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Meet Trailblazer Josette Hutton Evans

Today we’d like to introduce you to Josette Hutton Evans.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Josette. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
From a young age, I developed a belief deep in my soul that everyone deserves the right to a great quality of life, full of opportunities to learn, live in environments that are safe, and grow to their full potential regardless of where they live, or what they look like. I was very involved in community service and student leadership throughout my life growing up.

It wasn’t until I was overseas serving on a committee representing my hometown of Macon GA as the Sister City to El Mina, Ghana West Africa for the International Cherry Blossom Festival many years ago that I really got inspired to put a strategic plan together on what “education as a human right” could even look like.

During my trip to Ghana, I met the son of an executive that was on the board for Harlem Children’s Zone. This was pre- 2002. Before they were recognized by President Obama or the 60 Minutes Special, it’s funny how the world works. I was so inspired by their work to create zones and educational hubs city blocks at a time back then that on the airplane ride home, I created the manifesto of what would eventually become the six foundational pillars on our business plan from which all MetIncPowerCo service still flows from to this day. That was almost 18 years ago. I still have the paper napkin with all my little notes and ideas. It’s now in a frame in my home office.

What I felt back then, and what I can definitely recount now through the many lives we’ve touched over the years, is that we are all in a phase of life that is meant to grow us, stretch us, challenge us. Little speedbumps along the journey don’t have to be forever stop signs. Sometimes a person just needs help to find how to keep moving forward, after yielding a little bit to learn a better way to arrive at success.

My manifesto read, “in order for people to evolve, they’ve got to be able to strive and reach beyond the obstacles facing them now.” That truth hasn’t changed. Look at anything MetIncPowerCo has done over the past 18 years and you will see that manifesto peaking through in all of our marketing, wording, and strategic initiatives in some way. To those who don’t know the backstory, It may seem like a typo to have the “a” there instead of an “o” in our name, but it’s there on purpose. Everything is for a reason down to the building blocks for the community that you see in our logo.

I come from a long line of educators, entrepreneurs and what I call “way makers-” You know, the type of people who stand in the gap and help make a way when someone is in need because they know someone or have a connection to a resource. Growing up my siblings and I were always taught to give back to our community and the importance of education. I watched my grandmother, my mom, and countless others do things that at the time I didn’t realize were trailblazing things. It was just who they were and what they did. Nobody in our family ever told us the word “can’t.” And so, I didn’t adopt it into my being.

Later that same premise would become part of the lifeblood of our programming for our students, especially with our #WITHSTEMUCAN program helping students and their parents transition from a fixed or “I Can’t” mindset into a growth mindset.

With all things, we want our students to approach a challenge thinking with “I CAN, I just haven’t mastered it YET” so that behaviors shift into finding pathways of success in subjects like math, science, reading, etc. We are very intentional with how we engage youth and the caregivers that surround them. We only have them for hours at a time, our main focus is to provide them with seeds that will forever bloom in their lives as they grow and continue to nourish them for years to come down the road.

In order to evolve into your best self so you can continually strive for a better life, you’ve got to be able to thrive despite the challenges that will be present in your life. Mindset is a big function of being able to do that, so we start there. My favorite quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson is “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” I strive to stretch the minds of our participants every chance we get.

As I look back, I’ve had an amazing career spanning almost 15 years in corporate America, and I was sharing recently with friends of mine that I came to realize it was all preparing me to do this work. During my time working in that space, it allowed me to grow as a leader of teams, get my hands dirty in the realm of operations, leverage my skills in sales and marketing, data and analytics, be accountable to C and D-level executives, and even stretch my wings in the project management space and become a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.

I did well, but I always knew my heart was in helping create a-ha moments in the lives of children and connecting the people who cared for them with the resources that could make that happen easier. When faced with a big layoff a couple of years ago, I had a choice to stay with the company in a different role or make a move. I knew I was called to be one of those way makers- standing in the gap, and I recognized the universe was forcing my hand to get out of my comfort zone.

I am proud that I made the decision to step away from comfort and step into what I’ve always known I was called to do. It has made me feel so fulfilled when we connect families to resources that make a difference in their lives, or I get to see kids get really excited about learning a new skill. My background in a corporate and data-focused industry leant itself nicely with teaching kids and their parents with a design-focused mindset. But doing this work has also helped me stretch my mindset and helped me grow as a person. I’ve stretched in so many different ways as a leader, as a wife, mom, and entrepreneur- I wouldn’t change this experience for the world.

Now that I’m a couple of years into my transition from the corporate sector it has given me an opportunity to begin to scale our operations slowly and deliberately seek out partnerships in the community.

In the Spring of 2016, I took my time and sought out as many learning opportunities as possible, taking the ten-week course put on by United Way of Greater Atlanta called United Way VIP, which stands for Volunteer Improvement Program. Over those ten weeks, I learned all of the necessary skills and earned a certification that prepared me to serve on an executive nonprofit board. From there, I invested in a business coach and some additional programs where I became certified as a nonprofit executive to learn all the things founder-CEOs need to do to successfully run a nonprofit.

From there, I put together an Executive board, built momentum for our programs leveraging key partnerships, and increased the number of times we offered programming throughout the year to create our current baseline. That is how we developed some awesome partnerships with Microsoft, The Home Depot and Hobby Lobby for our STEM program, from there we created strategic partnerships with local libraries and 2 Barnes & Nobles stores for our community-based Reading program, and most recently some exciting partnerships I can’t wait to announce for our Youth Entrepreneurship program later in the year.

Our mission to turn everyday places into public learning classrooms to equip students in their pathway of success, support families in healthy foundations, and help communities thrive where historically underserved citizens live, work and play is so critical- in this way we provide people with services right where they are and bring the resources to them in spaces they are familiar while removing barriers of access to quality education opportunities. Through this framework model, it creates an additional way for us to listen to residents, lean in and be more inclusive in the decisions we make, learn what potential partners already exist so we don’t reinvent the wheel, and become part of the fabric of the community instead of trying to operate as an isolated silo.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Running a nonprofit outside of working a regular 9-5 like many people who are passionate about serving the community brings tons of challenges. It definitely hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been fulfilling and something I am proud to do. Over the years, we’ve learned how to become more agile in our processes, seeking ways to leverage resources that are free or spur in-kind support, especially with program supplies. Being intentional about when we serve, where we serve, not taking on debt, being flexible in how we serve, stepping back to see what impact we make and focus on quality over quantity, and not duplicating services has helped keep us going when so many small nonprofits like ours have dissolved.

Like I shared earlier, I ran from my calling for a long long time, because for a time I was comfortable. Similar to a lot of emerging business owners and entrepreneurs out there, I had to learn that putting action to my passion and doing it through the fear, through the mistakes and the self-doubt that can bring on, doing the work despite the challenges- it all makes for testimonies and lessons you can pass along for those who come after you. It prepares you for the next day, the next challenge, the next opportunity.

Those lessons I like to call tools in my arsenal belt of life. And just like with my students who come to our programs, I remind myself every day, even when you fail, remember to fail forward like John Maxwell says- meaning learn something from it that makes you wiser, stronger, faster, better in some way so it wasn’t all for nothing. I share with students that one of my favorite quotes from Maxwell says that, “a mistake is just an investment in the human success..”

The advice for other women I would give is to kick limiting self-talk to the curb. Mindset matters, and a lot of times we can talk ourselves out of a million-dollar idea before we have had a chance to even write it down, form a plan, and give it legs to actually see the success it can bring. Do a self-care inventory on what your priorities are and then check and see where your time is actually spent. Do you spend a lot of time robbing yourself from success? Are you even putting in the time toward the things that are actually important to you?

Are you practicing every day becoming who you want to be, so you can believe in what you see? If not, give yourself permission to change the way you talk to yourself, think about yourself, and don’t limit your potential. Start doing the behaviors that will bring you to the point consistently of being who you want to be. I’ve met tons of amazing women that would be taking over the world right now if only they could convince themselves they deserve to be at the table, deserve to be the person making decisions, or weighing in on important things.

I would also say be open to what the lessons are wrapped inside the hard challenges you’re faced with. I have a rule- I don’t pay twice. If it costs me a setback, money, etc.. It can’t also cost me tears and vice-versa. I ask myself questions like, “what is the lesson here?” How can I have avoided this? What is this preparing me for? What new perspective do I need?

Not believing in your own superficial hype helps too- we live in a world where outside validation through our social media has taken over our sense of self-worth. Remember who you are, the fact that you matter just because you’re alive, and the number of likes and followers you have shouldn’t ever dictate whether you believe in the power of your voice, Sis, your voice matters. Period.

I’ve been the most successful when I’ve concentrated on being a sponge for learning new things and being open to learning things that may not necessarily always interest me. I had to learn balance is important, and sometimes you can work too much. Don’t be so busy working or taking yourself so serious that fun can’t find you. Self-care and a good laugh is so important. A stressed-out version of you isn’t engaging, inviting, nor productive.

There is always someone out there who knows more or has had an experience that can help you, so I make it my business to learn as much as I can, pay attention to industry trends, ask lots of questions when I’m in the company of others. I’m a planner by nature, so I’ve had to learn over the years to give myself permission to try things out as I learn to do them- and not worry about getting it perfect on the first try. Having experience even when execution is not perfect, can be an excellent teacher for what works, why it works, or not. Inviting others to give you feedback is also important-feedback is a gift.

In a place like the Atlanta area and outskirts, I also want to encourage women in business to share more. I’m finding most people struggle because they either are trying to do things all by themselves, or don’t know who to ask, or where to go for help. I would love to see more women in business serving as mentors to others. Sharing experience or resources makes for better partnerships, efficiency, and scalability in your own project.

We’d love to hear more about your organization.
I love any opportunity to share about MetIncPowerCo, so thank you! Metamorphasis Powerhouse Company (@MetIncPowerCo) is an award-winning federally recognized nonprofit where our mission is to turn everyday places into public learning classrooms to ensure all people have access to quality education opportunities regardless of where they live. We help students evolve into their best selves by equipping them with life skills rooted in a growth mindset and create pathways of success in grade-level reading, STEM, financial literacy and youth entrepreneurship.

We do this through in-school immersion partnerships before and after school, as well as out-of-classroom community-based workshops, camps, and project-based initiatives. We support healthy family foundations through our Parent University workshops, and by convening resources with community partners to increase health and education equity. We help communities thrive by removing barriers to education where historically underserved citizens live, work, and play leveraging technology, and being a dynamic mobile provider by informing and training communities on what we know about educational needs.

Currently, we provide programs or partnerships in 6 of the 13 counties identified by the Child-Well Being Initiative provided by United Way of Greater Atlanta. In 2020 we are intentionally targeting zip codes that have a Child Well Being Index score of less than 65%, schools that have been identified as low-performing, areas with a high unemployment rate, or are deemed a rural market.

Every quarter we host a community learning lab in a public space including malls, retail establishments, local small businesses, libraries, places of worship, and places of entertainment. During community learning labs we teach a fundamental building block rooted in STEM, literacy, finance, or healthy living component. Community Learning Labs also serve as a time where we host mini-town halls for parents where we collect data related to challenges attendees are facing in their local communities that we are able to share with local stakeholders.

Our signature programs for youth are our #WITHSTEMUCAN workshop series, our Just Say YES to Reading series within elementary schools, our popup Storytime-N-Pop Literacy Program with Kid Authors, and our Being The CEO of ME Youth Entrepreneurship & Mentoring Program.

Each year during the 1st weekend in May we turn Microsoft at Lenox Square Mall into a 6-hour STEM festival we call Just Say YES STEM FEST to celebrate and raise awareness around GA STEM DAY and immerse students, parents, educators, and STEM clubs into the wonderful world of coding, computer science and other STEM fields. Year to date, we have served more than 680 students and parents, 125 educators, and 16 STEM clubs. This year for our 4th annual Just Say YES STEM FEST happening on May 2nd we are bringing STEM Mentors representing some of the top 30 STEM fields to share their journey into their STEM field, as well as a Parent University workshop giving parents some pointers on how to help their middle and high school student best prepare academically. We have a special segment for educators to learn how they can leverage free resources through Microsoft at their schools, as well as how to become Microsoft Innovator Educator (MIE) Certified.

Throughout the year our Just Say YES to Reading program is responsible for hosting a storytime series with local daycare centers and partnering with libraries like South Fulton Library to support reading initiatives especially for students entering Kindergarten through the 4th grade. During the summer to help ensure reading regression doesn’t happen, we choose 3 Kid Authors and take them on a tour of Barnes & Noble stores and local libraries to do a popup Peer-to-Peer Storytime reading the kid authors’ books with a book signing and book giveaway, inviting students to write their own stories, and providing parents resources on how to inspire their students to read. We provide sight word challenges, project-based activities that families do together on-site and back at home, leaderboard challenges leveraging apps like Kahoot It, and track summer reading by providing students incentives on their journey to read up to 100 books.

Our Being The CEO of ME pilot program last year has yielded an elementary school student that just launched her own lip gloss line, students who have created their own apps- it’s amazing to see the students navigate from the planning phase to sourcing materials, beta testing a product, learning how to navigate operations, sales and marketing and customer experience. I get so inspired seeing the focus they have. One of the major differences in our program is we focus a lot on the character it takes to be successful not just as a kiddie business owner, but successful academically, emotionally, mentally. We focus on the whole child and invite the family to also learn fundamentals that make a world of difference in how successful a student can be.

I tell our students all of the time, “you take you everywhere”- in every challenge, obstacle, and opportunity who you are will always show up- so first, know who that is. Before you can run anything outside of you, you must first be able to run yourself. That’s why I coined our program Being The CEO of ME. I’m excited about kids being interested in being their own boss, but I’m even more excited helping kids understand what it means to be a well-rounded leader and to have the skills to not only excel in business but all areas of their lives. Being sustainable as a kid entrepreneur takes the right mindset, hard work and dedication, support from your family and the community. I’m the most proud about the fact that our programs don’t just focus on what’s trending, and we don’t just limit our programming for the youth enrolled in the workshop.

When we created the pilot, It was very important to us that our students and their families get the right information about creating balance, take the time to create a sustainable business plan, and receive sound business advice from experts so it’s not just a cute hobby, but a way of creating generational wealth. I know there are a lot of programs out there where the focus is mostly on product creation or online businesses and that’s great. That’s not what we do. We’re in it to win it for kids, building blocks for not just right now, but where they have the potential to be in the long run.

For parents, based on survey feedback, we have decided to host more themed meetups we call Parent University. This year I’m really excited that we are beginning the year partnered with the US Census Bureau and Fair Count to help parents understand why the 2020 Census is so important, as well as provide an opportunity to resource people with the correct information about getting counted, and why it’s so critical to the amount of resources that will be provided where they live.

Our 2020 focus is to:
1. Help ensure children enter school ready to learn and are able to read by 3rd grade.
2. Provide opportunities for youth, parents, and educators to engage in STEM education, while preparing students for college, technical school and careers- both traditional and entrepreneurial.
3. Close the intergenerational gap between adults and children so we can reduce the amount of disaffected and disengaged youth, leveraging project-based learning activities, mentoring, and growth mindset strategies.

I have tons of things I am proud of from spanning the gains we are making with students in literacy to our steady progression with our STEM program inspiring historically under-served students, especially girls, minorities, and students living in rural areas to engage in STEM-based activities.

As we continue to create partnerships that allow us to expand our reach with the community intentionally targeting where people live, work and play, I’m also very proud of the traction we are gaining buckling down and taking the time to gather the data, evidenced-based information that will help us create relevant, impactful programs and services for years to come.

If anybody out there would like to help with our efforts, we welcome nominations to our Advisory Board. Email us at nominate@metincpowerco.org to receive information.

We are a proud member of the Team GA Marketplace and welcome partnerships in education, early childhood initiatives, youth programming related to STEM, health and wellness, financial literacy, and collaborative opportunities as a supplier for schools, faith-based institutions, and partnering for grant-based opportunities. To speak about partnership opportunities, please email us at partnerships@metincpowerco.org or email me directly at Josette@metincpowerco.org.

Do you recommend any apps, books or podcasts that have been helpful to you?
I am a podcast junkie! I religiously listen to the Entreleadership Podcast, Nonprofits are Messy Podcast by Joan Garry, The Big Life Journal’s new podcast, Woman Evolve Podcast by Sarah Jakes Roberts and Snapjudgement by Glynn Washington.

Apps I use to help me maintain balance and centered are the Shine app, my health apps on my smartwatch and the Bible app. Apps I use to keep my sanity in this ever-changing world of connectivity are Slack, Evernote, IFTTT, Planoly, LastPass, Google Drive, Instagram, and Canva.

Some of my favorite books I’ve read recently have been “Girl, Stop Apologizing” by Rachel Hollis, “Successful Women Think Differently” by Valorie Burton, every single Simon Sinek book, “Daring Greatly” and “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown, “The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact Without Burnout” by Beth Kanter and “Value Proposition: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want” by Alexander Osterwalder.

Being a lifelong learner, I’m addicted to Udemy, and as a mommy, I am forever grateful to Kids YouTube, ABC Mouse and the all of the Endless apps: Reader, Alphabet, Numbers, Spanish- you name it, we’ve got it on a tablet at the house.

Pricing:

  • Sponsorship deadline for our 4th Annual Just Say YES STEM FEST is April 24, and sponsorship opportunities are available ranging from $125 to $1,000 available on Eventbrite or our website.
  • Deadline for students to enter our Just Say YES STEM FEST T-shirt Design Contest is February 29 at 5pm. Participation is free and open to all students 6th grade and up. To enter, complete the entry form on our Instagram Profile or Facebook Page.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Patrick Evans

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