exalt's Lead Teacher, Shanelle Gabriel attends SXSL festival at the White House

Our very own Lead Teacher, Shanelle Gabriel, was selected to attend the first festival to ever be held in the White House called South By South Lawn on Monday, October 3rd. South by South Lawn, an event inspired by Austin, Texas' South by Southwest, gathered a dynamic group of creators, innovators, and organizers who are working in their own unique ways to better their communities and the world. Other attendees, speakers, and performers included Common, The Lumineers, Baratunde Thurston, Ryan Leslie, and more with a closing conversation between Leonardo DiCaprio and, the man who's backyard they gathered in, our President Barack Obama. 

Shanelle was able to get a few quick photos with Nick Cannon and Brooklyn's own Senator Kevin Parker. She was excited to explore the exhibitions presented including two virtual reality simulations, one that took viewers on a trip through Yellowstone Park (narrated by President Obama) and the Guardian's disturbing 6x9 which places you inside a US solitary confinement prison cell and tells the story of the psychological damage that can ensue from isolation. All of this plus great food, perfect weather, and some laughs while "Swag Surfing" in front of the White House made this day epic. 

Shanelle describes the event as life changing and humbling. She states, "Looking into and being numbered among the vast sea of people connecting, building, and doing amazing things in the community, I felt a sense of duty to do more for my community. It was an honor to have been selected to attend, and it is still unbelievable that I was present to see history being made."


exalt names first Director of Development

We are delighted to announce that the new Director Development of exalt is Keesha J. Gibson. During our search we met many wonderful candidates who brought great strength to their development work and an appreciation for the work of exalt. Keesha is a widely respected nonprofit leader, most recently with Urban Word NYC.

Keesha is a native New Yorker who has worked for nonprofit organizations for the past 22 years. In 1994, she started her career at Harlem United Community AIDS Center. She spent 6 years as the Director of Operations and Development at A Better Bronx for Youth Consortium which provided funding and technical assistance for teen pregnancy prevention programs in the Bronx where she also spearheaded the first for-profit venture with UPS Stores™.

Keesha has held executive positions of increasing responsibility in organizations including Boys and Girls Clubs located in Harlem, the Bronx and in Durham, North Carolina.  All required a strong track record in assessing strategic direction, defining priorities, and building operational structures to achieve desired outcomes.

Throughout her career Keesha has consistently led organizational “turn-arounds.” In every case she dramatically improved program performance and delivery, balanced budgets with serious deficits, and enhanced earned revenues and funds raised. She has a stellar reputation as a leader who is highly skilled, collaborative, open and passionate about youth development. She brings to this position a proven record of fundraising and resource development and we believe she will be an excellent addition to the exalt team.

exalt is delighted to have reached such a successful outcome to our search. Keesha will spend the next few weeks in learning-and-listening mode. Her first priority will be to immerse herself in deepening her understanding of exalt’s model program and new initiatives.

Please join us in extending a warm welcome to Keesha Gibson, our new Director of Development!

stepping back

I once attended a 2-day workshop on leadership, sponsored by one of our major funders.  Leadership, the expert consultants told us, is (largely) about helping people manage loss.  It felt rather deflating at first.  What about being inspirational, powerful, visionary, bold…? But by the end of the second day, I understood what they meant, and the lesson proved far more useful than if we’d been asked to articulate the challenges of getting others to understand our visions, or compare our motivational styles.  Loss is the necessary and inevitable part of change that we want to bypass.

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disrupting normalcy

One of the best parts of traveling is how it shows or reminds us that our own sense of normalcy is just one of millions.  Being in a very different culture, in a different place on the planet can instantaneously reduce us to specks of near insignificance.  In a very good way.  When I was lost in a pushing throng of people clamoring to get on a train in southern China in 1990 after floods caused major delays right as millions were trying to return home after traveling for Chinese New Year; when I reached one of the highest plateaus I was able to climb to in the Himalayas, stopping to catch my breath and then lifting my eyes to the panorama of peaks that penetrated new levels of sky, unimaginable magnitude looming silently and stilly; when I was on a bus in Taichung, Taiwan alone, at the age of 19, pre-internet, just days after arriving in the country, trying to remember how to get back to an English school I’d been escorted to 2 days prior where I was hired to teach. (Il)literacy all of a sudden had a profoundly personal meaning, not being able to understand the language around me, nor read any aspect of it.  In these moments my heretofore normal life had no meaning whatsoever.  

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