By Sandy Wiegand, Copyeditor and Writer at Joining Vision and Action
JVA’s newest facilitator, Sandra Harris Howard, has a really cool talent. Put her in front of a group whose members have different perspectives—but shared passions and priorities—and she’ll bring them together to solve problems and create road maps to achieve their goals. She’ll take a jumble of information, ideas and opinions about an organization’s vision and break it down into manageable next steps.
Sandra first worked with JVA as a trainer two decades ago, and she recently joined us full time as a senior facilitator and trainer. She brings over three decades of nonprofit and government leadership experience to our team. Much of her career has been spent with organizations that advocate for and advance opportunities for young people.
Sandra’s work with the Chicago-based YMCA of the USA included collaborating with schools to address the achievement gap, which she did for over a decade.
But not only has she battled barriers to educational achievement as part of her career. Sandra serves as an impressive model of perseverance in this arena personally, as well. While working full time, decades after earning her bachelor’s degree and eight years after being awarded her master’s, she completed her doctorate degree in human services in 2016.
“Completing my doctorate was a long-term goal of mine. One motivating inspiration was to leave a legacy of higher education for my children, grandchildren and others. It helps eliminate excuses,” Sandra explains. “My friends, family and grandmother inspired me also. Grandma’s instructions to ‘get an education—they can’t take that away from you,’ had to be fulfilled!”
Sandra found the most enjoyable aspects of pursuing her doctorate to be gathering data, conducting interviews and writing her dissertation (at least on some days, she jokes). She also liked working with her cohort of fellow students, who supported each other in completing the coursework.
Of course, JVA’s strategic planning process has some similar aspects that she will be spearheading. “We recently had strategic planning projects with Kids First and Compass Montessori,” Sandra notes. “It is rewarding to be a part of the process of conducting surveys and giving data analysis.”
And because she’s a pro at leading organizations through creating useful and effective strategic plans, her calendar is filling up quickly.