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5 Questions with Belinda Oakley - CEO, Chartwells K-12

1. Which non-profit mission do you feel most committed to supporting?

It is my belief that a steady job is the single most important step in a person’s transition out of poverty or distress. That’s why I’ve focused my efforts on building confidence and creating pathways to self-sufficiency for at-risk youth, homeless and low-income individuals. Through volunteer work and mentoring employees, I am proud to be able to ‘be the change’ for those in need of a hand up. 

2. How did you become personally invested?

As a teenager, I personally experienced displacement and at that time, questioned what good the future could hold for me. Since then, ‘there but for fortune’ has always remained top of mind because I know just how close we can be to a change in circumstance. I have been blessed and continue to be blessed by the support of individuals in both my personal and professional life who see more in me than I often see in myself. That belief and support has driven me to aim higher and strive further than I ever thought I could. Now, I’m not only compelled, but am sincerely committed to paying it forward. 

3.  What do you do to show your support?

Over the years, I have worked with a number of not-for-profit organizations such as Chrysalis in Los Angeles and Urban Peak in Denver whose missions include supporting low income, homeless or unstably housed, recently incarcerated or recently rehabilitated individuals get back on their feet. 

Through these experiences, I have had the opportunity to volunteer as an employment coach helping individuals in a variety of ways, from getting a suit that makes them feel confident for a job interview, to writing their first resume or practicing for an upcoming job interview. I have also served as a youth mentor and a program instructor for job readiness classes. 

4. Can you share a story when you realized your efforts were making a difference?

As a volunteer with Chrysalis, I had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with incredible people who were just in need of a second chance – many of whom were housed temporarily on infamous Skid Row. When people learned about my work there, it struck me how easily they would stereotype the individuals in need. Being able to share the facts with friends, families and co-workers made a difference immediately.  75% of people who came to Chrysalis had their high school diploma of GED. 33% were parents with children under the age of 18%. 11% were veterans. One co-worker in particular was so struck by the impact we were making that she too became a volunteer. Secondly, at Chrysalis, when a person  secures a job, they celebrate by ringing the “Success Bell” in the lobby. Standing and applauding that moment of change for individuals I supported will remain with me forever.

5. Why is it important to you to give your time to others?

We all have the opportunity to be the change in someone else’s life and if you’ve experienced the gift of giving back, you know there is no greater feeling. As a mother to a beautiful little girl, it’s also important to me to instill these values and be a role model for service so that she can grow up to change someone’s life!