For many years I worked in the world of higher education. Intentionally I sought to learn as much as I could from a diverse population of college students. I knew it was important to understand student backgrounds and how the college experience affected them personally and interpersonally in order for me to support them best. I worked with college students at a private Catholic liberal arts college, a state public college, and an Ivy League. My favorite part of my journey was working with first generation college students. They brought a distinct piece of joy to my life. Each year during this time of thanks students were at the top of my list. Those four years were some of the longest, but also flew by at the same time. I made a tough but rewarding decision to move on professionally and enter the world of education consulting. I never pictured myself in business, but when I saw MAYA’S mission centered around education equity, the CEO’s vision, and the clear talents and passions of the firm’s team I knew this bold move was one in the right direction.
My close work with students prepared me for a role in which I can affect education equity in a larger scope. This year I am thankful for all my past professional experiences that have led me to one of my greatest, and that is working at MAYA. I am just 1/10 of a talented team. I know together we are collectively thankful for so many things this year, and I would love to share what I personally thankful for this year:
- Incredible team members and their accomplishments: Our consultants were guests on podcasts! Staff Consultant, Jay McCullar of MBK scholars, spoke with Phyllis Newhouse on LI Talks about the immense power and talent of Black, intersectional leaders and culture creators. Principal consultant, Karen Weissinger, spoke with Higher Ed Geek about systems level change to create better outcomes for students. Staff consultant, Dr. Audrey Boklage, partnered with STEMConnector to create a STEM curriculum that can be used at home and in the classroom. Our newsletter, Gallery Walk, got a brand new look-and-feel fit with a focus on the incredible work of our consultants, clients, and a whole DEI discussion section thanks to the talent and magic of staff consultant, Rachel Franco. Business Director, Alex Cantu was selected byNew Philanthropists to join their newest cohort of mentees to the Board Members of Color program. Contract consultant, James Talarico, was re-elected as the State of Texas Representative for Williamson County. Principal Consultant, Kassi Longoria was accepted into the Central Health Community Health Champions 2020 cohort. Last but not least, MAYA CEO, Larkin Tackett is thankful for hiring a fantastic, talented team of consultants (his own words).
- Our ability to donate to causes that mean something to us: ATX COVID-19 Relief Fund. Austin Justice Coalition. GLSEN of Austin. IDEA Public Schools. Vela. Austin Ed Fund. Education is Freedom. Huston-Tillotson University. Urban Roots. Boss Babes ATX. Breakthrough Austin. Central Texas Food Bank. Leadership Austin. Mainspring Schools. MEAUSRE. Todos Juntos Learning Center. Colin’s Hope. Con Mi Madre. Easter Seals of Central Texas. Girl Start. Hound Rescue. St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital. Vivent Health.
- We are given the opportunity to do our best work: At MAYA we hold an unlimited PTO policy for all FTE’s, a weekly 2-hr wellness time, and have calendar norms for do not schedule (DNS) to allow for working parents to prioritize pick-up/drop-off/discretionary family needs. The flexibility, trust, and autonomy works.
- We have and continue to have opportunities to further our DEI knowledge: DEI knowledge was strengthened during our team day activities through anti-racism training, book discussions, our social media, and most recently the creation of a DEI glossary we will utilize in the work we do moving forward.
These are just a few things I am thankful for. Expressing gratitude feels appropriate during this time of year, especially during this challenging time of COVID. MAYA has recognized how grateful we are for the opportunities we have had to advance professionally and give back this year, all while keeping students at the forefront of everything we do. We hope you find space for gratitude in 2020, and are filled with hope for 2021.