What's Keeping Us Up At Night

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3 Things That Help Me Sleep at Night

by Sharae D. Brown
12/10/15 Bookmark
Sharae D. Brown

Sharae, a NYC native, is the Senior Project Manager for Graduate NYC!. Previously, Sharae was a National Urban Fellow at the New York State Health Foundation. Prior to that she amassed nine years of fundraising, project management and communications experience working on a variety of education and youth related issues at community-focused nonprofits such as The After-School Corporation (TASC), Abyssinian Development Corporation, the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (SoBRO), and the YWCA of the City of New York. The first in her family to attend a residential college, Sharae graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Science in Marketing from Morgan State University and has a MPA from CUNY's Baruch College School of Public Affairs. When not working, Sharae enjoys traveling, live shows, and yoga (though she hasn't been in a while ☺).

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Tis' the season of hope and positive vibes. So instead of What's Keeping Me Up at Night, I want to talk about the three things that help me sleep at night (spoiler alert, no alcohol is involved in this post ☺):

1. Being a part of a Collaborative Community

Throughout my career I've always had to collaborate with multiple people, departments and organizations. However, at Graduate NYC my collaborative efforts are on another level. For example, Summer 2014 after receiving a generous grant from the Pinkerton Foundation, I worked along with CUNY Collaborative Programs, and CARA to launch and formalize the CUNY-CBO Success Collborative which is now better known as Strive for Success (S4S). Three different organizations alone coming together to launch a program in a few months is already tricky. However, S4S was a lot more complex because in its first year the program also worked closely with 15 CBOs/nonprofits and four CUNY campuses to hire full-time staff and peer mentors, find office space, and engage close to 400 first-year students. If you're keeping track, that's ensuring 19 organizations are on the same page for a new program model to improve first year retention.

Although it wasn't an easy endeavor to get the program launched in a few short months, I knew if any community could get it done it was this community. This was in part because they had already been collaborating with each other for many years prior. I first recognized this special collaborative spirit of college and access professionals while attending my first CACNY meeting in 2012 and it hasn't stopped.

Are things perfect? No. Do we have much more work to do to ensure we are serving students more effectively and efficiently? Absolutely! But I am grateful for my field's very creative, committed and flexible colleagues. Colleagues who continuously work hard to fill gaps and provide webs of support that allow students to succeed, share best practices, and are often always there when you call on them. A friend recently wrote without collaboration you end up with competition and confusion. This community gets that, and I am comforted by that.

2. Higher Ed. officials implementing policies and practices that are helping ease non-academic challenges

From the federal government allowing students/families to use prior-prior year income data when filling out the FAFSA, to the role Single Stop plays on CUNY's campuses connecting students to federal, state or local benefits that can ease financial burdens, to the efforts like "career closets" at John Jay and Hostos, higher education officials are increasingly implementing policies and practices that are helping reduce non-academic challenges that can derail student success. Again, could more be done? You bet! But kudos to the leaders, advocates and bureaucracy busters that are fighting at all levels for small non-academic policies and practices to be implemented that can have a big impact on students'ability to succeed. I am encouraged.

3. The Students!

Let's have a real moment. It's sometimes (for many reasons) easier to work with and draw strength from students more than our professional peers. So for those of you like me that don't work directly with students on a daily basis, ti's sometimes easy to feel like some of our work isn't making a difference in students' lives. Feeling like that can lead to many restless nights. But almost every time I interact with students I am inspired by their resilience, ambition and how bright their (and our) future will be if they receive the right supports. So if you don't work with students directly daily, if you are ever unsure of your impact, schedule a visit to a school or nonprofit to talk with students and see the impact we're having or could have individually and collectively to help more young people graduate. It may just be the insomnia cure you need.

Cheers to more sleep in 2016!

Can you relate to any of this? What about your work helps you sleep at night? Pop in your comment below, and remember to bookmark this blog to help reduce those sleepless nights in the future.

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