The executive director of Common Denominator, Williams works to create ecosystems of sustainable learning and provide access to opportunities in fragile communities to promote social mobility and economic independence
What’s the inspiration that drives your work?
My mother was a powerful role model and she instilled within me the importance of giving back and helping others. She bestowed upon me a wealthy inheritance of inner riches including self-esteem, self-confidence, self-efficacy, and self-determination; coupled with access to external riches such as mentors, educators, and sponsors, to ensure my future success.
These real-life experiences, coupled with my undergraduate and graduate studies, provided me with the opportunity to learn about the value of having a commitment to education, the benefits of coaching and mentorship, and the importance of developing ecosystems of sustainable learning in fragile communities, to promote social mobility and economic independence.
How does the work of your organization positively impact the community?
Common Denominator’s mission is to help in-need middle school students love math and build confidence through tutoring and mentorship. Our goal is to ensure education equity for all. Our students identify with math, build confidence through math tutoring and mentorship, and develop a keen interest in math as it relates to the world around them.
Common Denominator successfully transitioned our in-person program to virtual within two-weeks of the shelter in place order and continued to provide core foundational math tutoring for in-need students and families in a fun-filled and safe environment.
To meet the ever-growing needs of our students, we partnered with struggling schools, corporations, and community-based organizations, to provide daily tutoring during the school day and out-of-school time. As a result, we increased our daily math tutoring sessions by 100% and offered small group tutoring, encouraging peer-to-peer learning. At Common Denominator we bring people together to ensure that our communities continue to thrive and grow.
What’s your superpower?
I am passionate about empowering women, children, and families in underserved communities, so that they can move from poverty to prosperity. This type of work is a calling and every day I rise to answer that call. I use my superpowers to break down barriers to success, serve as a voice for the voiceless, and assert my role as a change agent to help individuals rise above their circumstance, no matter their socio-economic background, zip code, or assumed trajectories. Every child has the right to dream, to experience happiness, to feel secure, to be empowered to pursue their education and career goals, to ignite their inner passion and achieve self-defined success. I proudly answer that call!
What’s a tip you have for women rising in nonprofit leadership?
Tip #1: When an opportunity for promotion comes your way, do not hesitate to throw your hat into the ring.
I read a study that changed my outlook on reviewing job descriptions, forever. In the study, which surveyed women and men in leadership roles across the employment and demographic spectrum, both women and men would be given a job description with five key responsibilities. Women would review the five key responsibilities and if they did not possess one out of the five responsibilities, they would opt out of applying for the position. However, men would review the five key responsibilities and recognize that they only possessed two out of the five responsibilities and not only would they still apply for the position, but they would think that it was acceptable to learn the other three areas on the job.
Tip #2: Do not hesitate to garner a powerful mentor that mirrors you and shows you what can be obtainable.
What’s your favorite place in New York City?
My favorite place is Harlem. Although I am a Bronx native, I love the rich heritage, robust culture, and diversity of Harlem. Harlem has it all, good people, eateries, attractive music clubs, lounge bars, art, and activism.