If you’re like me, you appreciate Thanksgiving for the opportunity it creates to spend the day focused on feeling grateful. When we’re in a state of gratitude, our brains release dopamine and serotonin, which contributes to our feelings of optimism and what’s possible. That’s why it’s fitting that I get to share the highlights from a conversation I recently had with two CEOs who you could say are in the business of possibilities.
I sat down with the Denver Scholarship Foundation’s Lorii Rabinowitz and Colorado Uplift’s Joe Sanders to explore how both organizations are taking possibilities and turning them into realities for today’s youth.
Changing lives is no easy task, especially when the outcomes are dependent on young people believing in themselves and when up to this point, not much has given them reason to believe. Rabinowitz’s and Sanders’s organizations are committed to transforming doubts into beliefs by instilling a sense of what’s possible in the minds of young adults:
At Colorado Uplift
Sanders and his team at Uplift build long-term, life-changing relationships with urban youth. As teachers and mentors, they connect with students programmatically and experientially, modeling character and providing life skills so students who aren’t otherwise finding this support have a plan for the future.
One of the driving forces behind Uplift’s ability to turn possibility into reality is by helping young people own and believe in a leadership identity. In other words, they want students to see themselves as leaders despite their circumstances and their conditions. Everyone can be a leader. Someone’s environment or upbringing doesn’t have to limit or dictate leadership potential. “When you’re willing to believe you’re a leader, you start acting like a leader,” says Sanders.
At the Denver Scholarship Foundation
Naturally, Rabinowitz and her Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) team love to partner with Sanders and Uplift because its mission is to help make those plans for continued education a reality. DSF makes college possible by partnering with Denver Public Schools to increase access to post-high school learning and build generational exposure to career and entrepreneurial studies. DSF awards need-based scholarships to Denver high-school graduates attending a community college, university or technical college in Colorado.
Another way that that possibility is transformed into reality for these ninth to twelfth graders is the promise of a scholarship by Denver Scholarship Foundation. This means that every Denver Public School’s graduate who meets the eligibility requirements and the application deadlines receives a scholarship. “You can’t underestimate the power of belief,” adds Rabinowitz. “Our first dollar of a promise-based scholarship says, ‘We know you can do this, and we’re putting our money where our mouths are.’”
In addition to walking their respective talks programmatically, both Sanders and Rabinowitz instill a belief that a bright future is possible by the manner in which they lead. Both exhibit humble leadership through service that’s characterized by others-focused behaviors, such as:
- Active affirmations (“I noticed when you [blank].”)
- Conscious listening (“I’m going to listen for this person’s concerns and their commitment.”).
- Reinforcing identity as a leader regardless of age or circumstances (“You are a leader.”)
Modeling servant leadership at the C-level generates powerful ripple effects in both organization’s teams and ultimately in the students they serve. Sanders recalls when he first arrived at Uplift, and a student came to him who had a rough background and had excelled that academic year. She said, “Thank you; thank you for calling me a leader.”
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Recognizing this student’s identity as a leader and helping her believe made all the difference in the world to her. Once she saw herself differently, she showed up differently in the world. And when her perspective changed, she started changing her environment and those around her.
I’m not only incredibly grateful for the services that these organizations provide; I’m in awe of the cooperative spirit in which they do it. If you want to take a deeper dive into the interview topics I’ve touched on in this post, I highly recommend tuning in to this episode of Off the Rak. This Thanksgiving, open yourself up to what’s possible by celebrating gratitude and channeling your positive emotions to serve a higher purpose.
Colorado Gives Day is on December 5, but early giving for the state’s biggest fundraising day has already started. A small contribution can have a lasting impact. Since 2010, Coloradans have raised more than $415 million for strengthening their communities. Learn how it works and find causes nearest your heart, like Denver Scholarship Foundation and Colorado UpLift, at www.ColoradoGives.org.