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Director of Youth Programming, WE
Reflecting on the impact of the students she worked with, Louise said,
I led hundreds of leadership workshops at schools across the country. Students would tell me about issues going on in their school and how they felt powerless to do anything. But there is something special when you get 20 students of different ages and experiences all in the same room, speaking about the things that they want to improve in their school. All of a sudden there would be one student—just one—who takes the lead. They would rarely be the oldest, but they would have passion. They would say one thing or ask one question that would get the group planning little things to address the issue at hand. Breakfast mornings, anti-bullying days (or pro-fun days!), empathy events, wellness days … and the creative list goes on. My job was always scribe ONLY at that point! In these small moments, I was reminded of the power in a space; outside of a traditional classroom setting, where students could discuss issues and plan solutions for their own backyard. It had a huge impact on me—and I believe also had a huge impact on those students and their communities!
Thinking back on her experience at WE, Louise said,
I joined WE Charity (then Free The Children) in 2004, as a youth coordinator supporting students in their local actions. Next, I moved onto the ME to WE side (then Leaders Today), to lead speaking tours and leadership workshops focused on local and global issues at schools across North America. I was given coaching to help me become a better speaker and facilitator for those youth I was serving. I used original, socially conscious music in my speeches. The leadership team at WE allowed me to record some of my music and continue to use it on the road. That whole time I was also facilitating international volunteer and leadership trips when needed. After being on the road so long, I wanted to settle down a bit more. The leadership team worked with me to find a plan that would give me more balance, and more time at home. In 2009, I ended up right back where I started: the WE Charity youth department! I honed my skills in stakeholder mapping and management to best serve schools in their efforts to raise funds and awareness. I helped develop tools, educational resources and fundraising campaigns. I ran stakeholder surveys to ensure we were always hearing what worked for students and educators, and helped lead educational partnerships. I co-managed a team of over 40 and focused on recognition and retention—I learned a ton! The leadership team at WE are always focused on retaining talent—as are most organizations. If you work hard and have passion for what you do, they will bend over backwards to put you where you’ll thrive! This was my observation and personal experience, and the experience of most of my colleagues at the time.
Reflecting on what she was most proud of during her time at WE, Louise said,
All those students! I got to speak to approximately half a million students across my nine years with WE. So many of them came with little issues happening in their schools and communities—things they felt powerless to combat. I feel humbled to have heard so many of their stories. And proud that I played a small part in connecting them with their peers (of different ages and classrooms) to explore ways they could help. Once they were brought together, and asked the right questions, the magic of them planning small positive actions in their schools was always different, but always really special!
Reflecting on what made working for WE special, Louise said,
WE was so much like a family. I am still in touch with many people I worked with—some of them became best friends and real family! I remember, above all, the way staff looked out for one another, the flexible working style so you didn’t need to book a day off to get to the dentist or doctor and the constant efforts to make work comfortable (think birthdays off, coffee, tea and snacks available, and fun lounges for creative connecting). If tragedy struck a team member, the office would stop, reflect and honor. I think of hugs, laughter and office sit-downs with kids, parents and educators. I think of hallways hellos (which doesn’t happen everywhere!), cards at good times and bad, and your boss genuinely wanting to hear about what’s going on in your life. WE is filled with real people who work hard to make a real difference for others.
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