By ELLEN GOLDWASSER, SparkNYC Investment Committee Chair
At Spark, we believe that grassroots organizations – serving vulnerable populations – need more than cash investments. Spark partners with our grantees by providing volunteers and community connections, thus increasing our collective impact. Recently, several SparkNYC members stepped up to support the Young Women of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition (YWCHAC) by sharing their networks.
YWCHAC was founded by young women (ages 17-21), half of whom are HIV positive, half are not, and all have participated in NYC’s sex education programs. These young women were frustrated that their schools didn’t cover health issues as they were experiencing them. Therefore, in 2006, twenty-five young women from five boroughs of New York City formed WE SPEAK, a peer empowerment and advocacy coalition. These young women are leaders, and through exposure to YWCHAC, many have become interested in becoming professional social justice activists.
To help them achieve this, Spark introduced the women of YWCHAC to one of our favorite professional activists. Spark friend and social entrepreneur Sloane Berrent spoke to YWCHAC about her unique career trajectory in the social justice field. For the last decade, Sloane has traveled from LA to New Orleans to New York working in and writing about social justice activism. You can read her chronicles in her blog – The Causemopolitan. Today, Sloane is Senior Vice President of Digital Marketing for Lippe Taylor and its sister agency ShopPR, both public relations firms which focus on women. Sloane’s message to the young women was both motivating and realistic.
I was thrilled to attend the WE SPEAK meeting. As a young professional, I appreciated Sloane’s candidness in sharing her experiences of overcoming obstacles along the way – an important component of career conversations that is often overlooked in discussions with young people. This was my first time attending a WE SPEAK meeting. I was thoroughly impressed by the ease with which the YWCHAC leaders ran the meeting and admired the young women’s competence and confidence. I left the meeting feeling incredibly lucky to have been in attendance and encouraged that SparkNYC has invested in a partnership with YWCHAC to help support these fabulous, bright young women.