We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Danielle Stewart and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Dr. Danielle, how does your business help the community?
The Community Empowerment Foundation, Inc. goal is to educate, advocate and empower. The nonprofit was created to advocate for community engagement and education. We have 3 stakeholder groups: the educational system, the community who cares about their local educational system and the families who are in the system. When we started this work, there were gaps between institutions and families (families of color in particular) who needed additional support to navigate through the school system. We brought these 3 stakeholder groups together to help fill some of those gaps. We not only created a platform called Education Advocacy Awareness to educate individuals on how to use their voices, but we worked together to strategically come up with solutions. One area of concern that continued to be discussed was the lack of college prep support. From these discussions we created our program College Prep & Connect Clinic. This mobile clinic was designed to meet students and parents where they geographically were in the community and figuratively in the college prep process in order to get the little extra support they needed at their convenience. Anyone who saw the value of this type of information for their students in their organizations, churches, other nonprofits, would reach out for us to design 30-45 minute workshops. We partnered with local businesses who also advocated for education for their high school employees and that welcomed us to provide onsite workshops to help students fill out FAFSA forms, learn about financial aid, have discussions about the overall college experience with experts and panels as well as share other college and life skills training. From this model, students learned that their employees cared about them and their futures and so did members of their community.

What should our readers know about your business?
While in graduate school and working towards my doctoral degree in education, I was also working as a tutor who saw the need for more innovation in the world of education and decided to start a business in educational consulting called In School Spirit, LLC. In School Spirit was created to find unique ways to ignite the school spirit of students of color especially in a world where students might not find inclusion or might not feel the right support in learning environments. Looking at education from a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) lense and knowing that learning can happen not only beyond the classroom but in the community, on our jobs, and anywhere with the right support, is why the Community Empowerment Foundation, Inc. was created. Although we saw the immediate needs, the challenge was understanding that before a service could be created, we would have to first take the time to understand the root of the problem. We would have to work to build relationships and have the necessary conversations to gain insight to how people were feeling about their schools, about education about their futures. We could not understand the problem fully without having the right people in the room to have conversations about the issues in order to provide the services to make change. Our success is proof in the gratitude of the people we serve who tell us that we gave them the support and answers they had been searching for. Our success is rewarded by those who felt like they had a space to have their voices heard and to have their needs met. In a world where people are at odds with one another and the education system continues to be challenged, it is refreshing to know that there can be a group of committed community members who desire to work together in the name of education. We are fortunate to be included in this work.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Brunch is a big deal in Atlanta, so I would make sure that they would experience several different fabulous brunch restaurants including The Select. Would also need to visit the High Museum of Art to see the famous Obama portraits. A trip down Auburn Ave. and the Spelman, Morehouse college campuses too! A day trip to Chateau Elan to enjoy the beauty of the winery. Lastly, I would take them to Word of Faith Church and the Church’s Epic Center to experience a little faith and fun.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to first shout out the entire board of the Community Empowerment Foundation, Inc., especially our long-standing members Samantha Dutto and Eric Canada. Additionally, I would like to shout out Roy and Earlene Stewart who personally taught me the importance of education and community and how to advocate for others. Through their compassion and example of helping others, they were the reason that this organization was founded, so that we could continue to plant seeds of hope in others. Even until she passed earlier this year, my mother Earlene Stewart, strongly encouraged others to value education. As a matter of fact, she went back to school to finish college as a senior citizen to prove that it was never too late. She always found the resources and the opportunities to learn. I would also like to shout out our community partners including the Lillie’s Foundation and Chair, Jason Allen, Noelle Carson, founder of Inception mental health services, Semaj Thompson, founder of Everyone Can Learn Tutoring Services, to all of the college students who volunteer and share their knowledge with other parents and students and certainly all of the community members who have volunteered their time and expertise to show families that they care about their local schools and each other.

Website: www.communityempowermentfoundation.com

Instagram: @communityempowermentfoundation

Facebook: Community Empowerment

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