Brittiney Jones is not a stranger to life obstacles. In fact when life gave her lemons, she made the best lemonade out of it and ended up founding her own non-profit organization. While in High School, Brittiney was emancipated at an early age and began paying bills, essentially becoming an adult. It was while working with a case worker she realized that there were not a lot of resources for people similar to her. Upon completing her bachelors from Western Michigan University, she moved to Chicago and founded Chicago Youth Opportunities Initiative, an organization serving youth who are wards of the state in Chicago. While maintaining a full-time role she managed to recruit 7 Board Members, 4 Associate Board members and over 20 mentors to the nonprofit. Let’s find out more about Brittiney.
- Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I attended Michigan State University my first year out of High School for 3 years and finished at Western Michigan University due to some financial hardships. Looking back I’m so glad I had the experience to attend a large school and a smaller university. There’s so many perks to each and I’ve learned so much along the way. Currently I’m working in Chicago for a technology company within Human Resources. I enjoy traveling, learning new things and the outdoors.
- Where were you 6 months after college?
Six months after college I began working in sales for a technology company. I created a pretty easy transition for myself. During my last semester I attended our universities career fair where I passed around my business card, resume and interviewed on the spot with a variety of different companies. Shortly after I had some offer’s coming my way and secured a job. I knew early on that I had to began to plan for the next step in my life.
- How did you get into the HR field?
While working at my prior company I was contacted by a recruiter through LinkedIn with the opportunity to join a start-up tech company. At the time the company was working out of an incubator with a little over 32 employees and looking to scale. I accepted the job offer because I wanted to have the opportunity to be apart of a company from the ground up, see things happen in real-time and be able to create an impact within the organization. During my time working I began to take on special projects and proved to my CEO that I was deserving then managed to transition from sales to a promotion to a role focused on talent acquisition and development. I wanted to be challenged and further my skill set, I sought out an opportunity with greater responsibilities and landed a managerial talent acquisition role with a myfirst start-up organization.
- You are a serial entrepreneur, how do you stay on top of things while managing your personal life?
I use a philosophy called Eat the Frog First. It’s about doing what you don’t want to do first and getting that out the way. I’m a huge fan of list. I love the idea of writing things down and crossing them off as they get completed. I also love calendar invitations. My life both personal and professionally are driven by Google calendar invites. Friends will send me calendar invites for dinner, festivals, the beach and I’ll block off my personal time based on priorities like CYOI, emails, reading etc. I’ve also been looking into a new app called Sloth to focus. It’s a timer and I use it like a game.
5. Tell me about your organization Chicago Youth Opportunities Initiative.
Chicago Youth Opportunities Initiative is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization consisted of a diverse group of motivated professionals who are determined to impact the community. CYOI works with foster agencies, social workers, youth advocates, and other partners to serve the ward of the state youth population. We provide our youth with educational and career resources, scholarships, and life long friendships through our mentoring program. Chicago Youth Opportunities Initiative utilizes community partnerships, mentoring, and youth development workshops to support the academic and personal growth of ward of the state youth.
- We all stumble at some point of our lives, was there ever a time during the makings of CYOI where you wanted to give up? What did you learn from it?
Creating a non-profit from the ground up is very tough. Being a non-profit organization, we struggle with not having enough funding. We have to create fundraisers and hope for donations to keep us afloat. Everyone on our team is unpaid which speaks volumes about our board, we literally love what we do and the community that we serve. One thing I’ve learned is it’s better to over communicate than to communicate less. You want to make sure everyone is on the same page, everyone has a voice and is able to contribute, and feedback is accepted.
- What does my freshman year of life means to you?
There’s light at the end of the tunnel! I remember the end of my freshman year going into sophomore year thinking like I just have to graduate. I didn’t have my first mentor until after I graduated from college. It’s nice to see a blog contributing to giving insight into the lives of other’s.
- What happened when you didn’t step outside your comfort zone?
My perspective was not challenged. I didn’t feel comfortable communicating around large groups of people. A lot of my inspiration comes from placing myself in uncomfortable situations and stepping outside of my comfort zone. I enjoy being in communities that are honest and authentic and also diverse.
- If you were to write a letter to your younger self about pursuing your dream what would you tell her?
First that its okay to fail. Your priorities will constantly shift. Life will throw curve balls at you.. And sometimes things are just out of your control. But you have to understand the idea that life keeps going regardless of anything that happens in your world. So continue to fight for what you believe in, continue to strive for what success looks like to you no matter what, because many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they decided to give up.
- Any future projects we should look out for?
Chicago Youth Opportunities Initiative will be accepting applications for our mentoring program this upcoming fall. If you are interested in learning more please contact Info@Chicagoyoi.com
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