Corrina Grace On Her AGLN Journey And The Courage To Lead

Corrina Grace, Founder and Executive Director of SERES, highlights her experience as a Fellow of the tenth class of the Central America Leadership Inititiative and its effect on how she sees herself as a leader. 
Photo Credit: SERES
Which Fellowship and Fellowship Class do you belong to?
Central American Leadership Initiative, CALI X: X-Potential

When you joined the Fellowship, what was your inflection point?
I was invited to join in the Fellowship in 2014, coming up to the seventh year of living, breathing and spending every waking moment bootstrapping SERES, the non-profit organization that I started in Guatemala in 2009. At the time, I sensed that we were nearing the end of an important cycle in our work and that the next round would be significantly different. We had proof of concept, had trained hundreds of youth and had an innovative, cutting-edge educational model for sustainability leadership. Most importantly, we had results that demonstrated impact. I knew that it was time to take this work to the next level, but I was hesitant. I didn’t feel like I had the skills, experience or network to do this and every time I thought about the next phase, I felt overwhelmed.

I have a daily mantra - “all that I am, and all that I have, for all that I love” - that both invites me and challenges me to stay present, to listen, learn and lead.

Describe the problem you are trying to address and why it needs solving.

The world’s most vulnerable regions and poorest communities sit on the frontlines of increasing planet vulnerability. Within Central America, it is the countries that make up the Northern Triangle – Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – that are amongst the most vulnerable. Plagued by overwhelming social, environmental and economic issues, increased pressure from climate change places stability, peace and prosperity at great risk.

With over 65% of the population under 30 years of age, the future is bleak for the next generation. More than one million of these youth are neither in school, nor employed. For them, contemplating a future at home is contemplating a future without hope.
Photo Credit: SERES
Investing in youth opportunity while simultaneously finding creative ways to address the sustainability crisis is essential to providing youth with a reason not to migrate. If action is not taken to address the root causes of migration while simultaneously building climate resilience, the United States and Central America – this unique region of interwoven lives, economies, food sheds and cultures – could end up facing a tragic humanitarian crisis in the years to come.

What inspired you to tackle this issue?
There have been no words so poignant to me in the last few months as those of Bryan Stevenson in his address to the 2016 Aspen Action Forum when he so passionately advised us that “there is no path to justice that is only comfortable and convenient. We will not create justice until we're willing to sometimes position ourselves in uncomfortable places and be a witness.”

I understand what Bryan is talking about. For almost ten years now, I have lived in poor and marginalized communities with the folks on the frontlines of climate change, seeing time and again how those least responsible pay the highest price in loss of life and livelihoods. It has been a profoundly impactful experience. While often difficult, it is also my source of inspiration. I have a daily mantra - “all that I am, and all that I have, for all that I love” - that both invites me and challenges me to stay present, to listen, learn and lead.
Photo Credit: SERES

How influential has the AGLN been in guiding your journey?
Being in the Fellowship was instrumental in helping me to understand and recognize my inflection point, creating the space to allow closure for what was finishing and then sense and shape what was emerging. It also pushed me to really acknowledge the overwhelmingly complex challenges the region faces “with eyes wide open”, as we say in our youth leadership trainings. Most of all it solidified my conviction that transforming this crisis is the work of not only a handful of leaders, but a movement of leaders - a leaderful generation - reaffirming my commitment to this work and giving me the push to jump into the next phase of this journey.

6. If you could share any insight with other Fellows, what would it be?
During the Fellowship I realized that being a leader is very different to having leadership, which I define as “the way I work and walk in the world”, and that the challenges of our times calls for a leadership that is distinct from that which has brought us here and shaped the predominant world view. I believe that this leadership must be based on an understanding of the world that is deeply rooted in our common humanity, our connection to each other, and our connection to this Earth, committed to working authentically, inclusively and transformatively, taking responsibility for fellow human beings and translating it into actions to will create a future that we can all live with. Everyone, everywhere, no-one left behind.

Posted by Shaquila Williams on Sep 9, 2016 4:27 PM America/New_York
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