Today we're shining the spotlight on our newest addition to the Communities In Schools of Tennessee team, Erika Burnett.
What excites you about coming to work for CISTN?
We have a real opportunity to make a big impact in the lives of our children and families. The services that CIS provides for some of the most vulnerable scholars in MNPS assists in evening the playing field, allowing teachers, principals and support staff to execute their number one job: educating our students.
What do you hope to achieve in your role over the next year?
Over the next year, I plan to focus heavily on relationship building with MNPS and other community partners and stakeholders. The education sector in Nashville is at an important juncture; my role as Affiliate Director is to ensure that we are at the table as decisions are being made and that our brand integrity and recognition is upheld.
What does true leadership mean to you?
My leadership stance is threefold: staff development, calculated risk-taking and modeling. A true leader prioritizes building the skills, knowledge and mindset of her staff. A true leader is willing to take calculated risks and is always prepared to learn from the outcome. And a true leader models the character, values and practices she desires for her team to exhibit.
Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I’ve been white water rafting on the Nile River! (I guess I can no longer use that when I play “2 truths and a lie”) I conquered Class 6 rapids on the Nile River while studying along women and children’s advocacy groups in Uganda. (FYI it’s illegal to raft on Class 6 rapids in the US)
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Mother Nature. Her care, intentionality, complexity, provision, adaptability and resilience deeply inspires me. I seek to be a learner in her classroom daily.
What three traits define you?
I’m a servant. I figured out at the age of 12 that my life’s purpose is to serve and to be in service to others. I’m dependable. Sometimes to my own detriment, but I pride myself on being the person others can depend on. I’m a leader. I choose to leverage my leadership attributes for the betterment of communities, specifically those who have been marginalized, unrepresented and underserved.
What would you like to be your greatest accomplishment in life?
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” I have this quote on a bookmark that’s placed on my bathroom mirror. To leave the world a bit better, would be my greatest accomplishment.
What’s your favorite Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?
I attended a Halloween party as Angela Davis one year. My costume came complete with a huge afro and black leather jacket.
Where is your favorite place to be?
Can I pick two? 1. My garden because it’s magical! 2. My mother’s bed, burying my face in her pillows and inhaling the faint scent of her perfume.
You're hosting a dinner party. Who are the 3 people, living or dead, you would invite and why?
I would invite my departed ancestors Dr. Maya Angelou, Nina Simone, and Dr. Dorothy I. Height because I could sit at their feet absorbing their wisdom about leadership in the face of adversity, education, social conditions, and race relations and then we could sing, dance and laugh together! Now that’s a dinner party!
Click here to learn more about Erika's professional background.