Howard University – B.A., English
Almost 3 million children living in the United States have a parent currently serving a prison sentence. As chief operating officer of a Boys & Girls Club of America affiliate servicing over 3,000 at-risk youth in the South Bronx, Sharon Content saw a need for specialized support for kids experiencing the trauma and social stigma of having an incarcerated parent. Children of Promise, NYC (CPNYC) was founded to provide holistic services to children and families in desperate need of intervention, advocacy and support through after school programs, summer camps and one-on-one mentoring.
Since 2007, CPNYC has serviced hundreds of children with academic enrichment, mentoring and mental health services. With all that on-the-ground impact, it might be surprising that Sharon’s resume didn’t begin in education or social work, but rather in finance. Seemingly disjointed, Sharon asserts that the variety of her person and professional experiences is a critical component to the success of her vision. As she puts it, the road to fulfilling her vision has just as much value as the goal itself.
A ‘no’ is a part of the experience leading to a ‘yes.’
How do you organize your day?
Since I live in Bergen, New Jersey, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. I answer emails and schedule conference calls and meetings. I then travel into Brooklyn, New York, as the agency’s operating hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. While in the office, I manage a variety of the day-to-day operations for the agency.
What types of responsibilities fall under you as founding executive director and president?
In addition to managing the vice presidents and directors of the agency in day-to-day operations, my primary responsibilities are in strategically establishing the vision and development of CPNYC’s credibility and sustainability. The agency’s credibility is integral in providing quality mental health and after-school/summer camp programming for the children and youth we serve. This will support us in expanding our work and opening additional facilities in other high need communities across New York City with Harlem. Sustainability is crucial as we raise funds to maintain the agency.
What aspect of the Children of Promise, NYC mission drives you forward each day?
I am driven each day by the agency’s mission to provide children of incarcerated parents with full possibilities. Many children that we serve feel that they are limited and without options. The mental health component of the agency allows the children to work through and process the stigma, shame and secret of having a parent in prison. Through our programming, the children we serve can process these difficult issues becoming positive young people.
What qualities do you look for in those you hire to be a part of your team?
I look for individuals who are committed to the agency’s mission, to supporting young people and to the development of CPNYC. This is not just a job. Our staff takes initiative in solving problems. They introduce their ideas for new concepts and procedures and bring them into fruition. You can hire anyone to do a specific job, but I look for the value an individual brings to the agency. This value will advance the agency from organizational operations to direct services programming we provide our youth.
Do you feel that you have a good work/life balance or do you have more of a work/life integration?
I have a work/life integration. There is a certain amount of time and effort necessary to commit to development of the agency, and this commitment does interfere with other responsibilities. As the agency grows and we hire strong individuals in key positions, I hope my time commitment to the development of the agency will decrease.
What is an accomplishment on your resume that you’re most proud of?
I am proud of all aspects of my resume – my finance background, English degree and leadership experience in the nonprofit sector. These experiences led to the establishment of Children of Promise, NYC. The development of the agency has been the most fulfilling as it was my personal vision in my basement nine years ago. I am very proud that we have grown to serve 350 children annually with a staff of 45 members and a budget of almost $3 million. The variety of my experiences allow me to drive into a place of employment daily that I truly love.
What are three pieces of career advice you wish everyone knew and understood?
The first career advice I wish everyone understood would be to establish a goal and stay committed to that goal. Second, really appreciate the experiences you have in reaching the goal – whether negative or positive – these are experiences to honor and respect. I give the same advice to my daughters: Give the road to your goal value. Finally, a “no” is a part of the experience leading to a “yes.” Respect the difficulty and respect the “no.” These short falls and failings are important. A “no” is not really any different from a “yes.” Rather, it’s an indication that you must find another strategy and keep moving forward.
What would you be doing now, if you were not doing this?
I would probably be a principal at a school or working with young people. I would have a career that would allow me to utilize my experiences and skills to positively impact and improve the lives of young people, disenfranchised families and low-income communities.