Yewande Austin – Part 2

Right after I graduated from college (Howard University and Carnegie Mellon Conservatory of Music, where I studied Classical Voice, Piano and Business), I became the youngest Director of Outreach Programs at a performing arts center in Maryland. I was bringing at‐risk youth with addicted mothers and incarcerated fathers into the facility and watched them transform right before my eyes. My soul was on fire! That position reaffirmed 2 things for me ‐ 1) I wanted to do this work for the rest of my life, but 2) I had to do it on terms that felt right to me. There’s a lot of bureaucracy even in the world of global aid (that’s an entirely different blog entry by itself) and I wanted no parts of it. It wasn’t acceptable for me to say that I was producing outreach programs and not work in communities with the very people that I needed to trust me (but my colleagues often tried to discourage me from doing that). It was certainly unacceptable for me to travel to the developing world first class and stay in 5‐star resorts when I was there to work with orphaned children that had no shoes (but that was government policy). If I was going to do this work, then I had to do it my way, but how would I execute this grandiose mission of mine and survive? I became a social entrepreneur. By 2004 I had developed my first business – the Global Institute for Diversity and Change (then known as the Change Rocks Institute) – which produced a series of diversity and multicultural lectures at colleges and universities across the country.

By 2004 I had developed my first business – the Global Institute for Diversity and Change (then known as the Change Rocks Institute) – which produced a series of diversity and multicultural lectures at colleges and universities across the country. Of course I used this as an opportunity to perform live, too☺! For those that know my career, you’ll notice that I haven’t talked much about my music – not because it’s not important to my journey, because it’s just a “part” of it. I’ve had some incredible experiences as an independent artist – from performing with the Black Eyed Peas to Enrique Iglesias. But if I hadn’t built a sound business structure around my talents or my passion to change the world, I probably wouldn’t have accomplished ANY of the work that I’m blessed to share with you today. Yet I digress. That business helped me generate enough money to launch my first overseas tour in 2004 and give birth to my humanitarian organization, the Change Rocks Foundation in 2006. (Here’s where the music comes in.) Today, my organization uses music and the arts to teach vulnerable children basic life skills like education, leadership, conflict resolution and sustainable development (how to build their own businesses). Through both businesses, collectively, I’ve trained over 250K AIDS orphans, sex trafficking survivors, college students, educators and advocates in 12 countries around the world. We’re currently vetting requests for programs from organizations in 14 new countries. At the end of the day, I don’t really think that what I do is all that special. I’m doing what I was born to do and love it with all of my heart. I wish that I could “unsee” the horrific things that exist in the world because of human beings, but I can’t. I just decided to do something about it. MORE Today, Yewande Austin is a Diversity Lecturer‐in‐Residence at Virginia Commonwealth University – the first role of it’s kind in the 177‐year history of the institution. And this fall, she’ll fulfill another dream at VCU – teaching a class that she created to train students how to change the world called “The Art of Change”.

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Today, Yewande Austin is a Diversity Lecturer‐in‐Residence at Virginia Commonwealth University – the first role of it’s kind in the 177‐year history of the institution. And this fall, she’ll fulfill another dream at VCU – teaching a class that she created to train students how to change the world called “The Art of Change”.

www.changerocksfoundation.com

Yewande.com

Yewande Austin