As a Coro trainer for almost 9 years, I have supported and trained high school students, nonprofit professionals, federal employees, survivor leaders working to combat human trafficking, and seniors, helping leaders strengthen their capacity and skills in service of tackling society’s biggest challenges.
I’ve had the privilege of supporting Coro participants’ work to address a range of issues: increasing civic engagement, police accountability, developing a more robust health and human services department, addressing institutional inequities, and many more. Every one of these group projects is special to me because I get to watch cohorts navigate individual leadership styles and interests in order to collectively transform an idea into a tangible project.
As a child, I was always curious about how people think and act. This curiosity led me to study psychology and social work in college. I’m energized in collaborative spaces when people bring their unique skills and knowledge to work toward a collective goal. For these reasons, I serve on a few local boards and steering committees, and am the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) Co-Chair for my daughter’s school.
A year ago, I joined a group of parents concerned about the state of public education in San Francisco. We were observing the creation of “pandemic pods,” hearing about disparities in school financial resources, watching teachers navigate distance learning, and feeling the frustration of families unsure about the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) plan to reopen schools. So I joined the executive team of the new San Francisco Parent Coalition (formerly known as Decreasing the Distance) and began drawing upon all the leadership tools I regularly introduce to Coro program participants.
From the moment I took on a parent advocacy role, I felt immersed in thorny politics. All of a sudden I was faced with questions: What is this new organization? Why are you involved? What’s the (real) agenda? Who is funding the group?
I was born and raised in San Francisco and have worked most of my career in nonprofits, so I understand that people sometimes feel skepticism when a new organization or player is added to the game board. Nevertheless, I got involved because I felt responsible to our school community and to my fellow parents, and wanted to gain understanding and advance equity in the District.
As I reflect on the past year, which included many late nights spent listening to public comments and debate, it’s clear that many stakeholders are passionate about SFUSD. And that’s a wonderful thing. It’s also clear that too often we fail to come together to thoughtfully, intentionally engage in difficult conversations.
In order to move toward a robust city and school district where all children can thrive, especially those who have been historically marginalized, we need to acknowledge our firm positions and lift up our collective interests.
Recently, I was asked to share some of these reflections on a podcast, Choosing Courage, hosted by the leadership coach Katie Tuite. We talk about the concept of courageous leadership and I share more about my personal journey and how important it is to be grounded in core values.
Of course, there are plenty of Coro references sprinkled throughout. As I say in the interview, “For me, it’s really about standing for confidence built upon empathy and compassion for myself and others.” You can listen here.
Thank you for listening! Please feel free to reach out to me with your reactions.
Cliff Yee, Senior Director of Training, is a native San Franciscan with over 20 years of experience in youth leadership development, community organizing, and nonprofit management. As Coro’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion Training, Cliff facilitates and manages programs for high school youth, community leaders, federal employees, and survivor leaders working to prevent human trafficking. Prior to Coro, Cliff worked for Asian Health Services and the North Beach-Chinatown Beacon Center, where he coordinated a teen pregnancy prevention program, managed a teen clinic, started a school based health center at Oakland High School, and designed and launched The Spot Youth Center in Oakland.
Interested in a Coro program? Find out more here.