Nonprofit leaders are changemakers, community leaders, and cultural innovators. It is important to showcase the ways dynamic leaders are driving social change through their mission-driven work.
Today, we hear from Demetrious Amparan, Executive Director of Young Chicago Authors (YCA). Amparan is an artist and leader with eleven years of experience as a manager and director in the nonprofit sector.
Young Chicago Authors is dedicated to empowering young people from all backgrounds to understand the inherited value of their stories and experiences while reimagining their possibilities through the power of words and language. YCA operates on the premise that unlocking the potential of Black and Brown youth will lead to more inclusive and equitable communities.
“The people you serve need to be at the table for the decisions you make on their behalf. Be true to your mission and responsive to your community as the need evolves and changes.”
Your career has taken you from positions in marketing and communications to your current role as Executive Director of Young Chicago Authors. Tell us about your path to leadership and your work to ensure access and equity for underserved youth in your hometown of Chicago.
My path to leadership began as a young person in the spaces that I lead today. Young Chicago Authors encourages young people to cultivate their power and use it for positive change in their community or chosen path. I have kept those same values close as I have experienced a multi-faceted 15-year career as an artist and nonprofit director. My work focuses on strategies that deconstruct the untenable structures and barriers in underserved people’s lives. This consists of a lack of access to education, healthcare, and even joy. As I continue this work, my goal is to create a multimillion-dollar impact fund powered by Black and Brown philanthropy in Chicago.
How have Young Chicago Authors’ needs evolved over the past few years, and how has skills-based volunteering empowered your organization to overcome these challenges and further its mission?
Young Chicago Authors has reached an interesting time in its 31-year history. Teaching young people to write poetry blossomed into an organization that is now home to a multi-disciplinary field of young creators. My responsibility as a leader is to professionalize systems and funding opportunities so that this work lives way beyond my legacy. YCA started collaborating with the Allstate State Foundation to address racial equity through a skilled volunteering program hosted by Common Impact in 2021. Skill-based volunteering has helped us with our long-term strategic planning and ensures that generations of young people can experience its benefits as their needs evolve.
What advice do you have for fellow nonprofit leaders who are considering engaging in skills-based volunteering but aren’t sure if it’s right for them?
I would encourage nonprofit leaders to be clear on what they want to work on, be intentional in the process, and keep their communities top of mind. Skills-based volunteers are tasked with giving custom support and tools relevant to the current nonprofit needs. Volunteers empathically meet nonprofits where they are in their development and infrastructural situation.
What actions can corporate professionals, leaders, or philanthropists take to support and amplify the work of Black-led organizations?
I sincerely believe that support of Black-led organizations starts with getting to know the communities these organizations serve. This will empower fellow philanthropic leaders to make the most impactful decisions in partnerships with community leaders. At Young Chicago Authors, I am consistently creating pathways that best support our youth. Sometimes that may look unorthodox in comparison to mainstream structures of operation. The same inherent inequities that impact the Black community also affect fellow Black and Brown leaders’ levels of success. Yet, Black leadership is strong.
What’s one leadership lesson you have for current or aspiring nonprofit changemakers?
The people you serve need to be at the table for the decisions you make on their behalf. Be true to your mission and responsive to your community as the need evolves and changes. Never consider yourself the center of this work – no human in history has ever been remembered fondly that way. Instead, let your identity shine and do your best for the people you hope will allow you to lead.