Fellow Spotlight

Genevieve Sabala

Please describe your current role. Where do you work and what are your responsibilities?

I work for Bethany Christian Services here in Grand Rapids. I conduct client (refugees) intake and assessment to help complete Individual Service Strategy plan as person-centered case plans that define the goals and action steps necessary for attaining employment and addressing client-perceived issues and needs. I also provide comprehensive case management with clients to encourage motivation, address barriers to accessing employment, and make linkages with community resources to address their various needs. Engaging clients in work participation activities including job search classes, job skills training, and community service allows clients to reach their participation required hours. As a multi-linguist-thanks to my parents and birth place, I translate and interpret information regarding employment, medical, legal, social services, housing, and other support services available for refugees and immigrants in Kent County. I also conduct weekly individual orientations in Swahili. Supervising and designating duties and responsibilities to interns is yet another hat I am glad to wear every day.

What did you study at Grand Valley State University?

I joined Grand Valley in 2009 as a graduate student in the social work program. During this time I was actively involved in various activities including service learning projects in New Orleans and Grand Rapids. In my final year in the social work program I was the vice president for the Masters of Social Work Student Organization. I earned an MSW degree in 2011, but immediately felt that I needed more tools to be able to impact more people-do more research, expand my horizons, and write more papers too. So I went back for a second masters in public administration with a focus in Nonprofit Leadership and Management in 2011. During this time, I had an opportunity to work at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy as a graduate assistant. I graduated with my MPA in 2013. I also left Grand Valley as a member of Pi Alpha and Phi Alpha Alpha National Honor Societies.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the Cook Leadership Academy?

When I was introduced to and met Ralph Hauenstein, the person whose life and leadership inspired the Cook Leadership Academy in the Hauenstein Center that I am a part of. In my brief chat with him, there was pure passion in his words when he said that he is very proud of our commitment as aspiring leaders and that he could see the endless possibilities of changing societies through service and effective leadership. All I could say was the three letter word-YES! In that moment, it was surreal-I was speaking to this man who was on active duty during the Second World War and saw the worst that leaders are capable of. He is such a blessing to so many, and he made me feel like I had physically held one of my many blessings in my hand.

Who is one of your personal heroes? Why?

My parents, for obvious and not so obvious reasons. I am the person I am today because of the values they nurtured and raised me with: selflessness, commitment, and hard work. However, the late President Nelson Mandela is on top of my personal heroes list too. He is an inspiration and his characteristics and personality traits are incomparable. His selflessness, commitment, and courage to stand up against social injustices surpasses any human I know. I admire how he stood firm for what he believed in: human freedom, human rights, justice, and peace. Rest in peace Madiba.

How has the Cook Leadership Academy made a difference in your college/grad school experience (or beyond)?

Through listening to various leaders at the Wheelhouse Talks, I have been able to identify my own leadership styles and consciously integrate other leadership traits at work and at home. At the Economic Club, stories of how successful business individuals overcame obstacles have taken me to a constant “dream zone”. One of my favorite acronyms now is BHAG by Richard Barton, who reinforced the idea that I should not only have a big hairy audacious goal (BHAG), but that I should have the audacity to change it as it deems right. Finally, the Speak Up and Be Effective training at Varnun Consulting gave me tools that I use in meetings, trainings and I will continue to use the rest of my life.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I am allergic to denim. So, I do not own any pair of jeans in my wardrobe. I always try to eat all my three meals a day, because my belly has no shame. If I don’t, then it rumbles really loudly and only food can shush it.

What is one leadership lesson/trait you remember most? Why?

Inspirational leadership was well demonstrated by Simon S. at one of the Wheelhouse talks with his inspiring leader circle. He emphasized that inspiring leaders should communicate from the inside out by answering the why, how and what. This is because a great leader encapsulates the timeless leadership principle and reinforce purpose and vision that which leadership revolves around. I liked this trait most because inspirational leaders are charismatic, and with this ability to move people beyond pessimism, the impact in communities will be huge.


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