I’m honored to share this special finale interview of Season Five of the Mother’s Quest Podcast. Each season, I invite one person from my inner circle to interview for the finale. And this time, I knew exactly who I wanted to be in conversation with...a mentor and coach who has had a tremendous impact on the person and parent I am today, Leslie Medine.
I’m releasing this episode on December 21st, 2020, on the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, in honor of a great coach Leslie and I had in common, Edd Conboy, who passed away in March of this year.
In perfect synchronicity, before I recorded the interview, I found an email from Edd written at the solstice 15 years ago, that reminded me that the light we so often seek, especially in our darkest days, resides within ourselves. It’s fitting, because one of Edd’s greatest gifts was to create reflective space, get curious and ask a powerful, illuminating question that would help me, Leslie and so many others find our answers within.
Leslie and I met and worked alongside one another for a decade at a youth organization she founded in Alameda, CA called Alternatives in Action, referred to at the time as the Home Project. It was there that I also came to know and love Edd, as he led us through a practice the staff would do weekly on Fridays that we called Reflection.
Known locally and nationally as an expert in youth development, leadership and empowerment, Leslie created the Home Project and countless other organizations from the ground up in her 50 years of work in the world. She ventured into the education field at the age of 16 as a founding member of the first experimental public high school in New York State. Since 1975, Leslie founded eight schools in the San Francisco Bay Area serving infants through high school students within both the private and public sectors in addition to a Teacher’s College.
In February of 2019, she retired as Executive Director of On The Move, an organization focused on the next generation of emerging leaders throughout California, culminating that chapter of her career through writing and performing an incredibly powerful one-woman show for her community called “To be Continued.”
I hadn’t connected very much with Leslie since seeing her at her show, until I received an email, just as we were preparing to shelter in place last March, informing me that Edd had suffered a massive stroke and was in a coma. A week later, he passed away. But the group of us who had come together via Zoom in honor of Edd, in the midst of the pandemic, began to meet virtually the first Sunday of each month, continuing to share stories about Edd and his impact, and keeping his legacy alive through our reflective practice. We have been meeting ever since.
One of those in our group is Dr. Amanda Kruger Hill, a youth alum of the Home Project, and now the Executive Director of the Cowen Institute and a Professor at Tulane University, who brings us this episode’s dedication.
In the dedication, Amanda shares beautifully the impact that Leslie has had in her life and frames the themes of the conversation to come. As Leslie and I discuss, “to do great work in the world, you must be known and know others.” I’m so grateful to know Amanda, to know Leslie and the principles, practices and stories that she weaves together in this episode, and to know Edd, who continues to light the way for us, and remind us how to strive for greatness, even now.
A final note about this episode. You’ll notice it’s longer than my usual ones and I also hope you’ll find tremendous value in listening. I decided there was no part I wanted to cut and also that I wanted to give you the opportunity to listen to it in its entirety, rather than releasing in two parts. So, if you have more time, find a cozy spot and a cup of tea and settle in. Or if you are more limited in your time, listen for some while, and then press pause and come back when you’re ready. Make sure not to listen with your little ones present as there is some colorful language. Seize the time and space for yourself. And let the light in.
P.S. Know someone who would love this conversation? Pay this forward to a friend who may be interested.
Dr. Amanda Kruger Hill is an award-winning educational leader with a deep commitment to young people’s growth and development. She is the Executive Director of the Cowen Institute and a Professor at Tulane University.
Dr. Amanda was a design team member for BASE, the first youth-initiated high school in the United States, the Reach Institute for School Leadership, and New Harmony High, an award-winning XQ Super School. She is a former high school teacher and principal. Prior to leading the Cowen Institute, she was Director of School Reviews with New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO).
Dr. Amanda holds her Master’s in Educational Leadership, Principal Licensure, and Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Amanda received her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Johns Hopkins University. She has served as an adjunct faculty member with Columbia University, Tulane University, and Relay Graduate School of Education. She also serves on various task forces for the Department of Education. Amanda enjoys living in New Orleans with her husband, Graham, and sons, Benjamin and Louis.
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How a $200K fundraising challenge prompted Leslie to hire Edd as her coach and the running track that became a metaphor for this challenge and so much more.
What Leslie learned on that track: about insight following action, moving forward even if it's through tears, and that the race ends 6 feet past the finish line.
What a great coach can do for you and why we can’t hold our own bar and jump over it.
The difference between perfection and excellence.
Seeing children as our younger equals and the two things Leslie believes children most need.
The powerful question Edd would ask Leslie when she was in the "spin cycle" that helped her connect to her own inner wisdom.
The difference between personal and private and personal authority vs. positional authority.
Choosing In and Choosing Out and the bell from 1895 that became an ever-present part of Home Project culture.
The Practice of Reflection and the premise that emotional clarity plus critical thinking leads to effective action.
The Tarot Card I picked the morning of our interview, the "Unseen Card," and Leslie’s belief that all creative people start in the place of not knowing.
The importance of asking for help.
The story about "The Iceberg" that Home Project youth brought to the Board of the Levi Strauss Corporation and the epic quote spoken by Casey Fenton at age 15 that emerged from it.
Inspired by the stories we told about Edd after his stroke and passing, and also by the new book of love letters by Mother’s Quest member Jenjii Hysten, to the Black men in her life, this episode’s challenge is about writing or speaking love letters of our own.
Leslie encourages us to think of a person who has had a tremendous impact in our life. If they’re not aware, let them know; if you haven’t told them, think about what’s stopping you. Reflect, then take action! She also encourages us to write to our children, telling them what we see and appreciate in them.
Leslie has served as school principal, fund development director, board member, parent educator, community organizer, coach, facilities developer/manager and public relations director in all of the organizations she has run. Most of these roles were happening simultaneously!
She is known locally and nationally as an expert in youth development, leadership and empowerment by funders, field experts and program directors. Her work has been documented in articles in field and research publications, in print, radio and TV outlets and in a film documentary called “We Are Here Together”.
Leslie is known for her boundless energy, contagious enthusiasm and an uncanny ability to bring together the right people at the right time to make things happen in what appears to be at the speed of light. She has never had more than four months to open a program and get it up and running. She has always held this rigorous standard of highly effective work for other organizational leaders who have been coached by her and in over 40 organizations.
In February 2019 as Leslie was closing her chapter as an organizational leader, she wrote and performed a one woman show for her community of friends and colleagues called “To be Continued”. Its purpose was to share the personal and professional experiences that shaped her life. Currently Leslie is in the process of figuring out “re-wirement” through coaching individual leaders and volunteering time in the areas of youth-led programming, voter education for new citizens, arts-based storytelling projects as well as two short documentary films.
If you’d like to reach out to Leslie to work with her or to learn about how you can view her one-woman show, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Email Mentioned in the Episode From Edd Conboy
The year is winding up or down now – I never know which one it is – and I wanted to take a moment to let you know that you are in my thoughts, and (such as they are) in my prayers. As I went through my address book, it was a wonderful task to conjure up an image of each one of you as I added your name to this small group list.
These times, dark though they may seem, are the times we have. For the last few months I have had the great good fortune to be surrounded by some extraordinary young people (some of them are on this list!). Gradually, they are infusing me with hope, and even a little faith. Being with them has brought me to realize just how much I am dependent on them to make meaning of my life long after I am gone. I am aware more keenly than ever that this moment I call a lifetime is all I have right now. And that awareness is unimaginably liberating – a healing gift that lightens the load when I can stay in that awareness. I hope within this expansive moment, we all have many more little moments to share, moments like glass beads for all of us to string together.
Here is a link to a short meditation I wrote on the shortest day of the year entitled, The Price of Redemption. It is one of those small glass beads that I wanted to add to the string.
Be kind to yourself, take care of a stranger, and, as always, be very careful out there.
Join me and podcast guest, wellness expert and mom to two daughters with rare and chronic illnesses, Nancy Netherland in our first ever Mother’s Quest Caregiver Circle!!
I am beyond honored and excited to open registration for the first Mother's Quest Circle to embark in 2021, especially for Caregivers of children who are differently-wired, have disabilities and/or unique health needs.
Doubly honored to co-facilitate with MQ Circle alum, podcast guest, and self-proclaimed "momologist" Nancy Netherland. Nancy will be bringing her first-hand experience caring for her children with wellness practices to the Circle.
Ready to invest in yourself? And find community as you start your new year? Join us!
Not for you, but know someone who might be interested? Please help us spread the word. We start next week!