Cidra Sebastien – 2010 Fellow

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this area?

I am the Associate Director of The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, a Harlem based non-profit that provides holistic and comprehensive programs and services for youth ages 6-22. In 1997, I had an life-changing opportunity to study in South Africa with one of the Co-Founders and Board Chair of Bro/Sis. We developed a lasting bond, and they in turn became my mentors and allies. After interning at Bro/Sis in undergrad, I became a full-time staff member, and was then promoted to join the Directors Circle, the leadership collective that runs Bro/Sis. I have always known I would be an educator and mentor to youth. I didn't know I'd have the opportunity to do so with such an amazing organization.

What is your strongest characteristic and how has it assisted you in your career?

One of my strongest characteristics is my "go hard" attitude. Working with youth who come from families that are economically poor or marginalized because of race and gender, I see what they are up against daily - pervasive violence, mediocrity in education, prejudice - and I know I must be an educator and advocate who will work relentlessly on their behalf. This work is challenging but my "go hard" attitude is contagious inspiration.  It motivates me, our staff and youth. The rewards are in all the times members of Bro/Sis achieve, or keep getting back up to try again.

Describe three lessons you have learned during your career?

1. Your silence is agreement, so always speak up and share your ideas or objections.

2. Leadership is about professionalism, accountability and integrity.

3. Have a network of professional supporters that includes a mentor you can tell anything to, a connector who will point you to resources and opportunities, and a person who will always tell you when you're messing up.

What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?

This is a tough question to answer because I often feel there is so much more for me to accomplish. For now I'll say my biggest accomplishment is still on the horizon.

What have you learned about politics and civic life through the fellows program?

The CUP Fellows Program has provided a great opportunity to meet political representatives, a campaign adviser, an incumbent, and consultants. Having face-time with these people gave me a chance to learn about politics through a variety of lens.

What advice would you give someone running for office for the first time?

People want to vote for someone they trust, and is capable of doing work that will benefit their family and community.  Give a consistent and concise message about who you are, what you value and what you will do. Have an organized and knowledgeable team of people working with you to run a successful campaign. Run a campaign with integrity, know the issues inside and out, know what your constituents want, and be ready to fight.

What do you do in your free time?

In my free time, I travel and write poems and short stories. I love listening to good music, especially that of Stevie Wonder. I also love spending time with the latest addition to my family, my nephew Chase Bryce.