Tag Archive: leadership

  1. On Failure

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    We fail every day.

    This has been on my mind ever since I was asked to speak on a panel about failure a few weeks ago. Leading up this panel, I had been on this search for the right “fail story”. Not that it was hard. I mean, I fail every day. I don’t go to the gym and miss my 6:00 AM Precision Running class on the reg.  I procrastinate on tasks and projects that I meticulously place on my Google Calendar every Sunday night with the silly expectation that blocking out time means it will actually get done. I cheat on my healthy eating pledges (next week, I’ll start juicing, for sure). But all these little failures don’t seem to be enough. Maybe because they don’t sting. The everyday shortcomings of being human don’t seem worthy for a panel on failure, though it’s what I kept coming back to when I thought about having to verbally recount my personal failure to a room full of people.

    And what I’ve discovered from all this reflection is that acknowledging real failure in life is hard. As I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to separate my funny stories, from my humblebrags, from my on-demand repertoire of anecdotal life lessons, I realized that the true feelings of failure are oftentimes intertwined with enough emotional investment, pride and ego, that they produce a certain amount shame that makes us not want to necessarily put it all out on public display.

    But embracing failure is important.  We learn from failure much more than from success. In fact, it’s safe to say the more successful you are, the more failure you’ve probably experienced. Failure, and acknowledging and learning from it is incredibly important. It’s the only way we grow and evolve. As Hannah Bloch wrote for National Geographic recently “… without the sting of failure, to spur us to reassess and rethink, progress would be impossible.”

    “… without the sting of failure, to spur us to reassess and rethink, progress would be impossible.”

    All that being said, modern culture has been doing a terrible job at embracing failure as of late. In our brave new world of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, openly embracing failure is the sin committed against the personal brand that we all need to maintain. Failure doesn’t jive with the lifestyle I want to portray, or the career trajectory I want to allude to, or the social capital I want to demonstrate. But it’s because of this current climate of failure-suppression, speaking about it becomes even more important for our personal growth. So, think about it for a moment, what is your biggest failure? What did you learn? What would you be willing to share to a room full of people?

    One of the failures that sticks with me the most was my first day teaching. I moved out to LA over ten years ago. Straight out of undergrad, I was bright-eyed and idealistic and convinced that I was going to instantly create some meaningful change in the city.




    I had a passion for education, specifically addressing the educational inequity that we see across the country in our low-income communities of color. I was eager to burst onto the education-scene as a new teacher and be a part of the solution. I was going to be outspoken, and dynamic, and vocal about my drive to change the people and communities around me. However, my preparation for this work, I’m embarrassed to say, was watching one too many reruns of Dangerous Minds, Stand and Deliver, Freedom Writers and every other movie that would get a young 20-something pumped up to walk into a classroom, take no prisoners, and change the way LA thought about education.

    What I didn’t spend much time doing is thinking about the methodologies, the strategies and the hard, everyday, unglamorous work that it takes to be a classroom teacher. But that was okay, because I was pretty sure I was going to crush it just like Michelle Pfeiffer did in Dangerous Minds. I was going to walk in, say a witty line or two, and by the next scene, every one of my students would be applying and getting accepted to college. All to the beat of some socially-conscious hip-hop soundtrack in the background. It was going to be fantastic.

    As you can imagine, things didn’t go as planned. I walked out of that classroom at Gompers Middle School in Watts, pretty certain that my first day teaching was probably the worst day of my life. My lack of experience and preparation left me hoping that it still wasn’t too late to apply to law school. I experienced failure that day, at the hands of a bunch of unruly 13-year-olds, like I never had before.

    “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day that says ‘I will try again tomorrow’”.

    And it was the best thing that ever happened to me. What felt like the most profound failure, made me the teacher I would later become. Experiencing failure, so forcefully, so quickly, necessitated an immediate recalibration of how I approached teaching, how I interacted with my students and how I viewed K-12 education in this country as a whole.

    Letting a humblebrag slip in here for a moment, I’d like to say I eventually became a good teacher. But it didn’t happen all at once. It took time, it took perseverance, and it took multiple bouts of failure to become better. I would be lying if I didn’t say that it was painful at times. My emotional investment, though rooted in ego and vanity, to significantly improve the life outcomes of others, made failing at this work that much more difficult. I reluctantly came to realize that success doesn’t usually happen from an initial burst onto a scene or a provocative first try. Success, many times, happens after multiple rounds of failure, after the quiet recalibration and reassessment to perfect a craft, develop a profession or refine an outcome.

    My first year of teaching was one large exercise in embracing failure. At that age, it was also coupled with embracing happy hour many a Friday night as me and my fellow first-year teachers drowned our sorrows over margaritas at Cabo Cantina. We’d stumble back to one of our respective houses for a late night dinner and I’d always stare at the quote on my friend’s fridge that she would read to herself every day before making the commute to Watts to teach 7th grade remedial reading.

    “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day that says ‘I will try again tomorrow’”.

    It’s a quote that I always try and internalize when I think about failure, and the courage we must have to experience it. The courage that ultimately turns failure into success.

  2. Announcing the 69th Class of Coro Fellows

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    Coro Fellowship
    James Weinberg Coro National, Chair james@fusecorps.org


    (NEW YORK CITY, PITTSBURGH, ST. LOUIS, SAN FRANCISCO AND LOS ANGELES): One of the longest running and most prolific leadership development programs in the nation’s history, Coro is tremendously proud today to announce the emerging leaders who have been selected for its 69th class of Coro Fellows in Public Affairs. Selected from among a highly competitive pool of hundreds of top college graduates, the 64 participants in the 2015-1016 class of Coro Fellows hail from a wide array of universities from across the country.

    The Coro Fellowship uses the community as a classroom to train the next generation of change makers. Today’s complex urban environments present constantly evolving challenges and opportunities, creating an increasing need for versatile leaders with the ability to forge connections and lead across the non-profit, business and government sectors. Competitively selected applicants will join an intimate cohort of 12  to 16 participants for the nine-month program, with each cohort encompassing a wide range of communities, interests, ideologies and experiences.

    The Princeton Review said of Coro: “Every group has its ultimate challenge, an experience that defines those who participate as the most talented in their field. Track-and-field enthusiasts have the decathlon. Whiz kids have the Odyssey of the Mind competition. Fitness freaks have the Iron Man Triathlon. And aspiring public servants have the Coro Fellows Program.”

    More than 10,000 alumni have graduated from Coro programs over the past 70 years. These alumni are currently serving as leaders in national/global businesses, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and elected public office. The United States Senate alone includes three Coro alumni including Diane Feinstein (CA), Tim Kaine (VA) and Michael Bennet (CO). For more information about the program, visit: http://www.corofellowship.org

    The following list, grouped by city, includes those selected for the 2015-2016 Coro Fellows Program and the universities from which they graduated:


    Coro Southern California (in Los Angeles)

    • Talar Alexanian, California State University Northridge
    • Sean Fahmian, University of California, Riverside
    • Julia Gould, Occidental College
    • Ross Green, University of Alabama
    • Aaron Johnson, University of California, Riverside
    • Jess Kent, Brandeis University, Claremont Graduate University
    • Rachel Keyser, Pomona College
    • Julia Kingsley, Occidental College
    • Heather MacDonald, University of Southern California
    • Carlos Madrid, Brigham Young University, University of Southern California
    • Charles Turner, Saint Louis University, Lindenwood University
    • Breana Weaver, University of California, Los Angeles

    For Information regarding the Coro Southern California Fellows Program contact Executive Director Wesley Farrow at wfarrow@coro.org.

    Coro Pittsburgh:

    • Robert Burack, University of Michigan, Flint
    • Kevya Clark, University of California, Riverside
    • Cameron Hunter, Dartmouth College
    • Annie Jhun, Columbia University
    • Fatema Juma, Juniata College
    • Nicolas Marlton, Carnegie Mellon University
    • Eric Martin, West Virginia University
    • Christine A. Marty, Muhlenberg College
    • Alex Sandoval, Bucknell University
    • John Shifalacqua, University of Virginia
    • Alyson Shaw, University of Pittsburgh
    • Ciera Young, Chatham University

    For Information regarding Coro Pittsburgh Fellows Program contact Executive Director Greg Crowley at gcrowley@coropittsburgh.org.

    Coro Northern California (in San Francisco)

    • Arianna Bankler-Jukes, UC Berkeley
    • Daniela Bayon, UC Santa Barbara
    • Connor Clausen, Wake Forest University
    • Nadeem Farooqi, Claremont McKenna College
    • Omar Gonzales, University of Southern California
    • Maria Hernandez, Willamette University
    • Heidi Hirvonen, Wesleyan University
    • Ayushi Roy, Columbia University
    • Shayan Said, UC Davis
    • Damion Scott, Webster University
    • Arsen Shirvanyan, UC Berkeley
    • Camille Totah, University of California, Los Angeles

    For Information regarding Coro Northern California Fellows Program contact Executive Director Susan Shain at sshain@coronorcal.org.

    Coro St. Louis

    • Alexis Costales, Loyola Marymount University
    • Jason Garcia, University of Massachusetts Boston
    • Ryan Halvorsen, Washington University in St. Louis
    • Nebu Kolenchery, Saint Louis University
    • Robert Krosley, Anderson University
    • Aaron Lerner, University of Washington – Seattle
    • Shireen (Breigh) Montgomery, Dickinson College
    • Nedia Morsy, Amherst College
    • Nathan Reynolds, Occidental College
    • Helen Rodgers, Pitzer College
    • Jay Scheinman, Southwestern University
    • Delia Shen, Washington University in St. Louis
    • Eliza Straim, Skidmore College
    • Katherine Sutherland, Pitzer College
    • Jamala Wallace, Saint Louis University
    • Will Wilder, Washington University in St. Louis

    For Information regarding Coro St. Louis Fellows Program contact Michelle Miller, Director, Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, St. Louis, michellem@focus-stl.org.

    Coro New York

    • Eden Berdugo, University of California, San Diego
    • Avinoam Baral, University of California, Los Angeles
    • Seth Bynum, Vassar College
    • Cory Epstein, Vassar College
    • Folasade Famakinwa, Cornell University
    • Chante Harris, American University
    • Elaine Roghanian, Villanova University
    • Shoshana Seidenfeld, Yeshiva University
    • Daniel Sheehan, Elon University
    • Prerna Sinha, The College of New Jersey
    • Fatoumata Waggeh, New York University
    • Onika Williams, Tufts

    For Information regarding Coro New York Fellows Program contact Executive Director Scott Millstein at smillstein@coronewyork.org.

    Learn More About Becoming a Fellow Today!

    About Coro: Coro began in San Francisco in 1942 to train young people in the leadership skills necessary to assure that our democratic system of government could more effectively meet the needs of its citizens. Since its founding, Coro has grown to include Coro Centers in six cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles (1957), St. Louis (1972), Kansas City (1975), New York (1980), and Pittsburgh (1999). More than 400 participants a year go through a variety of Coro programs nationwide.  At least 10,000 program alumni are currently serving as leaders in local, regional and national/global businesses, non-profit organizations, governmental agencies and elected public office. Coro is a non-profit, non-partisan educational institute supported by foundations, corporations and individuals.