Experience, Knowledge, And History...Is What Guides Me
Life@GWN with Daniella Olibrice
Staff and volunteer stories speak to the unique experience of working inside a rapidly evolving non-profit organization advocating for the rights of girls and gender-fluid creatives to find and raise their voices. These stories bring to life what happens inside our four walls, what it’s like to work there, among interdisciplinary and inter-generational teams operating within a culture of radical acceptance. Today, we’re presenting Girls Write Now’s Director of People and Culture, Daniella Olibrice, in her own words.
What is your Job at Girls Write Now, and Why is that Role Important?
As the former talent director, and now in my expanded role, my responsibility is to be people-oriented and focused on employees, i.e., human resources, and the inner functions of the organization. Working in partnership with Girls Write Now’s executive director and leadership team, I am guided by a great sense of responsibility to ensure that our teams have the resources necessary to fulfill our mission, values, and commitment to mentor youth locally and nationally. I enjoy meeting and talking to new people all the time, and so looking for and talking to candidates about staffing opportunities is the part of my job that can be a lot of fun. It can be very satisfying when I hear that an employee whom I identified from a pile of resumes is being praised or promoted for their hard work, or making a positive impact on our community.
What’s your Favorite Girls Write Now Work Story?
There are many. Most recently, I was sitting on my couch where I had fallen asleep in front of my open laptop. I woke up to get ready for bed, but checked my cell phone and found a text message from Dr. Brenda Henry-Offor, a Career360 mentor during the Spring '23 semester. She wrote to let me know that her mentee Dolores Haze had been nominated to be featured in a video about the power of mentoring and focus on Dolores’ story. Reading the text and talking to Brenda the next morning flooded me with a sense of pride and reminded me of my purpose. I recommended Brenda because I knew she had recently retired from the job where we met. She was a professor at the The State University of New York, Empire State College (a.k.a. SUNY Empire State), a division enrolling working adult college students in accelerated degree completion programs. I was introduced to her in 2012 by another professor Alan Mandel, whom I met at a conference in 2010. Professor Mandel gave me his business card and I reached out to him a couple of years later regarding a project that I was working on, and one thing led to another.
Brenda hired me to be an adjunct professor in an undergraduate program for paraprofessional teachers that she managed in partnership with the United Federation of Teachers at SUNY Empire. I taught on and off between 2013 and 2018. I absolutely loved teaching and getting to know my students who had decades of experience working as paraprofessional teachers in New York’s public schools. Although I was aware of some of the hard times Brenda faced when she suffered the loss of husband, mother, and other loved ones, along with a series of illnesses, I only got to know Brenda personally after she retired from SUNY Empire State College a year or two ago. Although I haven’t seen her in person since 2018, I made it a habit to stay in touch with her, and it is through these conversations that we were able to deepen our friendship and I was able to open up to her about my own life.
When I learned that Girls Write Now was looking for mentors to participate in the Career360 pilot, she immediately came to mind. I knew of the tireless, compassionate advising she provided to students when she was professor at SUNY Empire. Furthermore, I know that mentoring is a value of Brenda that she lives by in all aspects of her life. She cares about being connected to family, young people, and maintaining relationships with anyone who comes into her orbit. Last, from working with her at SUNY Empire State, I appreciate the fact that she could be relied on to offer sound, clear, and caring guidance to anyone who seeks it of her, and she is invested in their success.
What’s Your Superpower? In What Ways do Colleagues Benefit from Working with You?
My curiosity, honesty, and commitment to service and the greater good are my superpowers. I believe that my colleagues are extremely talented, intelligent, and care deeply about the arts and future generations; I share these characteristics and values with them. So, I would say that I bring my own unique experience, knowledge, and history to the work that I do and that is what guides me.
What’s the Best Girls Write Now Career Decision You’ve Ever Made?
My best career decision has been to be open, flexible, and willing to learn new things. Every job that I have taken since I left graduate school has introduced me to people and worlds that I didn’t know existed before. They have also helped to stretch and grow as a person and professional in ways that I didn’t expect.
What Do Friends Know About You That Would Surprise Your Colleagues?
My love of words extends to other languages. I speak and read French, Haitian Creole, and Dutch; the last two are self-taught. I once considered pursuing a Ph.D. in linguistic anthropology.
What Are Your Hobbies, and How Did You Get into Them?
From the moment that I could hold a pencil or pen as a child, I drew, wrote, and collaged as my favorite pastime. I have a BFA in visual arts and consider myself a maker. I’m into color, textures, and different materials such textiles, paper, yarn, etc. For a long time after completing my graduate degree, I focused on baking and still admire the craft. That has petered out and I am now an avid knitter and crocheter. Since the pandemic, I have been coming up with my own designs inspired by other people’s patterns and am working on a new project now. I would like to learn how to quilt next. I also love listening to podcasts, music that harkens back to the 1980s, and am grateful for KEXP (radio station out of Seattle, WA) for introducing me to so many new artists! I also love hiking and the outdoors. I am continually inspired by the lives and work of artists (living and dead).
When You Were a Kid, What Did You Want to Be When You Grew Up?
When I was a kid, my mother was studying to become a nurse and so I used to look through her illustrated textbooks on diseases. I was especially interested in her large textbook about mental illness and thought about becoming a psychiatrist.
If you belong to the Girls Write Now community and have a story to share, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
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