Millennial Minds with Michele L. Howard

…because black millennial women who balance the personal and professional need the spotlight, too.

Michele L. Howard is the Chief Program Officer at Hope Chicago. Michele L. Howard spoke with the Chicago Defender and shared why living on purpose and with authenticity is the ultimate act of influence.

Michele, how does your influence impact the world?

I never thought about influencing the entire world, but instead ensuring that young people knew that there was a place for them in this world. In every encounter with youth, I try to help them to uncover their strengths, identify growth areas, define their desires, and really make the connection with understanding the gravity of their decisions right now. One of my favorite quotes from Malcolm X is “the future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” My hope is that my influence on the youth I encounter ultimately positions them to impact our world.

You are a leading voice amongst millennials in education and non-profit. As the Chief Program Officer at Hope Chicago, what gap do you set to fill through creating a space for students AND parents to attend college with full, debt-free scholarships?

Hope Chicago is really a play on equity and economic mobility. Our scholarship program provides an opportunity for families to select a postsecondary pathway with confidence, knowing Hope will work in conjunction with our partners to provide the necessary supports to navigate the process both while in high school and in college for our traditional aged scholars.

There are so many barriers for accessing higher education particularly for African-American and Latinx communities. I believe that we can attempt to level the playing field by making an investment directly into our communities, the families and their ability to access postsecondary pathways.

Why is it important to hold space for students and parents of color who may not have access and opportunity?

If we really want to see change in our communities, we have to be intentional with the opportunities that are available. Everyone wants opportunities that will help them move towards a sustainable career, but the barriers are plenty. We intend to build the bridges to support families gaining access to a brighter future.

Shifting gears, let’s talk about self care. Is this a consistent or nonexistent concept in your life (currently)? How does Michele show up for herself daily?

It’s becoming consistent! I used to think that getting my hair and nails done was “self-care,” but now, I consider those appointments as maintenance. I try to do things to relax, facials and massages. I’m making progress in this area!

Showing up for “me” looks different everyday. My goal is to focus on the day, one day at a time.

What advice can you share with professionals looking to establish boundaries between the personal and professional space?

Have some! It’s harder to do when you love what you do, but it’s necessary. My only piece of advice is to have a cut off time for work. It doesn’t have to be the same time everyday, but know when to stop and power down from work responsibilities.

As a wife and mother to a toddler what does balance look like in your household?

I’ve honestly thrown the idea of balance out of the window, it’s stressful! I’m doing my best everyday to make sure what needs to happen for the day is taken care of. That includes a gazillion things sometimes, but my husband and I do a pretty good job of communicating the plan and executing. We also get a lot of help from our village and our parents, which is far more helpful than I can even put into words. We also invest in areas that save some time (and sanity) like a cleaning service every 2 weeks, instacart… just helpful time savers!

David Jr. is the cutest two-year-old and is growing daily. What has motherhood taught you about yourself?

I’m so in love with being David’s mom. I’ve learned that I am equipped and what I don’t know I will figure out. I try not to take things too seriously anymore, and to really go with the flow. I’m also really into his little 2 year old feelings and his ability to make small decisions.

If you could gift your younger self with one thing personally and professionally what would it be?

Personally, a journal to write down my thoughts. I had so many ideas as a teen.

Professionally, a briefcase!

 Lastly, finish this sentence. As a millennial mind, it is important for readers to know… the time is now for our generation to take up the baton, but we must also invest in the next generations preparation so they will be ready when it’s their time!

To connect with Michele L. Howard:  Hope Chicago



From the Web