So often when you are the only one in a room who presents like you—the only woman or only person of color, you become hypervigilant to things such as tone (your own and others), peculiar questioning, behaviors, and mannerisms. Also, you can be completely ignored, even if you “stick out like a sore thumb.”
Convening with my ASA RISE fellows was a safe place for me to unpack everything I had held in for my entire career, and it helped me to process nagging questions and issues. We were able to share best practices, stories, and validate one another’s experiences. Many fellows had stories to share that were similar to my own. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my experiences and feelings. ASA RISE gave me an opportunity to meet a group of professionals from a variety of disciplines in the field of aging who could relate to my experiences and provide best practices.
Our facilitators, Cynthia Banks and Patrice Dickerson, were skilled at allowing us to hold space for our personal issues around working in a professional setting and at providing us with tools to help us maneuver. I will be forever grateful for the grace and leadership they provided. Being part of ASA RISE was like finding a community I didn’t know I needed. Cynthia was so graceful and always found the silver lining, taught us to keep going, and to think before we spoke. Patrice, always composed and thoughtful in her responses, provided us with the tools and resources to improve our approaches as leaders. They both emphasized the power of networking.
‘Being part of ASA RISE was like finding a community I didn’t know I needed.’
I appreciate what I learned in ASA RISE, it was relevant to my work, well-implemented, and utilized a strengths-based approach to create an environment that fostered innovation, motivation, and collaboration. The amount of knowledge I gained from the multifaceted speakers we had was completely unmatched.
ASA RISE gave me confidence in my ability to lead. ASA RISE provided me with tools to better justify my stance. It provided real-life scenarios, and helped me relate them to real-life situations. The speakers gave us information on their roles and taught us how to use the tools we learned in the RISE program and apply them to different disciplines. I have become more confident as a leader and implemented what I learned in the programs I lead. I’ve learned to build on our program providers’ strengths to help them achieve better outcomes, promote transformational change, and have a more positive impact on the clients we serve.
Listening to Understand
ASA RISE taught me the importance of listening to understand rather than simply responding, and how being more aware of others’ points of view can shape your response to something that will be more impactful or thought-provoking, and in turn change your thought processes. I learned that as a leader, I need to listen more, reflect upon my own experience, and how the issues being discussed affect me. I learned to ask more questions. Asking for clarity can help decipher someone’s reason behind their actions. I also learned that it was OK to share my experiences too, to expound upon my opinions and to always use data to drive my point home.
Meeting my mentor has changed my life. Deborah Royster is amazing. I was so excited to get to know her and learn everything I could from her. My relationship with Deborah has helped me to make some important professional and life decisions. I always value the time we spend together because she leaves me with an assignment and most of the time the assignment is me. She reinforces my strengths and I appreciate that.
‘ASA RISE changed the way I approach everything.’
Also, I found mentorship in my ASA RISE fellows. The fellows in my cohort reminded me of how diverse the field of aging is and expanded my network beyond social work. I met aging advocates working in a variety of fields such as housing, education, legal and so much more. The fellows in my cohort reminded me that no matter what discipline we were from, we all shared the same mission, which is to advocate for equity in aging.
ASA RISE changed the way I approach everything. I learned to start asking people what they need rather than assuming (as I learned that I come from a place of privilege in some spaces), and I must always be mindful of how that informs my decisions and opinions. Also, when working with different populations you cannot account for all situations, but you can always ask for feedback on how to improve your response to them. ASA RISE changed my life because I understood the critical importance for older adults of color to have advocates who can relate to their experience and lead with an equity lens. Doing this doesn’t just benefit older adults of color, but all older adults, and those who are living with disabilities.
Since the ASA RISE sessions have ended, I have stayed in touch with many of my fellows, following them on social media, reaching out to them, meeting up with those who visit my area. ASA RISE has had a huge impact on me by giving me a bigger community and network of professionals who have, whether they know it or not, changed my life for the absolute best. As far as my career, I have been promoted to a supervisory level position at my organization, I have been able to assist the organization with its Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) initiatives within its strategic plan, and I have provided an equity moment and DEIA updates at our agency’s all staff meeting. I am committed more than ever to leading with equity.
When I was asked to write this post, I was honored to be considered. I have read all the great posts from the other RISE fellows and have been in constant awe. I want to thank Patrice and Cynthia for always being our biggest supporters and continuing to mention our names in spaces in which they know we belong.
I want to thank my ASA RISE fellows; they have been so foundational for me and have each in their own way given me a takeaway through this experience. I want to thank my mentor Deborah Royster for constantly encouraging me and for remaining in touch with me even after the program has ended. I want to thank my organization and ASA for providing this amazing opportunity, and I can't wait to see all the incredible leaders that continue to grow because of ASA.
Glenda Love, MSW, LSW, is the Aging and Disability Rights supervisor at an Area Agency on Aging, in the Chicagoland area.
Photo credit: Shutterstock/Mathisa