Tuesday, July 31, 2012

NextGenCD: Valuing Mentors

In honor of the upcoming NeighborWorks America Young Professionals symposium, we have collected several blog posts from those under 35 asking their feelings on the meaning of community development. This first post is a variation on that theme.  Share your comments on Twitter using #NextGenCD.
Kate Titford, NeighborWorks
America, General Counsel

When I was first asked to blog on “What Community Development Means to Me,” I spaced out for a few minutes — not unlike the kid in A Christmas Story after he is assigned the theme “What I Want for Christmas.”  And as I reflected on a career that has held at least as much excitement and joy as a Red Rider BB Gun, it was the faces that stuck out to me more than the accomplishments.  So I am exerting some editorial liberty and assigning myself the more relevant theme:  “What my Community Development Mentors Have Meant to Me.”

Marcea, my boss at that first job, broke me into office life and introduced me to the different moving parts of the community development scene.  When the going got tough at the national housing intermediary where we worked, Marcea encouraged me step up to the plate on challenging new projects that stretched me professionally and cultivated my passion for this work.  I laugh to think about my early days in the 9-to-5 world:  I was a spirited 22-year old who wouldn’t be caught dead in a suit. 

Marcea and Me
Some years later, when I was mired in a law school funk, another mentor — Brenda— scooped me up and helped me stay connected to local housing issues.  Her own career and activism were a constant reminder that my exile in law school would ultimately contribute to my work in community development.

I owe much of my happiness in my professional life to these mentors.  Their generosity of time and knowledge helped guide me through the critical junctures to where I am – who I am – now in community development.  They made an investment that will pay off for the entire field of community development.  As we descend on Cincinnati to discuss the opportunity of welcoming the next generation of leadership to community development, let’s pause and remember what mentors have meant to each of us in our careers.  Let’s pay tribute to those who helped each of us find our own special place in the field.  And —above all— let us recommit ourselves to mentoring the young professionals who will usher community development into its next era.