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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators
Educating students on adult responsibilities
Equity partnerships for family leadership development
By Angela Clark Louque and Shelly Jones-Holt | March | April 2021
We are in the middle of a large, mental shift in the way we think about, deliver and assess learning because of a pandemic, racial uprising and a shift in the values and expectations at our highest national levels. We must utilize this time to address the challenges some of our youth are having to function in the “real world,” especially after they have spent 12 years in an antiquated school system. In speaking with many parents and families of adult children, it becomes somewhat surprising that some of the everyday activities of life are not understood by our children. For instance, do they understand or know how to address someone formally in an email, how our government functions or how to change a tire? With parents working two jobs, schools took on more and more of what traditionally was supported and taught by families and communities that they were not originally designed or equipped to handle.
To be fair, when America shifted in the 1960s and ‘70s to an increasing number of white women going to work (many BIPOC women were already working outside of their homes), and the need for a second income became a requirement, we didn’t systemically consider the learning that had been occurring at home. As our time together as families dwindled to evenings in front of the television, Saturdays with activities and Sunday morning worship service, the shift was gradual and now feels very palpable. Some of the, perhaps unintended, consequences were a decrease in community and neighborhood connections and the “village” approach to collectively nurturing and raising our children (Levitan, 1981). Our homes, families and communities were now missing the vital family leadership training that had been occurring all while children played, neighbors communicated and communities supported one another.
Schools have not been designed for many of the responsibilities that society has evolved to place within their scope. What began as an exclusionary-based institution where students would leave home with a sack lunch and come to the local schoolhouse to learn, study and socialize, is now being relied upon to also feed, clothe, provide emotional support and address personal and academic trauma. Our current circumstances of addressing a viral pandemic on a background of racial and social uprisings have only exacerbated these needs.
We cannot turn back the hands of time, but as we rethink education, communities and raising our families post-COVID, how can we effectively partner to reunite communities, support families and prepare our youth with life skills? In today’s world, schools obviously cannot bear the role alone of providing leadership development. Thus, equity partnerships are necessary for students to ascertain, develop skills and flourish with their adult responsibilities.
Equity partnerships
Equity partnerships (Clark-Louque, Lindsey, Quezada & Jew, 2019) are designed to empower our communities to work together and fill the gaps exacerbated most recently by COVID-19. With most of the country in some form of distance learning, we are seeing that the family is more important than ever. Everyone is spending more time with families, integrated with the outside world and extended family via screens like never before. We have a unique opportunity to develop solid partnerships between families, schools, businesses and communities to prepare students for being successful adults.
First, equity partnerships are important because the beneficial rewards are important facets of leadership. When we are rewarded through a system, we are more likely to repeat that behavior. Second, within and around the communities and industries, partnerships employing youth are a way we can begin to close the opportunity gaps and prepare students for the realities of adult life. Third, partnerships are also effective means to connect students with neighborhood businesses, job opportunities, internships and service-oriented experiences. Fourth, partnering with families brings their assets to the decision-making table, recognizes their cultural value’s worth, and ensures those that may not have been exposed to other cultures understand their unique needs and perspectives, as well as contribute to the entirety of the school and business community. Lastly, partnerships build safe communities, particularly for the historically oppressed or depressed populations.
Being strategic about these partnerships begins with understanding the Family Leadership Pillars, and how these partnerships can support the needs not just of individual students, but of entire families. These skills, better described as the Five Pillars of Family Leadership, have been categorized into five leadership areas: Personal, Professional/Career, Relational, Home and Financial.
Family leadership pillars and partnerships
For our youth to become productive adults, there are five areas where they will need to develop the skills, knowledge and abilities to lead themselves and their families: Personal, Professional, Financial, Home and Relational. Each of the Five Pillars serves as an aspect of life leadership skills that are essential to adult leadership survival.
Personal leadership
Stephen Covey speaks of personal leadership as the “ongoing process of keeping your vision and values before you and aligning your life to be congruent with those most important things” (Covey, 2004). Personal leadership is about taking care of oneself and one’s immediate family. Self-care includes health, wellness, spirituality and lifestyle choices that reflect your values and morals, and develop habits that last a lifetime. Making the conscious decision to take care of one’s mental, physical and emotional well-being and getting to know oneself while committing to grow daily is at the core of personal leadership. It means understanding who and whose you are, developing emotionally and reflecting regularly on the values, morals and ethics that are related to who we are as individuals and how we relate to the world around us. Personal leadership involves knowing and understanding your identity within a racial, cultural and historically accurate context that encourages all to walk in ancestral values and have pride in honoring the past to shape the future.
In today’s world, schools obviously cannot bear the role alone of providing leadership development. Thus, equity partnerships are necessary for students to ascertain, develop skills and flourish with their adult responsibilities.
Partnerships that build personal leadership include those that help people build their capacity while supporting one another. Personal mentors are usually those who are more experienced on the journey and can help guide along the way. Getting support to prioritize taking time to enjoy individual personal pastimes like reading, listening to your favorite music, yoga or meditation can completely change life’s trajectory. Connecting with workout groups, spiritual study groups, attending healthy eating seminars or community nutrition courses, whether virtually or in-person, can all assist in building personal leadership. Destigmatizing therapy and psychiatry will also support those who may not seek professional support due to fear of blame or public shame.
Professional leadership
Known also as career leadership, this area focuses on the development of the technical skills that one needs to generate income in our society. Preparing young people for various forms of employment and contribution to society was the traditional focus of schools. Professional leadership includes balancing both the technical and adaptive skills that one must possess to be successful in a chosen career path. All professions require a certain level of technical skill expertise combined with soft adaptive skills to work with people. The complexity comes in when we have a variety of personalities and personal experiences that are intersecting, and a hierarchical value structure is placed on some more than others in the workplace.
The intersection of personal and professional is the challenge and benefit of professional leadership. Personally, our young people must learn to master situational appropriateness and code-switch as needed. They must learn how to take advantage of their professional life to both generate wealth and network with others to pursue their dreams. Partnerships with local businesses and community organizations via internships and mentorships with intergenerational professionals willing to collaborate with community colleges, technical schools and universities can greatly support the development of professional leadership.
Financial leadership
Financial leadership is the application of financial literacy knowledge and skills to budget, invest and multiply money to intentionally and generationally create wealth for the benefit of your family and community. While professional leadership is about balancing the technical and adaptive skills to generate income and support the family, or “making your money,” financial leadership is applying the understanding of economics and finance to multiply those funds or “make money work for you.” This is the epitome of “work smarter, not harder” that all adults need and many educators have yet to master, much less teach. Financial leadership development requires stewardship that assists in understanding and applying knowledge in a manner consistent with an individual’s goals and aspirations. Planning, strategic investing, conscious saving and accurate accounting are skills all young adults need, but are not taught. Nor are they taught the importance of positive banking relationships and how to nurture those relationships.
Partnerships can greatly support the development of financial leadership through entrepreneurship and stewardship. Schools can generate partnerships with local banks, credit unions and financial advisors for stewardship and education. There are several well-established online or in-person programs that teach financial literacy at various levels. Organizational relationships with small local business associations and chambers can create externship and internship opportunities for young people who are interested in finance as a career or just want to have a more in-depth understanding of how money matters work.
Home leadership
The third need of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow, 1943) is safety, security and shelter. This is the main focus of home leadership. Building a house and taking care of one’s home and family were at one time skills that were taught at home, then taught in schools (mostly to girls). Recently though, the teaching and modeling of these skills have begun to dissipate from both families and schools. Each one thinks the other is responsible for building this skill set. Meanwhile, students are unsure of what to do or who to turn to for guidance and support. While our purpose is not to determine where this learning lives, it is to remind all that this is a skill set that must be explicitly taught, and is greatly needed to increase homeownership. The technical skills to taking care of the home include basic home maintenance, taxes, home insurance and budgeting for homeownership expenses. I also involve knowledge of regular maintenance checks that need to occur and understanding of both when professionals are needed to support and how to budget for those unexpected occurrences.
Local journeymen, skilled trade businesses or unions can provide apprenticeship support to young people who desire to make the home or building maintenance support a career venture. These relationships also have the potential to dramatically reduce violence or potential for criminality. They serve as mechanisms for reversing the impact of situational, institutional, generational and epigenetic trauma by providing children with needed adult interaction.
Relational leadership
Relationship leadership is the capacity to build quality, positive connections with family, friends, colleagues and community by both understanding oneself and the nature of people with an empathetic, yet conscious mindset. Development of this area allows young adults to focus on mastering the arts of conflict management and problem-solving by learning to respond, as opposed to reacting, to environmental triggers. Developing knowledge and skills in cultural proficiency, active listening, strategic questioning, restorative practices and other empathetic approaches allows young adults to learn that people are different and those who achieve balance accept people for who they are, and place relationships in the proper context of their lives. Partnerships that can help balance support from intergenerational mentorship and professional support services in this area are critical for young adults, especially those who may not have had the best conflict management modeling in their upbringing or communities. Schools can assist families and communities with connecting supports by building formal partnerships. Even through informal partnerships, relationships are integral to all five family leadership areas.
Call to action
Taking into account how the aforementioned skills have traditionally been nurtured, what we know as professionals needs to change, along with the dynamics of our current circumstances. Today, our students are much more advanced technologically, have a collective fire for social justice, and yet struggle with some of life’s everyday tasks, in-person communication, relationship building and understanding systemic civic structures while having little to no fear of the viral pandemic. Consider exploring with your internal and external teams:
  • How can we develop or build upon partnerships with family, business, governmental and community resources to fill the gaps that the school system cannot do alone?
  • How can we use this moment, and our unique virtual circumstances, to build bridges between families, schools and communities that support the areas that our children must learn and balance for healthy and productive adult lives?
  • How can the Family Leadership Pillars be supported by schools and communities dedicated to equity partnerships to provide students and their families with what they need?
As people work within their homes, they are spending more hours with family, providing opportunities to refocus on what matters most to the future of our families. We can ensure that we support and uplift young people to build healthy strong families by designing support systems around one another. There is an opportunity to emphasize teaching young people how to balance the five family leadership areas with partners who can bring perspective to our lives, by modeling this in our own families.
Bianchi S. M. (2011). Changing families, changing workplaces. Future Child. 21(2):15-36. doi: 10.1353/foc.2011.0013. PMID: 22013627.
Clark-Louque, A., Lindsey, R., Quezada, R., & Jew, C. (2019) Equity partnerships: A Culturally Proficient guide to family, school, and community engagement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL). https://casel.org/ 11.27.2020.
Covey, S. (2004). 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. Simon and Schuster. Pg. 132
Levitan, S. A. & Belous, R. S. (1981). Working wives and mothers? What happens to family life? Monthly Labor Review: September, 1981.
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.
Angela Clark Louque is the owner and CEO of Equity Partnerships Consulting, LLC. Shelly Jones-Holt is the owner of Leadership Legacy Consulting, LLC and Co-Founder of Family Legacy 5 non-profit.
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