“Transform to Lead” August Feature: David Shields ’15

The monthly “Transform to Lead” series takes an in-depth look at how MCLP has transformed the personal and professional lives of those who have come into contact with the program. Have a story of your own to share? Let us know at LindaB@bn-mclp.org.

Growing up as a tall, smart-looking kid in a small town, David often felt that leadership had been thrust upon him. People around him seemed to naturally look to him for guidance, even when self-confidence wasn’t one of his strongest traits. Taking charge to David felt akin to having a double identity, one that required him to put on a proverbial cape and fly to the rescue.

David had been through a whirlwind of professional development classes throughout his career, and all of them seemed to have some irksome “cheerleader” quality. So when a co-worker from the Multicultural Leadership Program Class of 2011 invited him to attend his graduation, David went out of support for his friend more than interest in the program itself. But later, when the vice president of his department encouraged him to learn more about MCLP, he did. And in 2014, when an intense nine-month program was feasible for David’s schedule, he applied. He got in.

And right away, on his first night, he witnessed a program that differed from all the others. Rather than being greeted by a stand of cheerleaders, he found himself at the center of a circle of support, from his peers to his class facilitators to the program’s founders, who were all committed to his personal success and the success of the program. The passion invested into MCLP was palpable.

“There was a sense that we were all here for a common purpose, to be a better version of ourselves so we can help other people be better versions of themselves,” says David, “or that we can make wherever we live be a better version of itself. There’s a maturity to it. The approach was very appealing.”

For someone continually working to build his self-confidence, David found affirmation through MCLP that some of the leadership strategies he had developed were not only on target, but that they had worked for local community leaders on large and small scales. On top of that, David has the satisfaction that those strategies helped him make a tangible difference in the community through his team project. David and a cohort of other participants worked with the Community Health Care Clinic in Normal to conduct a feasibility study into whether or not the clinic had the means of adding free dental care to their services. Clinic Executive Director Angie McLaughlin expresses gratitude to the great work of the MCLP project team, and said “We have now secured funding to purchase all of the necessary equipment, and are in the phase of raising money for ongoing operating expenses.  We hope to have dental services available in early 2019.”

The project in and of itself felt like the universe was coming together and saying ‘this is supposed to happen, and you’re the people who’re supposed to shepherd it along,’” David remembers. “I’m delighted that I had that kind of positive role, that we did something that was worthwhile.”

After graduating from MCLP, David took initiative in joining the MCLP Board of Directors, as his way of giving back to an organization that helped shape him as a leader. But now, David knows that he won’t have to feel like the only superhero swooping in to save the day.

“I get that it’s not all on me, and that there’s lots of talented, smart people who are also trying to get some good work done.”

One such talented, smart individual is a Class of 2019 participant who David personally recruited for the program, just as his co-workers had done for him. By continuing the cycle of spreading the word about MCLP, David hopes to continue MCLP’s impact for future participants in the years to come.

Encourage others to experience MCLP for themselves by visiting https://bn-mclp.org/apply. You can also help spread the word about MCLP by following us on social media.

By Rachel McCarthy

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