When Roosevelt alumna Sandra Harrison was growing up on the west side of Chicago, higher education wasn’t her primary focus, she said. As a young mother, she further put her own educational aspirations on hold.
But once her children were older, Sandra started an undergraduate program in business administration and nonprofit services. At the time, she was working as a program director in Maywood and Chicago with at-risk youth, leading violence prevention initiatives. She discovered Roosevelt’s training and development program and decided to apply.
“When I started my career track, formal training and development as a discipline was just on the horizon,” Sandra said. “To have an educational discipline that supported my passion for ‘talking’ was everything.”
After graduating from Roosevelt, Sandra cofounded Leaders in Transformational Education (LITE), a nonprofit that serves youth ages 16 to 24 who are disconnected from school or the workforce. As LITE’S chief training officer, she manages day-to-day operations and provide agency-wide learning and development. Their mission is to build creative pathways in communities through education and training, resulting in higher earning potential for opportunity youth and their families. LITE is funded in part by the Department of Human Services, The City of Aurora, Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley and several generous private donors.
In addition to her work with LITE, Sandra is also CEO of DVA Leadership & Development Training Consultants, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. The Aurora-based firm has its first ever brick-and-mortar location at the Thrive Collaboration Center, a hub for nonprofits and social entrepreneurs. DVA provides cost-efficient, leadership training and development to both youth and adult audiences. High energy, play-infused training is provided on-site at Thrive or at a customer’s location.
Sandra spoke with us about her work with youth and adult learners.
On the training and development program
I always knew I wanted to teach, but I never wanted to be a traditional teacher! I loved working with people and I enjoy helping youth grow and prepare. My Roosevelt experience prepared me to be a social entrepreneur because it helped me understand how possible it was to do that without compromising my dreams.
While researching higher learning institutions, RU was in alignment with my social justice convictions. I wanted to educate and motivate our new and existing workforce. In a time when older students were signing up for online colleges, the history and integrity of Roosevelt resonated with me.
On her current role
Professor Caroline Kisiel taught me that you can use anything around you to drive home a learning point. That prompted my creative innovation. Today, I train in Technicolor and incorporate “play” into all my training and professional development events.
At DVA Leadership & Development Training Consultants, we work with youth and businesses to close the workforce preparedness gap. We also work with schools, nonprofits and other government agencies to ensure their staff have more than the technical skills needed to do their job. As a consultant, we manage open contracts, which typically provides in-person training, organization development or coaching services.
Her advice for Roosevelt students
Represent! Be part of the solution. Our RU reminds us that social injustice is all around us. It’s up to us to make a difference in poverty, racial injustice, discrimination, violence and homelessness.
Don’t think outside of the box – CRUSH THE BOX!