Ebony Flowers is the kind of inspiration future generations should be looking for. Living up to her name ‘Flowers,’ her growth at Sustaining Way has brought new opportunities that allow her to flourish. Ebony’s journey to Sustaining Way was ignited by her passion to do something great. Having earned a Bachelors of Science in Biology, she wanted more than just a lab room with no windows. Ebony wanted a community, a career that allowed her to have purpose.
“Going into a sterile environment, into a room that has no windows, and sitting all day logging information about specimens…it was very draining for me. So I began to look for other opportunities.”
After conducting online job searches, Ebony ran across an executive coordinator position at Sustaining Way. Although she wasn’t immediately hired for that position, Sustaining Way’s founder Rick Joye saw a light in her and hired her on as an assistant coordinator. Within 6 months she was promoted to the Community Engagement Coordinator. She took a chance on these roles, following her heart instead of the safer option of working in a lab with a predictable set of tasks.
“Not to sound spooky, but getting involved with Sustaining Way felt like destiny to me. It was really good matchmaking.”
“When I met with her, I could see the passion and desire to be a leader. I knew that she was going to do great things but needed an opportunity to find where her unique calling was and a place to show what she was capable of.”
Upon meeting Rick Joye, Ebony felt that she had been given an opportunity to be a leader. The Nicholtown community resonated with Ebony in many ways. Being an African American, she was able to understand the challenges of a primarily black community. Knowing those struggles personally, she wanted to impact and empower residents in a way that could move them forward. Ebony credits the support of her community in helping her become the first college graduate in her family, and she wanted to keep that support and inspiration flowing.
“I’ve always been someone who’s eloquently angry at some of the injustices I’ve seen growing up. Whether those be racial injustices or injustices against women. This is my way of making change.”
For Sustaining Way’s Steward Fellows, Ebony especially wanted to be a role model. She wanted her time with them to feel like a ‘your story is my story’ moment. Seeing the kid’s eyes light up as she told her story was moving for her. She wanted them to feel empowered, to show them that they, too, have a voice and can make a difference.
“Talking to the youth is important because when they see someone that looks like them, that’s been through what they’ve been through, they’re more open and comfortable. That made me feel needed.”
As a coordinator, it wasn’t always easy to engage with Steward Fellows. After eight hours of schooling, teenagers can be tired and ready to go home. That was a challenge for Ebony, but she was determined to keep them engaged. She began teaching social media to them, how to use it, but most importantly, how to use it in a positive way. It was then that she really felt a connection.
“My story boils down to being able to get the youth engaged. To have that engagement and hear them talk back and forth. It resonated with me and I realized this was something I wanted to do.”
Inspired by teaching social media to the youth of the community, Ebony is now looking towards a career in communications focusing on advocacy and social justice. What wakes her up in the morning is knowing that every day she’s going to a job that’s making the world better. She craves more than just being a comment warrior, she wants to be the person on the ground working hard for a better future everyday. Ebony is also considering going to law school to give herself even more opportunities.
“Rick put his trust in me to handle Sustaining Way’s social media, and that’s when I flourished. Sustaining Way gave me the room I needed to grow. It’s something I will always appreciate.”
“You can’t just go out and get a successful job, and not come back to your community. You have to come back and give back and pay it forward. They need you to show them that there is hope.”
As Sustaining Way’s Community Engagement Coordinator and social media expert, Ebony found her calling. She also created allies and friendships within the organization that made her feel like she wasn’t alone. Without Sustaining Way, Ebony said it would’ve taken her much longer to realize her life path.
“You get to learn how to serve. It’s not just about your wants. It’s about what’s best for the community and how the organization can prioritize that. That’s what leadership is. It’s not telling someone what to do, it’s about helping others grow and gaining trust.”
-Story Captured by Kali Llano