Why I Joined The Board Series: Ashley Shuler, Membership Services Chair
Written by Ashley Shuler
Picture It. Circa 2014. A young girl walks into a classroom at the graduate campus of George Mason University. She spots several African American people gathered together talking about social issues and professional development.
This young girl didn’t say a word. She would periodically sit in the back, peep in and listen. Dassit.
She would learn that this gathering wasn’t casual in nature, but intentional. There was a spirit among this group: camaraderie, excellence, and service.
That young girl, a grad student at George Mason University encountered her first experience with the Urban League with the Northern Virginia Young Professionals Chapter.
I joined the Northern Virginia Chapter because I felt a sense of needing to serve beyond myself. I remember telling my coworkers: “I’m going to this Urban League meeting. I don’t know what to make of these people. I’m a bit nervous, but I love the mission.”
Once I became a member, I got involved in various activities from Personal and Professional Development to Community Service to Membership Committee. I started to tell EVERYONE I encountered about the Urban League.
Finally, I found a home, a sense of belonging.
It wasn’t too long because I heard the buzz about elections. I initially wasn’t going to join the board because I felt that I was too new, and too inexperienced. And I thought to self, “Self, Uhhhh…do you have the chops to run for office AND WIN?”
I had to quickly remind myself that: you aren’t playing small anymore. Do the Scary Thing. What’s going to happen? Is someone gonna take your lunch money? (come on CVS snacks!)
I decided to put my name for Communications Director. I was running against a powerhouse (who is still a powerhouse to this day), what was my strategy to win? How would I pull this off?
Fast Forward. I didn’t win that position. However, there was a second chance: Board Appointment to become Board Secretary. I had an opportunity to sit back and let others step in or really start thinking strategically about my leadership journey.
I remember this scripture playing through my head: Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
I had to check my motives and my reason for joining the board. It wasn’t about getting a title. It was about how I can lend my talents to help this organization further the mission of equity and justice for my community.
Here’s what surprised me. By joining the board, I was not only sitting at the table, but building the table with other leaders. As a young professional, my ability to strengthen and learn new skills paid off personally and professionally. I learned the importance of relationship management, operations, and strategic planning. These skills and opportunities would help me in gaining promotions and launching my business.
What I love most about being a YP is not that you are not restricted to one role or identity. Within the past 2 years, I found myself starting a new stage of my leadership journey. So when I joined Thursday Network, I needed to challenge myself. So, I journeyed into new territory that would force me to learn a new skill set and perspective. I quickly joined the Fund Development Committee because I knew nothing about fundraising. And that’s the beauty of the Urban League. It’s a place where you can try new things, grow, and be yourself.
As we continue to navigate a new way of working, living, and navigating life, creating community has become a necessity. The vision for Membership Services Chair was simple: transforming the member experience by creating connection within the community. As an organization, we’ve created so many impactful experiences from National Day of Empowerment, MLK Day Weekend, Join Week 2022, Instagram LIVE Member Series, Sips With Sis, and countless other connection infused activities.
Serving with Thursday Network has redefined my leadership system, enhanced my skill set, and most of all invigorates my commitment to justice, equity, and service.
For anyone who is interested in joining a nonprofit board, Do It Unsure. Do it Scared. Do it Now.