reigns of this program to someone who, while a young professional, is so obviously white? I think it’s critical for those of us who identify as white to keep learning about ongoing inequities in our environmental community and to keep doing our part to make ours the most inclusive community possible. Regardless of whether or not it was a measured move to put me in charge, I know my perspective allowed me to experience the program through a unique lens. I’ve learned about the lack of people of color in the environmental community, particularly in leadership positions, and I feel humbled to be but a small part of the solution.

Young Professional of Color Mentorship Program Builds Foundation for a Diverse Environmental Future

The racial composition of environmental organizations has not broken the 12-15 percent margin, despite people of color making up roughly one-third of the United States’ population. This issue, what has become known as the “green insiders club” particularly in leadership roles, is a fundamental problem in environmental organizations. Despite our best intentions, our goals and initiatives will not be taken seriously if we don’t look like the communities we serve.

With this in mind, The Choose Clean Water Coalition kicked off the Young Professionals of Color (YPC) Mentorship Program during May’s annual conference in Annapolis. The program is aimed at providing guidance and camaraderie to a group of young professionals of color within the green community in order to retain them and help facilitate their rise into leadership positions.

Though we at the coalition firmly believe in the importance of this program, it was always unclear how much interest would be generated among candidates. We were more than presently surprised to have eight mentor/mentee pairs attend the kick-off event for our pilot year! This is a testament to the coalition’s overarching goal of assuring more diverse attendance at the conference (we saw a measurable increase in attendees who identified as “non-white,” 17.3% of survey-takers in 2016 over 12.4% in 2015).

Participants in the YPC program were fortunate to hear from two powerful speakers: South River Federation Executive Director, Kate Fritz, delivered an inspirational message and Kelli Holsendolph, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Audubon Naturalist Society, recounted a personal narrative on the importance of mentorship.

Most importantly, young professionals of color finally met their mentors, the leaders who will guide them over the next six months and who will offer support and answer questions. Handshakes, phone numbers, and stories were exchanged. Smiles and laughter abounded, and there was a distinct feeling that lasting relationships were forming before our very eyes. We were fortunate to see the next generation of leaders of the environmental community all in one room. It is a generation that is passionate, driven, and diverse—just the way it should be.