Table for Two

A conversation between community builders Jade Possail and Moses Tut

A big part of the Builders Program — and OTA’s mission in general — is to ignite conversation and curate relationships across the region. It is within those genuine connections that we begin to realize our true worth. Perhaps only then can we see that we are capable of bringing our ideas to fruition. We are capable of empowering one another and empowering ourselves.

It merely begins with conversation.

These Table for Two discussions are intentional matches of two community builders, offering a space to talk about their work and bounce ideas, concerns and dreams off one another. These conversations are facilitated by OTA’s CEO, Hugh Weber, but the two builders are driving, and it’s up to them where to discussion leads.

Which makes the following conversations insightful, enlightening and a lot of fun. Below is a 45-minute exchange between philanthropist Jade Possail and nonprofit director Moses Tut, both from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Introduce yourselves!

Moses: I’m the president and executive director of Conscious Youth Solutions. We’re a youth-empowered organization trying to connect Millennials to workforce opportunities — whether that’s personal, professional or career development orientated.

We take an individualized approach to what Millennials want for progression in their lives. We help to expose them to opportunities with professionals, because, if you don’t know about opportunities, how can you help yourself and help your community? How can you progress? We’re just trying to capitalize on opportunity for disadvantaged and dis-enfranchised youth in the community who’ve grown up in an environment that they can’t change and don’t have the mentors they need to uplift them.

What brings me to the table today is my own passion and my own drive. I am one of those youth. I’m still a Millennial, and I’m still going through adversity in workforce development. But I’m progressing and helping myself, so giving that opportunity to others is my goal.

Jade: I am also Millennial. Similar to what Moses was saying, I think it’s important for people to capitalize on opportunities that they see or maybe don’t see.

I’ve had many different doors open and close, and it’s encouraging people to take those open doors and run with them.

My project on a small scale is raising money for Children’s Miracle Network, trying to show true impact of how dollars are being used in action, and actually creating miracles.

On a larger scale, it’s encouraging other people to take those leaps of faith, cold-call people and ask people for help. Get your ideas out there, and maybe somebody will take a chance on you and let you run with it. I really want to focus on helping companies see why they shouldn’t just be giving to give — they should try to create some sort of purpose behind what they’re doing. Every company has to be socially responsible and should not necessarily get recognition for their efforts but should do it in a way that matters to Millennials and can help enhance or elevate their brand in that they’re giving for a specific reason. This will increase their brand perception among Millennials.

The real focus for me is philanthropic giving and how that not only helps you as a person but your company, culture and community.

What does ‘Millennials’ mean to you?

Jade: It’s unique. Millennials like to be individuals! We like to find new ways of doing things, we think of ourselves as innovative and environmentally responsible, and we try to invest in brands that are better for the world.

Every generation is stereotyped by different things, and Millennials are stereotyped as lazy, thinking we deserve to be on the top right away and that we expect things to be given to us — and that’s exactly the opposite of what a Millennial wants to think of themselves! People put us in this box, and the last thing we want to do is to be put in a box. To me, being a Millennial means that we want our voice to be heard, we want our actions to affect our network power and to get other people behind us in our causes. We also have more technology behind us than ever before, so our decisions are more broadcast than any generation, and we have the ability to inspire change with people around us more than past generations did.

Moses: She hit it right on the nail. Millennials are very individualized to where they want their personality or aesthetics of themselves — their whole ideology — to be heard, appreciated and accepted.

Going back to the social economic side of things, where giving back to your community, having a social enterprise aspect to it is huge for Millennials. We actually look into organic food and clothing brands, how they give back a percentage of proceeds to their communities and just their whole philosophy of how they do business, which is how we impact the community over profits.

We’re individuals, but we like to stick together. We are socially aware, and the Internet has made that very apparent. We’re able to communicate with millions of people, and our messages can get across easily. Things catch on to social media so quickly.

There are currently 92 million Millennials in the U.S., the largest generation in U.S. history, so we’re going to have an influence in education and politics, etc. We’re going to be the next generation to change things. We’re more conscious.

Jade: I really agree with Moses on something he pointed out. One of the perceptions is that we expect to come right out of college and be at our dream job. We grow up with this idea of, You can do anything, you can achieve anything, and that’s sometimes viewed as a negative for Millennials. But like Moses said, Millennials just want to be appreciated for what they’re doing.

Encouragement in the workplace is something Millennials need. You go from being in school, where you get encouragement and a stamp of approval along the way, then you go into the workforce, where it’s very competitive. People just want to be appreciated.

And when do you think Millennials can start to see that change, that appreciation?

Jade: My place of employment works in a team approach, and we have teams created for that exact purpose, taking the energy of the young and taking the understanding and long-term relationships and those who’ve been in the industry a little bit longer. However, if I wasn’t in an environment like that, I would think now would be the time that they need to be doing those things. Otherwise, Millennials have proven that they are willing to switch jobs and not stick it out for their resumes. They are going to find something they can be passionate about now.

I think companies in our communities should consider a more team approach and do a better job of integrating the young and old.

Moses: She’s right. If Millennials are not in an environment where they can progress as an individual or as a professional, they will leave. They want to feel important and that their input is actually making a difference in a company and that they can at least offer their opinions. Inclusiveness is the biggest thing. There needs to be more communication and openness to hear Millennials’ thoughts on the work environment in general. It makes for a more productive environment.

You both are working on your Builder projects while working other jobs, too. Is this part of your generational mindset, or what drives you to do extra entrepreneurial work?

Jade: I’m from a small town, and I’ve always been in multiple things. That was a privilege for me, and I take advantage of that mindset, to just go go go. Sometimes, I will say yes too often, but most of the time, it opens doors to more opportunity. For me, having the opportunity to do Miracle Mugs for a third year has led to new relationships and new contacts that I never would’ve had otherwise.

There’s advantages to putting yourself out there and having a purpose in order to talk to people. Instead of just trying to meet new people in the community, I created a project that not only does good but also helps me to create a network of people who are also passionate about certain things.

Moses: I also grew up in a small town and had the chance to get involved in everything. I’d also give a lot to my family structure and how I was raised. I was very structured — going to church, doing homework — that was instilled in me to have multiple things going on and being able to manage everything. It’s taught me a lot and given me work ethic. I get very bored easily, and I find joy in doing various things and helping society.

Do you struggle to stay focused or satisfied with that divided attention?

Jade: When I gave up my last crown in the pageant world, I really struggled with the word “contentment” and “maintain.” I think you always need to be taking a step forward. Not that I don’t have the most blessed life and the most amazing family and friends, but like Moses was saying, you need to always have that willingness to progress yourself.

Moses: I’ve realized in life that there is always a piece of me who wants more. Being content isn’t a part of me. I get antsy, I need to find something to do at all times, so having a couple different projects exercises that motivation.

Beyond funding, what challenges are you facing right now?

Jade: I really want Miracle Mugs to be taken on to a national scale, and for that to happen, I need to get in touch with someone at the national office who will then take this project seriously. If it went national, I’m not saying I would need to be the chief officer of the project — I essentially want to give it to them — but it’s knowing that someone would take on this work load and believe in this project as much as I do.

Moses: For me, it’s the ideology of a funding model — one that could make residual income for CYS or even a different program under CYS to then be that money generator for all the different programs we run. I also would like to see more connections or curriculums and internships that could be a pipeline for people in the community who might not be in college but would still like to take classes. And lastly, making our space a more user-friendly nonprofit center and innovating the whole center.

Jade: I’m very impressed and inspired by what Moses is doing in lifting up the generation and breaking those stereotypes that older generations have or fears that hiring individuals have in the community. They should be welcoming Millennials!

Read more about Jade’s work here and Moses’ work here.