Former head of President Barack Obama’s Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Joshua DuBois, visited area high school students earlier this week.
DuBois, 31, addressed Esperanza Academy Charter High School students, sharing reflections on his experiences as a former director in the White House and informal spiritual advisor to President Barack Obama.
Earlier this year DuBois’ stepped down from his government post to pen a collection of devotionals, based on those he has shared with the president, entitled “The President’s Devotional: The Daily Readings That Inspired President Obama.”
“I emailed then Senator Obama the 23rd Psalm in 2007,” DuBois told the students referring to his path to the White House. Due to his persistence in pursuing an opportunity to work with president-to-be Obama, DuBois has “been emailing him every day since.”
A graduate of Boston University and Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where he earned a master’s degree in public affairs, DuBois pondered his future while an intern in Washington, D.C.
“One day I’m at Hawk ‘n’ Dove restaurant watching a speech of Barack Obama talking about poverty, social issues and faith. I thought, this is a guy I could work for,” DuBois said.
From the day of that epiphany, DuBois began to embark on his mission. He wrote a letter that was returned with a formal response before he decided to drive from New Jersey to our nation’s capital.
He eventually secured an interview with a Senator Obama staff member, only to find out later that the person was in IT and not human resources. A few weeks later he received the same disappointing form letter.
“I could have just stopped and moved on with my life,” DuBois said.
Instead, he pushed on and made contact with one of Senator Obama’s campaign staff members, Chris Lewis.
DuBois’ persistence eventually paid off and he was hired as one of Senator Obama’s legislative correspondents in 2007. Once on the job and wanting to contact Senator Obama directly, DuBois took a chance and sent him an email.
“I was doing outreach with the 2008 presidential campaign and would pray for him every day,” DuBois said. “In one of those quiet moments, I heard a voice that said I should reach out to him.”
What began as an uncharacteristic yet humble and bold gesture of support has manifested into a bestselling collection of scripture, song, prayer, and reflections, motivated by the spirituality.
“Every morning [Joshua] sends me via email a daily meditation,” stated President Obama in the New York Times. “A snippet of Scripture for me to reflect on, and it has meant the world to me.”
DuBois has privately helped President Obama with his own faith because he decided to be persistent. “I’m not the type of guy that should be a spiritual advisor to the president of the United States,” DuBois said when he thought of himself. However, upon further reflection he realized that he had “every quality I needed to bless other people.” He affirmed the students that they too have qualities that can positively impact their lives and communities.
“This is a great opportunity for students to hear from people in unique roles and to learn how they have achieved,” said David W. Rossi, senior vice president of Esperanza and CEO of Esperanza Academy Charter High School. “For our students to interact with the likes of Joshua DuBois is an awesome experience for them.”
Esperanza Academy senior Roy Aguilar agreed with Rossi.
“Our school does a great job of exposing us to speakers like Mr. DuBois,” Aguilar said. “For him to see students like us that are striving to do better is good for us too. Especially since we’re city kids and face so many negative stereotypes.”
Esperanza Academy High School has hosted several local, state and national political figures over the years including Vice President Joe Biden, Senator John McCain and former President George W. Bush.
Under the guidance of CEO Rossi and with the support of the respected and the renowned Rev. Luis Cortés, Jr., Esperanza Academy has become one of U.S. News and World Report’s nationally ranked Best High Schools in 2013.
For more information on Joshua DuBois and his book, “The President’s Devotional: The Daily Readings That Inspired President Obama,” visit www.joshuadubois.com.
To learn more about Esperanza High School, visit www.neacademy.net.
For more than 30 years the Black Women in Sport Foundation (BWSF) has impacted the lives of youth throughout the area. Focused on the development of girls and women in every aspect of sport, from participation to operating businesses, BWSF is poised for greater accomplishments.
“We have established a reputable organization that is doing good things especially on the grassroots level,” said BWSF President and Executive Director Tina Sloan Green.
“Our programs have trained and mentored some extraordinary young people, conducted insightful workshops, partnered with renowned organizations and is supported by accomplished individuals,” she said.
A highly decorated college athlete, coach and administrator, Sloan Green founded the organization with three other noted African-American females that were former athletes and shared similar experiences.
In 1992, Green, Alpha Alexander, Nikki Franke, and Linda Greene registered the nonprofit, resolute in facilitating the involvement of women of color in every aspect of sport in the United States and around the world.
With their solid professional backgrounds and organizational ambition, BWSF developed out-of-school time and community based programming focused on traditional and non-traditional sports such as lacrosse, field hockey and tennis.
“I attended a professional tennis match a couple of years ago with Black Women in Sport and decided that I wanted to play,” said Ciarnee Fair, a converted cheerleader and current college student. “I wanted to learn more about the sport and ended up attending the summer camp over the years.”
Now a BWSF staff member, Fair works with People for People Charter School students as an after-school instructor at the Salvation Army Learning Zone.
She and another former camper turned staff member, Kasheena Mitchell, work alongside one another teaching sports to the next crop of young people. “It’s cool that we get to work together now,” Fair said. “We worked together over the summer and attended a coaches training workshop.”
With footprints all over the city, BWSF after-school programming can be found in several schools and community centers.
“Black Women in Sport provides opportunities for our kids to be exposed to sports they normally wouldn’t be able to get exposed to,” said Cedric Hardy, Director of the Salvation Army Learning Zone. “The activities broaden their perspective on life and may perk their interest enough for them to pursue other opportunities. Our partnership with BWSF helps us to achieve our mission in a very positive way.”
The organization’s ability to create quality partnerships and opportunities has been evident through its longstanding relationship with the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA). At a fundraising reception during this year’s U.S. Open, the USTA affirmed its commitment to BWSF.
“It’s organizations like Black Women in Sport that are the lifeline of the USTA,” said D.A. Abrams, Chief Diversity Officer for the USTA.
Abrams reception remarks reflected sections of his recently published book, “Diversity & Inclusion: The Big Six Formula for Success.”
He stressed the importance of women, organizations like BWSF and valuing the contribution of women to diversity in sport.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the Foundation to achieve both of our goals of including and impacting women and girls of color in sport,” Abrams said.
BWSF board member Monique Smith agreed with Abrams sentiments and is excited for the organization’s future. “BWSF is a leading organization and our alliances with the USTA, U.S. Lacrosse and other national associations proves this,” she said.
Believing that there are significant opportunities in other cities and states, Black Women in Sport is currently interviewing candidates to add to its executive leadership team. The new hire will be tasked with, among other responsibilities, expanding the organization’s reach, implementing BWSF methodology for mass participation programs and securing new and retaining existing stakeholders.
“We have to tell our own story and create our own opportunities on every level,” said Sloan Green. Speaking on the lack of African-American female sports executives, managers and administrators, Sloan Green is convinced BWSF has a unique platform to address this dilemma and inspire change.
“We’ve laid the foundation and have been advocating for women and girls for more than 3 decades now,” said Sloan Green. “And, we will continue to do so for the next three decades.”
For information on the Black Women in Sport Foundation visit www.blackwomeninsport.org.
State Rep. Ron Waters held a job readiness development seminar last week for those in his district seeking to sharpen their interview skills and freshen up their resumes.
Held at the Community of Compassion CDC in Cobbs Creek, the seminar featured breakout sessions on topics including resume preparation, organizing and managing job searches, improving interviewing skills, and how to discuss criminal convictions.
“Ex-offenders must understand if they are selected for an interview, it is their resume that got them there,” said David Robinson of the Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services for Ex-Offenders (RISE).
As a post release facilitator for job readiness, Robinson addressed the need for seminars like this from a personal and professional perspective.
“I bring the experience because I have been down that same road. I also bring things from an employer’s perspective because of my vast experience working in workforce development and sharing that with the hopes that clients will buy into it and will try something different,” he said.
Robinson also explained the “Ban the Box,” or the Fair Criminal Records Screening Standards Ordinance. The law is designed to help make sure employers make hiring and other employment decisions based on relevant work qualifications without improperly considering a person’s criminal record. It restricts when, during the application, an employer can inquire about someone’s criminal history and prevents an employer from ever considering a closed case that did not result in a criminal conviction.
“This law does four things,” Robinson said. “It requires employers to remove questions about criminal convictions from their applications, prevents employers from asking about criminal convictions during your first job interview, protects you from having criminal background checks done before the first job interview and prohibits employers from firing you or making any other employment decision based on a closed case that did not result in a criminal conviction.”
Throughout Waters’ district there are communities with unemployment percentages higher than the state average, according to city-data.com. Many that are unemployed have criminal records and a hard time obtaining employment as a result.
“I’ve learned a lot today about what I need to do to change my situation and get a job,” said one of the seminar attendees. “I wish I could attend all of the sessions.”
Criminal Record Expungement Project (C-REP) Executive Director and Supervising Attorney Mike Lee led a session for those seeking to expunge their criminal records and become more marketable to employers. Lee has argued thousands of expungement and redaction petitions in Philadelphia County while advocating for progressive criminal record reform.
“We want to reduce the impact of criminal records by expanding the types of records that can be expunged, by making expungements of arrests that did not lead to convictions automatic, and by reducing the barriers to seeking an expungement,” Lee said. “This information will help those of you that are seeking expungement and have had trouble landing a job.”
Waters was pleased with the outcome of the seminar.
“The purpose of this seminar was to make sure that we get people information, tools and resources that will be helpful with them acing the face to face [job] interview,” he said.
On Friday, November 15, job seekers will get the chance to interview at State Representative Waters’ Career Fair at KIPP Charter School — formerly Turner Middle School — on 59th Street and Baltimore Avenue.
“We have a nice list of companies that are participating and looking for quality candidates to fill positions,” Waters said.
Scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 2 and Sunday, Nov. 3, Lansdowne’s Celebration Theater will present its second annual production of Girl Talk: A Celebration of Women Playwrights in partnership with the Philadelphia Dramatists Center (PDC).
This year’s Girl Talk features four short plays by PDC playwrights: “How Violet Met Watson” by Susan Goodell; “And So It Goes” by Sheila McDonald, “The Loss of Belle” by Kate McGrath, and “Porn for Women” by Kristen Scatton.
“The festival is a celebration of the unique perspectives and voices female dramatists bring to the stage,” said Celebration Theater committee member Cassy Pressimone Beckowski. “One of the most appealing features of Girl Talk is how, in roughly ten minutes per play, we are introduced to a range of diverse characters, hilarious and heartfelt circumstances and universal themes.”
Playwright Susan Goodell has produced over two dozen productions in eight states and has been nominated for a Denver Drama Critic’s Circle Award. Set in a café where Internet couples inevitably meet for first dates, “How Violet Met Watson” is a two person comedy in which the main character learns the best real happiness is sort-of real happiness.
“I often put characters in the worst possible circumstances, but because it’s comedy, they eventually bounce through with little harm,” said Goodell in a recent interview. “I’m the play’s first audience, so I have to surprise and entertain myself before anyone else.” Based in Connecticut, Goodell is a PDC member and is active up and down the east coast, preparing to launch her newest play next year in New Jersey.
With works by accomplished playwrights like Goodell, Celebration Theater is adding to “Philadelphia’s rich cultural scene” and steadily becoming one of the region’s sought after performance venues that “love new work and working with playwrights,” said PDC Board of Directors member Kate McGrath. By presenting multiple works by various artists in one event, McGrath said “it also serves an audience well, if they like a smorgasbord of styles.”
Celebration Theater’s mission is to mount first-rate theatrical productions that challenge and entertain a diverse audience, both from Lansdowne and from a broad range of communities in and around Philadelphia.
The theater is an initiative of the Lansdowne Main Street Program, a project of the Lansdowne Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) that has forged a collaboration with the Philadelphia Dramatist Center to present plays in the community.
“These plays are widely accessible to novice and experienced theatergoers alike,” said Pressimone Beckowski.
Show times are 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2 and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3 at the Twentieth Century Club in Lansdowne. Tickets are $5 per person. For more information visit www.celebrationtheater.com.
Calling Jim Smith Jr. “Mr. Energy” is very appropriate once you meet the man and see him in action.
“Dream like you’ll live forever … love like you’ve never been hurt … work like you don’t need the money … and dance like nobody’s watching,” Smith urged when reciting his favorite quote from Negro Leaguer and hall of fame baseball player Satchel Paige.
It is with this spirit that has guided Smith and has led to his ascension as a highly regarded motivational speaker and coach to corporations, executives and managers.
Known as “The Trainer’s Trainer,” Smith has worked with thousands of leaders and managers to coach them in successful leadership and inclusion principles.
He’s a mainstay at a number of conferences including the American Society for Training and Development, the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers, the Society for Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers and the Society for Insurance Trainers and Educators.
Always one to help people make breakthroughs in their lives and stretch them to new levels of greatness, Smith finds his career to be somewhat of a calling.
“I love what I do and wake up every day prepared to achieve greatness,” said Smith, a West Philadelphia native. “I was blessed to have a mother that provided stability, structure, discipline and love which was complimented by others in our community in places like church, school, and extracurricular activities.”
After graduating from Widener University with a Bachelor of Arts in English, while participating on the school’s national championship winning football team, Smith was a Senior Consultant for Simmons Associates and a Performance Solutions Consultant for the Bob Pike Group.
He ended up spending 14 years in the corporate world working for organizations including CoreStates Bank as Vice President, Business Learning Resources, The Vanguard Group of Investments as a Management and Organizational Development Consultant and the Prudential AARP Operations as Associate Manager for Training and Development.
“The time I spent working for companies prior to incorporating JIMPACT Enterprises [now Jim Smith Jr. International], preparing myself for today,” Smith said.
He believes in making the most out of what you are given and has packaged his message in the form of inspirational training sessions and books. His latest of four books he has authored, “The No Excuse Guide to Success,” was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in Literature last year and shows you how to abandon unworkable routines to stop the destructive pattern of making excuses and blaming others.
“Although clichés are used, the Jim “keeps it real,” as he likes to say, with concrete examples from personal and professional experiences and concise actionable advice,” stated a reviewer of the book.
Another wrote “I’m moved by Jim’s ability to keep it simple and yet make it extremely applicable to your journey for both career and life.”
Those that have attended JIMPACT BOOTCAMP are equally pleased with Mr. Energy. The intensity workshops feature sessions on participant-driven training and facilitation techniques, adult learning theories, trainer leadership, proven practices for accelerated learning, group responsibility and learner retention. Smith uses effective methods for professional and personal development training, facilitation and skill building in an exciting, learning and motivational environment.
Upon completion of his workshops, attendees leave “Jimpacted!”
“Jim was the most inspirational and dynamic speaker ever,” said Dan Robichaux, Chief Administrative Officer for Neighbors Federal Credit Union. “His Ability to involve all staff and get individuals to interact with those they would probably never speak to was second to none. Our employees were engaged before they even knew what happened because Jim speaks with a passion that’s from his heart.”
From Dublin to Dallas, Amsterdam to Atlanta, Mexico to Michigan and Canada to California, Jim Smith Jr. International has spoken to and trained hundreds of thousands.
“We are grateful for our successes over the years and look forward to continuing our work around the world, providing the most transformational and empowering tools and experiences that challenge people to live and perform out loud,” Smith said.