Another side of me…Many of you who know me, know that my passion is to assist others to tap their potential and become the fullest and most authentic expression of who they are–to be engaged in life, to have healthy relationships, and contribute to the greater good in meaningful and sustainable ways. I am blessed to be able to do so in my ‘day-to-day job’ as well as in my philanthropic service.
Some of you may know that in addition to being a leadership development consultant, I also serve as Vice-President for The SELF Movement, a young and growing not-for-profit organization, for which I wear several hats, including handling strategic operations, community outreach, and am involved in program development such as our signature Learn Earn Give (LEG) and our new initiative Teen Safe Driving programs.
I was recently overcome with gratitude when learned I was nominated to receive the HandsOn Community Award from HandsOnJacksonville.org. It was both an honor and humbling experience knowing that I am only one of so many people in our community who make conscious choices to give of themselves everyday to enhance the lives of others. As part of the award process, I was interviewed by Ashlee Gaudet from the University of North Florida, whose enthusiasm and professionalism I admire.
I share the interview Ashlee submitted to the Times-Union here simply to give you a glimpse into another part of my life, a part of which you likely are unaware, but a part that gives me sheer joy–philanthropic service. I hope it inspires you and encourages you to talk to your loved ones about the value of conscious leadership and how our youth can demonstrate leadership qualities and social responsibility today. Enjoy, and feel free to reach out with any queries!
When Jennifer Connell was in high school, the opportunity for college scholarships and first-hand inspiration from community leaders were few and far between.
Connell persevered through college and graduated with a master’s degree in organizational systems. Two years ago Connell joined an organization called The SELF Movement, which is currently providing the kind of help for students that Connell wishes she had received in high school.Connell wished there had been an organization like The SELF Movement when she was in high school.
“I would have loved to be part of a group that was being introduced to real world leadership perspectives, opportunities for community service and the opportunity to learn and grow together with my peers—not to mention earning extra money for college would have been a big help to my parents and me!”
Because of her commitment to TheSELFMovement.org, Connell received the 2012 HandsOn Community award from HandsOn Jacksonville.
Bill Bade, a local leader in the finance industry, founded The SELF Movement in April 2010 in order to connect high school students with real-world community leaders and allow them the opportunities to participate in community service and earn scholarships. The organization was founded on the idea that everyone has the ability to consciously choose their path in life. “The ingenuity of www.TheSELFMovement.org rests in its simplicity,” said Bade. “It is a simple call to action by a small group of established community members that has grown into a regional movement.”
Connell joined the organization only two months later and rapid progression in the organization’s projects followed quickly.
Though she began as a volunteer, Connell’s dedication has allowed her to take on the role of vice president. She helps manage strategic operations, community outreach and program development.
Connell learned of the organization when she saw an online ad for volunteers posted by Bade. Connell called in response to the director position of the Learn Earn Give program, designed to develop leadership skills and provide scholarships for high school students.
Bade refers to Connell as the catalyst to The SELF Movement’s impact in the community. Connell assisted in the creation of what the Learn Earn Give program is today.
Since the Learn Earn Give program was established, students involved in the program have received scholarship money. Learn Earn Give has also introduced 40 high school students to eight different Jacksonville leaders who inspire the students by sharing their real-world leadership perspectives and experiences.
“Jennifer is one of the best assets to our organization, and her innovative, contagious, and entrepreneurial ideas deserve to be recognized just as much as the countless hours she has poured into the nonprofit community.”Bade said, “The SELF Movement provides a support structure for those that need it to make positive choices and an outlet for community leaders to give back to those less fortunate.”
Connell said she has been regularly involved with service projects and volunteer teams throughout her life. Connell’s volunteer past, prior to The SELF Movement, included delivering holiday meals to the hungry, bringing clothes to people in need, providing a home makeover to a struggling New York family, and assisting with thousands of seminar participants during personal growth weekend retreats.
Connell said two other organizations she enjoys working with most are Challenge Enterprises of Northeast Florida and ShapingClay.org of Clay County>.
Both Connell and The SELF Movement has exciting plans for the future.
One of the projects the organization is currently working on is a Teen Safe Driving video contest which partners with Duval County Public Schools, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and The Allstate Foundation. Videos will be judged on educational value and creativity and the student winner will receive $1,500 in scholarships and $1,000 toward public school improvement.
The SELF Movement plans to continue to expand by creating mutually beneficial partnerships between for-and not-for-profit organizations in order to further enhance student’s impact in the community.
“Overall,” said Connell, “we have inspired those who have participated in our programs to develop leadership and compassionate qualities to engage in the larger conversation about how to contribute to solutions in their community.
“I believe that one of the greatest acts of loving-kindness is to give to others without expecting anything in return,” she added. “However, when I am able to be of meaningful service, I receive a phenomenal gift in return in that my heart becomes filled with gratitude and joy! Indeed being nominated for the HandsOn Community award is touching and humbling because there are so many extraordinary individuals in Jacksonville whose acts of meaningful acts of service uplift so many people every day!”
By Ashlee Gaudet, University of North Florida