We’re excited to share more about our new Program Manager, Kendall Roberts.
Kendall talked with Melody about her career trajectory, passions, and hobbies, and what she hopes holding professional space together can look like when we welcome our full selves.
Tell us about your career trajectory and what brought you to Leverage to Lead.
KR: Originally, I went to school for Hospital Administration, but I had to transfer colleges because my major was impacted. So I had to figure out a career shift. I got a job with AmeriCorps working in children’s mental health. Then my plan was to become a licensed clinical social worker because I was invested in therapies for women of color. Having navigated higher education and the trauma of my own life, I was interested in showing up as a therapist in those communities.
I graduated from Sacrament State University in 2016 and went to work with young people, doing crisis work that later evolved into working with youth who were sexually exploited. After serving as a case manager and director, I applied to graduate school to get my licensure. Having never lived in another state, I wanted to challenge myself and moved to New York to attend Fordham University. I interned and worked at Black Women’s Blueprint, where I provided counseling and training, and cultivated healing spaces for frontline workers who navigate trauma. We provided them with tools to tend and nurture themselves during their very tough work.
How did you make the shift from counseling to facilitating?
KR: In graduate school, I started classes in policy and organizational development, looking at systems on a macro level, and I realized I loved that work. I also loved training and program development, supporting and creating healing-centered practices.
But then the pandemic happened and New York was under a hiring freeze amid the shutdown. There were no jobs available, but I made the best of the situation and started holding space for professionals online. I went on to work as a trainer, diving deeper into curriculum development and facilitation. I’ve always been a facilitator. Holding space for people and creating community are my strong suits. Now, I’m shifting into facilitating in more structured spaces and developing curriculum for professionals.
What skills did you rely on when making your career shift?
KR: My strength is listening. I believe in the power of silence and holding space for people’s stories, both in counseling and facilitation. I love supporting people in creating their stories and providing a space where people are building a collective story, where they’re able to learn new skills, hear the skills of others, and be curious about the possibilities of navigating their work.
What drew you to Leverage to Lead?
KR: When I was applying for jobs. I wanted to be very intentional about a company’s values, alignment of goals, and what they bring to facilitation spaces. We’re in the era of buzzwords, we love to say, “diversity” and “inclusion.” Talking with this team, it was clear that Leverage to Lead really embodies the work and the values, implementing it in their professional and personal lives.
What are you most looking forward to in your new role as Program Manager?
KR: As Program Manager, I will be managing the Human-Centered Practices Certification Program. I’ll be facilitating learning blocks, holding one-on-one processing sessions, training new facilitators, coaching, and expanding the program. I’m really looking forward to the coaching. I’m familiar with facilitating and curriculum development, but this is new and exciting to me.
What are your passions and hobbies?
KR: I love to work with young people because they’re my heart. I love to travel and to cook. I learned pottery just before the pandemic. I’m a dog mom, a hiker, a camper. I love doing anything outdoors and in nature, anything where I can be using my hands to create.
Can you share a meaningful part of your work with us?
KR: I’m trying to find ways to reimagine holding professional space for folks, especially when it comes to talking about power dynamics, race, and equity. A lot of times, our approaches can be very textbook, and we forget that we’re all humans with emotions at play. We all have backgrounds and life experiences. As our work continues to grow, we have to create more expansive spaces for professionals to have tough conversations.
I imagine spaces where we allow people to bring their whole selves in, to be more than the work they do. We try to separate our personal and professional lives, but the truth is we do bring work home and we bring home to work. Our personal lives play a huge role in how we navigate the workplace. I want to explore how we understand the multifacetedness of individuals.
I envision being able to be uncomfortable together, having raw and vulnerable conversations, and talking about what we need from facilitators and our peers. Even the way we structure our physical spaces can be different. I don’t want to be standing at the front of the room. I want to be moving around. I give people ways to engage physically and be interactive, which really helps with grasping information and digesting hard information.