Wednesday, June 13, 2012

LeaderShape Vision Turns into a Book, a Career

“LeaderShape is a gift.” 

That is what I texted my boss on Day 7 in Boston, MA, May 2011.

Because him telling me to apply as a LeaderShape Cluster Facilitator felt like a gift – because in many ways, it brought me back to life.

I am a writer at heart, and I can measure my feeling of vigor in any given state of my life by looking back on my journal. And from May 2009 - May 2011, my journal was blank.

In May 2009 I graduated college.

And during my first two years transitioning from the academic world to the professional world, I felt lost. I worked really hard, loved working with students at the community college, and gave my best every day.

But something inside me felt like it was slowly dying. I came home every day exhausted. I no longer wrote in my journal. I watched a lot of TV. My sense of vision was blurring.

And then I was accepted to be a LeaderShape Cluster Facilitator.

Spending a week in the woods, disconnected from my 9-5 and heels, getting to know strangers, writing our visions – it changed me more than I could have ever predicted.

I didn’t realize its full impact until Day 7 – when I found a scrap of paper and started writing again.

Those scrap pieces of paper are now stapled in my journal, which has been written in daily since May 2011.

Filled with a vision. Filled with hope.

And today, a year later, my vision is coming true.

My vision was to help historically underrepresented students in higher education break cycles of poverty through community college access and completion.

And in March 2012 my book Community College Success was published. I talked about community college stereotypes on national TV. The White House Blog called me a community college superstar. I began to speak professionally to thousands of students in their college auditoriums, classrooms, and conference halls, sharing my story, my vision. I’m now a full time writer, speaker, and consultant.

And I’ve never felt more alive or more thankful.

I’ll never forget watching Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on Day Three. It was a speech I had seen many times throughout my public education. But this time tears streamed steadily down my face as he spoke those memorable words. I couldn’t stop crying.

And I realized those tears were dropping to the ground because – for the first time – I saw Martin Luther King Jr. as more than just a figure from the history books, more than some mythical man of greatness. I saw him as a person. A man who was once a student just like the ones gathered in the LeaderShape Learning Community room that day.

I cried tears of equal parts sadness and hope. Where are those kinds of leaders today? Where will they come from in our generation? Does anyone believe like that anymore? Who will stand? Who will speak?

My cluster family’s name was “The Unbreakables.” They chose that name because they realized their common thread was that they had all endured hardships in their lives but refused to be broken.

And interestingly enough, each of their visions sprouted from the seeds of their hurts.

When I started community college I cried in the advising office, waiting for hours, devoid of hope. 

It was that pain I wanted to prevent. It was that pain, coupled with the support of LeaderShape and the power of vision that grew my book, my life as it is today.

You are more powerful than you realize. You have the capacity, right now, on your campus, in your life, in your job, to change things - to embed your footprint.

Because leadership is about shaping and sharing your dream. It’s about owning your pain. And it’s about caring enough to put in the hard work, every single day.

It’s not always fun and it’s never easy. But it always feels like a gift.

You can get the first chapter of Isa's book for free at and you can learn more about her at 


Tanya Williams said...

What a treat to read such a beautiful testament to the power of visioning (and to the power of LeaderShape) from Isa's post!! I am joyous over your vision, commitment and the inspiration that you provide to us all!! Thanks Isa!! (You truly rock!)

Gina said...

This is so beautiful, Isa. I am excited to read your book, and it'll definitely be one that I keep on the shelf in my classroom for students to use as a resource. I'll be teaching with Teach for America in Newark starting in August 2013, and I'm sure your words will be immensely helpful to my community college-bound students.