September 20, 2019
Each employee brings something a little different to the United Way table. Whenever we receive the opportunity to showcase their stories, we ask the questions that matter – because why we come to work every day goes far beyond what people see at the surface.
We knew we could count on Great Families 2020 Director Ceceily Brickley to dig deep and share how her recent promotion, personal and professional background, passions, and advice for future generations encapsulates a word we may often hear, but rarely unpack. For Ceceily, the term, “legacy” isn’t just what she’s leaving behind – it’s the confident, introspective, and vulnerable leadership she’s using to inspire others to lead more intentional lives.
Before Ceceily embarked on her journey with United Way, she found herself in life situations out of her control.
“At one point, I lived in public housing,” she revealed to us. “My family lives in South Bend, Indiana, and that city has a lot of subtle disparities. Home ownership being uncommon in my family made me realize I wanted a different experience for my children.”
As Ceceily entered college, she didn’t set out to join the nonprofit world, in fact, she was a pre-law student. Through her experiences at Indiana University with professors and fellow classmates, her interests blossomed into starting larger conversations around macro-level issues, equity and society. Through the support of a college advisor, she joined a group of students that took a trip to New Orleans each year over spring break. The program, called Youth Advocating for Leadership and Learning or Y’ALL for short, gave students a chance to experience New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, where they lived in a co-op and were responsible for restoration projects throughout the lower ninth ward.
“That trip exposed me to a reality that so many people were living at the time,” she said. “Nobody in these neighborhoods cared about politics or the events they saw on TV following the storm. They just knew that this was their home.”
After her experience in New Orleans and other opportunities abroad, she joined United Way as a program officer in 2017 and was eventually promoted to senior program officer before her accepting her latest role as director. Her calling to serve populations struggling to achieve home ownership inevitably drove her to a career in real estate as well – an industry that’s immensely shaped her time here so far.
“My roles at United Way have helped me connect what is happening at the macro level to what is happening at the community level,” she admitted. “The Two Generation (2Gen) model and expanding our capacity around this approach both on the local and national level requires strong technical skills, relationship building, and confidence – transferable skills that I find myself using both here and in my everyday life.”
Ceceily proudly acknowledged how her predecessor, Amandula Anderson, helped her discover the significance behind her why.
“Amandula has been one of the most significant leaders I’ve had in my young career,” she shared. “She taught me to work for myself first. Her bringing her authentic self into work every day gave me permission to do the same.”
The lessons she learned under Anderson turned into leadership skills she is constantly refining and serve as a reminder to anyone considering a career in nonprofit that the environment of our work is one that demands excellence.
“We are not just capturing dollars and investing those dollars into the community,” she warned. “Our work is a public benefit that is a necessary function of society. It is important we take our work seriously and understand the gravity of what we do.”
As a resident of the Kennedy-King neighborhood, Ceceily gravitates towards Mass Ave often – appreciating the walkability she has to various restaurants and venues. She also enjoys biking on the Monon Trail with her significant other and is intentional about supporting small, black-owned businesses in our community near and dear to her heart.
Real legacies start at home. For Ceceily, that home has taken many forms and yet, she still manages to deeply root herself in ways that have taught her valuable life lessons anyone can learn from.
“Discovering yourself takes time, energy, and effort,” she concluded. “My legacy encompasses my family. It encompasses my future. And most importantly, it encompasses the present. How you do one thing is how you do everything – I have an unwavering belief in myself.”