What is your "day job"?
I am the founder and Chief Equity Officer at Versed Education Group. I help schools and ed-facing organizations have conversations about race and equity, but specifically help them develop tools that allow them to analyze their systems and processes for inequity, and figure out how to adjust those practices to be more equitable for students and families.
Who were your heroes, or mentors?
My number one hero is my mom. She was a single parent who raised my brother and me on her own. Before she and my father divorced, she was a stay-at-home mom. She was out of the workforce for quite a few years before she had to re-enter. I watched her really excel in a place I think a lot of people would have expected her to fail. I don’t think I ever realized how much we struggled growing up, because she never let me see that. I got to do all of the things I wanted to do. For instance, I was a competitive dancer, and she paid for that. I know now that she was working hard to make that happen.
On days when I’m in my feelings about things not going my way, I remember that there were probably many days when things didn’t go her way, but she somehow figured out how to make it work.
I’ve had a few mentors along the way, but one of my former managers, Fiona Lin, really stands out. She discovered in me that I had a gift to facilitate. That’s not something I would have seen in myself. Without her pushing me to facilitate about 10 years ago, I wouldn’t be doing the work I am today. She was the epitome of a wonderful manager, and taught me a lot of things I hope I incorporate into my own leadership style.
When did you decide you were an equity advocate, that this would be your journey?
I think I’ve always been an equity advocate. When I was teaching, it manifested as knowing what my students were going through and that things weren’t in place for them, not just educationally, but with other aspects of their lives. When I was working in a more centralized school leadership role, I kept the students in focus the same way.
In terms of knowing when I wanted to do it on my own, it really was a push from God. I wasn’t sure I was ready to do it on my own. I just knew it was my passion. I knew I didn’t want to do anything else. I was put in a situation where I had to choose to either do a job I didn’t really want to do that would be comfortable, or trust God, step out on faith, and begin the tougher work of starting Versed. I chose faith, and the tougher job and it has made all the difference!
If you weren't an equity advocate, what would life look like?
I think I’d be an event planner. I love throwing parties and helping people with their weddings. I’m really into tablescapes and floral designs (lol)! If I weren’t an event planner, I might be a professional dancer. That’s something I didn’t pursue because of financial reasons. If I could choose, I might have tried a little harder to pursue that passion.
If you had it all to do over again, would you do anything differently?
I think I would have taken more advantage of my college years. I did a lot, but looking back I feel I could have done even more. I had a really good time at Spelman, but I feel I could have taken advantage of more opportunities, like travel abroad, before I got so busy and became a real grown up (smile).
What do you do for you that brings you absolute joy or peace?
I am a foodie. Any time I can try a new restaurant or go out with friends I am extremely happy. People joke about me dancing when I eat because I love food so much. It’s completely true (laughing).
Hanging out with my daughter -- my family -- also rejuvenates me.
What would you like your epitaph to be?
“And the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13b). That’s the way I operate. I want to operate with love in my personal life. That’s the way I operate my business... I encourage my clients to lead with love.
In one word, what is it that you want people to remember about you?
Is there anything else you wish I'd asked you?
These are great questions. I feel like I’ve been on such a high since my photoshoot! I’m seeing my real self again! It’s awesome! But I wish you had asked more about how I approach the work I do with schools or some of my awesome clients who are all taking really bold steps to have these necessary conversations. If folks are interested they can find out more about my work at versededucationgroup.com or find us on Facebook for lots of relevant articles and resources on this topic. Thanks so much for talking with me, Lydia!