By Belma González and Leslie Brown


An interview with Belma González & Leslie Brown

Leslie Brown was one of my students in the second Bay Area Coaching for Transformation (CFT) certification cohort. During her time in the program, I watched her grow from a quiet person to one who inspired others to join her dream of supporting next generation leadership development in communities. This interview tells her journey of how she is currently supporting community change in one organization using coaching.

BELMA: What is B:E?

LESLIE: Beyond Emancipation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving transition-age youth with experience in the foster care and probation system.

BELMA: Tell the story of how you became the Director of Coaching at B:E.

LESLIE: During my time as a participant in CFT Bay Area Cohort, I learned of the work of B:E from Johnny Manzon-Santos (LTW faculty and consultant to B:E). I was very excited to learn of an organization that was doing the work that I have been doing for years—working with youth with experience in the foster care system—plus were utilizing coaching. To learn that this combo existed in the world!

Around this time, one of my CFT peers, Antonia Jackson, and I decided to take a walk around Lake Merritt and we started to envision what it would look like to bring coaching into a youth development organization. That visioning continued throughout our time in the CFT program. Shortly after graduation I was contacted by the Deputy Director of B:E, Kate Durham, to come in and talk about ideas for building B:E’s capacity to really full-on launch coaching in all that they do. And, shortly after I was hired as the first Director of Coaching!

BELMA: What are your responsibilities as Director of Coaching at B:E?

LESLIE: My responsibilities originally were to develop a hybrid coaching model that supported both youth and staff and that included: 1:1 coaching, group coaching, coach training and coach mentoring.

Now my role is to support the development of merging coaching and supervision as well as the development of coaching-informed policies and practices that support all internal systems at B:E.

BELMA: Talk about the Coaching Launch, on Friday January 30, 2015, that introduced B:E’s partnership with LTW.

LESLIE: As an organization, B:E realized that we wanted to expand this work to other communities and organizations that are also serving former foster youth, so we began to explore a formal partnership with Leadership that Works (LTW). Through this partnership our plan is to support the dissemination of our CCRW—Creative, Connected, Resourceful and Whole—Coaching Approach.

At our Launch, we had 75 people pile into our GROW facility where we host our culinary arts program. [GROW Oakland is a collaboration between B:E and Taste & Texture. GROW addresses the need for entry-level employment skills for current and former foster youth while also providing nutrition access and education to the community.]

We started by sharing the history of the CCRW Coaching Approach. Everyone previewed our new video and after explaining CCRW, we had people experience CCRW first-hand in small groups.

The excitement in the room was palpable. Giving people the opportunity to play with coaching in small groups and to see how coaching could support an organization dedicated to working with youth really was powerful.

I was so nervous to see myself in our new video with our youth and our new Executive Director! And then I saw that the video really helped bring people into a deeper understanding of coaching. The partnership with LTW will allow us to expand our reach to more diverse communities, first in California and then throughout the country.

BELMA: What’s your dream?

LESLIE: My dream is that there are healthy communities where each individual is aware and capable of accessing their authentic voice and are able to positively contribute through conscious choice by any ways they see fit.

And, that when I am old people will treat me nice!


About the authors:

435Belma Gonlez has been providing assets-based, culturally aware coaching to nonprofit and social justice activists since 2004. She works with diverse, multi-generational clients throughout the United States on leadership enhancement, change management, work/life transitions, balance and fulfillment.


502Leslie Brown is using her unique mix of analytical and creative skills to support next generation leaders—new and seasoned leaders who are working to design innovative systems of support for communities—to move beyond current frameworks to truly revolutionize their work.