Nonprofit professional Karon Hamlet of Visions Blu Institute discusses org’s mission

KHamlet_closeup_10.1.14What is your name, the name of your organization, and your title with the organization?

Karon Hamlet, Visions Blu Institute, Founder | Executive Director

What is the mission of your organization?

Our mission is to increase the number of youth that are well trained in digital media and news literacy with applicable job skills and business acumen, ultimately fostering college/job readiness.

Discuss your role and responsibilities.

–Developed after-school and summer program curriculum.

–Increased grant funding and summer program income by 150 percent.

–Train and supervise program 5-8 program instructors per year.

–Develop and execute programming, special events and business development initiatives.

–Secure corporate sponsorship support from companies such as Volvo, American Airlines, Kodak and Motorola.

–Created the organization business plan with marketing, media, and communications integration.

–Conduct target market research, analyze student-centered data, decipher trends.

Who are the immediate beneficiaries of the services your organization provides?

Youth ages 9-18

What are some of the best practices you’ve found for developing and implementing programming?

Target research and insights; Youth advisory; Always seek ways to improve

What are the two most important ways you generate revenue to sustain your organization?

Fundraising and grant seeking.

How do you utilize technology to better serve your benefactors and to communicate your mission?

Our programming is developed around technology. We utilize computer labs (mac), tablets, students’ iPhones, etc.

Why is service important to you?

Youth, at times, are not able to discern what’s real from the often scripted media outlets of which they engage their time. The everyday, media centric activities of students and some adults tend to influence behavior, consciously, but other times unconsciously. Advertisement, music, reality shows, scripted television shows, news and social media elicit certain behaviors and perspectives. For example, when a student was asked if they thought what happens in reality shows are real, their response was, “yes, they just live their lives in front of cameras.” When asked if music reflects the artist’s experience, the answer was “yes, they just tell the stories of how life is for them.” These misconceptions among others are the reason(s) we provide digital media and news literacy programming. While the above examples are stark, there are more subtle experiences (i.e. commercials affects, social media arguments, stereotypical news coverage etc.) that we address.

“So much of the media coverage surrounding Chicago youth is negative – and this is happening on both a local and national level”. “We want to give our children an opportunity to have their voices heard in an efficient way and through this town hall meeting, not only will they learn those valuable communication tools, but also what it takes to be successful in the business of media.”

Name three nonprofit organizations of equal size and scope whose mission you appreciate?

We may not be of equal size, but I appreciate the work of organizations such as TrueStar, Free Spirit Media and Digital Youth Network.

When did you decide that being a nonprofit professional spoke to your career goals?

Non-profit work wasn’t my initial career goal. However, my interest has always been in media. As a media professional, I often received inquiries about my work. It was then that I opted to inform and engage people and professionals via the Visions Blu organization.

What advice would you give to an individual looking to start a nonprofit?

Stick to your day job until you can successfully make a successful full-time transition. Talk to others in your area of interest. Research and find self-sustaining ways to create income. It’s hard work, but the reward of actually being able to witness the positive results make it worth it.

What advice would you give to a recent college graduate looking to join the nonprofit sector?

I would advise a recent college graduate to base their decision on what would make them happy, long-term.

Please finish the following sentences:

My work is fulfilling because … I witness effective changes in youth firsthand.

Effecting change for humanity means … Being a catalyst and proactive.

Giving to a social cause is good because … It means doing something for others.

I want to make a difference for humanity because … That is what I decided.

Three books and/or authors that inspire me are The Autobiography of Malcolm X, The Alchemist, and Be Unreasonable.

My two favorite vacation spot to recharge are … Anywhere with a warm beach.

The four  essential things I place in my bags when I take a trip are … My iPad, a book, a swimsuit, and sunglasses.

Two type of music I listen to on a trip are … reggae and old-school hip+hop.

When working are … jazz and classical.

Two quotes that I live by are … 1) Be better today than I was yesterday; and 2) I am awesome, do awesome things.

Three role models who changed my life are … my mom, my mom, and my mom.

The Real TJ Crawford (on twitter @tjcrawford4real)

The real TJ Crawford (@tjcrawford4real) is a hip hop generation, social entrepreneur building community via words, deeds and actions.





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