March 5th Virtual Transform Westside Summit: “Celebrating Women’s History Month with Raising Expectations”

The March 5th Virtual Transform Westside Summit was a celebration of Women’s History Month and featured a panel discussion with key members of Raising Expectations (RE), a Westside nonprofit empowering youth in crises by elevating academic, social and civic expectations to facilitate high school graduation and post-secondary plans. Moderated by Westside Future Fund President & CEO, John Ahmann, the panel included: RE Co-founders, Tangee Allen and Maria Armstrong; RE Board Member, Naima Judge, Managing Director and Market Investment Executive at Bank of America; Faith Porter, RE Project DREAM Elementary Coordinator; and RE program participant, Natasha Ellis.

Tangee Allen, Co-founder of Raising Expectations

Celebrating RE’s 25th year of service, Allen and Armstrong shared their perspectives on the importance of women, and women of color, being in leadership positions.

“We believe that women are uniquely positioned for leadership,” said Allen. “First of all, we’re fierce. Secondly, we have a lens that has been textured by compassion, open dialog, open to different perspectives. Being flexible and nimble, that’s inherent to being a woman leader. Last but not least, we are decisive decision makers.

When you’re in the clutch, the thing that you want to have is a woman leading the conversation.”

Maria Armstrong, Co-founder of Raising Expectations

When asked how the pandemic has created challenges for the organization, Maria Armstrong had this to say:

“I think what’s unique about us is we’re positioned for this. The work of RE has been on the ground for 25 years, and the way we work with families and youths has always been set up to identify the needs that they have and create opportunities to remedy the challenges that they may have … Our team immediately went into action and we were able to switch to a whole virtual program. We found out pretty early on that most people were having difficulty with getting kids online, and we were succeeding at that. And so, that’s based again on the on-the-ground approach where we use our relationships with students and families.”

RE’s team has been able to successfully navigate many of the pitfalls which have widely impacted schools and similar programs, adjusting in real time to challenges as they arise, thanks largely to incredible leadership. Allen and Armstrong received fervent praise from RE Board Member, Naima Judge, who also weighed in on the topic of women in leadership positions.

RE Project DREAM Elementary Coordinator Faith Porter offered her thoughts on representation and equity for Black women.

RE program participant Natasha Ellis spoke on her journey from being a preteen exposed to gang violence in a low income neighborhood to an overachieving junior molecular biology major with a concentration in cell science at Fisk University.

As Atlanta school systems continue to try to overcome the negative impacts of the pandemic, Raising Expectations has proven both vital and reliable in helping to ensure Westside students and families have the means to thrive in the face of adversity. We encourage you to get involved and help sustain the impeccable and necessary work of this organization by donating today!