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Community Leader Spotlight with Tanya Tucker from America’s Promise

Tanya Tucker, chief of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships TTfor America’s Promise Alliance, will say farewell to America’s Promise at the end of November as she begins an exciting new adventure. She will leave an impressive and lasting mark on America’s Promise and we’re sure on many of you.

Tanya’s work with America’s Promise began in 2005 directing the planning and execution of professional development events designed to encourage greater focus and collaboration within communities to see that all young people receive the Five Promises. Since then, she has played an essential role in the work and initiatives of America’s Promise: 100 Best Communities, the GradNation campaign, GradNation community summits, the GradNation State Activation initiative, the Every School Healthy campaign, Youth Workforce Fund, and partner engagement—just to name a few!

We too often limit the definition of “expert” to those who hold certain positions or have certain degrees. Young people are the experts in their own lives. Families are the experts in what they need. If we change how we think about that term, we’ll see there are experts all around us. All we have to do is listen.”

Tanya has always been passionate about her work at America’s Promise, and she’s had a hand in much of the success we have seen across all our work with communities, partners, and funders. We took a moment to sit down with Tanya before she left to reflect on her time at America’s Promise and to hear her parting words for the GradNation community network. 

What have been some of your most memorable moments while at America’s Promise?

I’ve been able to take part in some spectacular America’s Promise events and convenings over the years. We’ve been fortunate to attract high-level VIP speakers and leaders including Presidents Clinton and Obama, Vice President Biden, and former First Lady Laura Bush. We’ve also had a host of celebrities and entertainers like Magic Johnson, Common, George Lucas, Fantasia, and many others. 

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Even with all that star power, what I always remember the most are the moments I got to hear from the local leaders in the trenches helping our young people every day. Hearing stories from leaders like Angelo Gonzalez with the United Way in Albuquerque, Sarah Hemminger who leads Thread in Baltimore, and Sondra Samuels heading up the Northside Achievement Zone in Minneapolis have inspired me and illustrated how challenging and rewarding this work can be.

What successes are you most proud of from your time with America’s Promise? 

I’m most proud of the how the community network has grown through the years. When I first started at America’s Promise my role was to help build and lead a community network and provide resources, strategies, and tools that would support their work. 

I started working with 12 communities in deep and sustaining ways, and now the community network has hundreds of communities represented, all working in their own ways to make sure young people have the Five Promises in their lives.

Has a particular philosophy guided your work? 

I’ve always tried to approach my work from the lens that everyone has inherent capabilities and assets. Young people are more than just the challenges they face. 
Sometimes we are so busy trying to fill the gaps we don’t recognize and build on the gifts and talents that are already there. 

There’s lots of work to be done. I have confidence in all of you that collectively, we can unlock the promise of America for every young person.”

I’ve also learned that we too often limit the definition of “expert” to those who hold certain positions or have certain degrees. Young people are the experts in their own lives. Families are the experts in what they need. If we change how we think about that term, we’ll see there are experts all around us. All we have to do is listen.

What message would you leave with the GradNation Network? 

Keep pushing on in this critical work! Surround yourself with allies and champions to help grow and sustain impact. Listen to the young people and the families that you are trying to support. Celebrate every success and tiny bit of progress. 

It’s easy to see where we are falling short instead of taking a minute to acknowledge the few steps forward that were made. Know that America’s Promise is here to support you, elevate your work, connect you with others to learn and problem-solve, and be your national champion. 

There’s lots of work to be done. I have confidence in all of you that collectively, we can unlock the promise of America for every young person.