Stepping into the role of executive director, I have been overwhelmed with such a wave of support and love from our chapters, friends, families, and colleagues. I’m humbled, honored, and grateful for this opportunity to expand into a new level of service for Circles. For those of you wondering how I got into Circles, here’s a piece of my story followed by some goals as I look to the future.
My Circles journey began on Easter of 2018, the symbolism of which is not lost on me. Scott Miller, founder and then-CEO of Circles USA, approached me after Sunday service in our spiritual community and asked how I felt about my job; I had a great energy that would serve Circles USA well. At the time, I was drowning in a 60-hour work week as a school teacher with a child in and out of Children’s Hospital, hanging on to my marriage by a thread and our house down to the penny. I was in crisis. Clearly, I was ready to take my life back.
So we started small, Scott and I, just to see if we got along and if I really could bring value to Circles USA. By the summer, I was part-time, and by the fall, I ended my 23-year career in secondary education and joined the Circles USA team as the Chief Learning Officer.
Scott mentored me patiently that first year, trusting my skill sets and helping me to gain confidence as a nonprofit professional. I learned that my English teacher skills were essential as I worked closely with board member Jennifer Pelling and advisor Sherri Nee to create and edit the new CUSA curricula for Circle Leaders, Allies, and staff. My facilitation skills were honed as I stepped into leading Hands-on Training: at first in person and later with the pandemic, converting the training into an interactive, online experience. My coaching skills have deepened as I’ve worked with chapters across the United States. My creativity and innovation have fired up as I’ve redesigned our regular communications, trainings, and support systems for chapters.
One of my favorite memories of Circles so far is the 2019 Leadership Conference in Greenville, South Carolina. I had never curated a conference before, but working with Jamie Haft from CUSA and Bruce Forbes and Mendi Knisley from Circles Upstate SC, made it all come together for a power-packed, inspirational conference. The keynote speakers, the sessions, the host site, and the food were great; but the best part was the intangible sense that we had shifted from a loosely tied network of chapters into a heart-connected community of practice. I loved every minute of our time together and knew I had found my right livelihood.
Then, when the pandemic hit in 2020, our community of practice rallied to support each other as we shifted our activities online. Together we discovered how the chapters could respond in agile ways to new needs—not just of Circle Leaders, but also of Allies, staff members, and other volunteers. Because we had the relational foundation in place, our staff and volunteers across the U.S. and Canada had the strength and creativity to persevere. Kudos to the countless people who continued to make Circles happen and to the Circle Leaders who made progress even during the pandemic.
Now, four years into my Circles journey, I continue to be inspired by individuals who have taken back their lives and communities that have taken back their power to co-create a more inclusive, life-affirming, empowering place that fosters prosperity for all. I realize now that I personally have benefited from this transformative work, having made it out the other side of my crises. Our finances, marriage, home, and health are all now secure. I moved from surviving to thriving with Circles as my home base of livelihood and mindset. I took back my life and found my power again. I am so grateful for this life and the work I get to do.
As I step into this new role as Executive Director, I continue to be firmly committed to supporting our chapters with the best resources and relationships possible. I look forward to enhancements such as growing the cultural relevance and inclusivity of our Spanish-translated materials and exploring youth metrics to prove our 2-Gen success. I’m excited to see what innovations come from our Poverty Alleviation Systems work which will benefit all of our member communities.
Working with Circles the last four years has been a transformative journey for me, to say the least. As I share at Hands-on Training for new staff, Circles is not for the faint of heart because it WILL change your life no matter your role in Circles. So, here’s to our future as we continue to intentionally co-create that transformative Circles journey for ourselves and our communities together.