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As part of our commitment to the community, WomenUp Network strives to engage members who embody community service. WomenUp Member Rhonda Staley-Brooks embodies this commitment. As a founding member of our organization, we have had the pleasure of witnessing Rhonda’s leadership and communication skills firsthand. Now, as Rhonda departs from her chair as Executive Director of the Nehemiah Emerging Leaders program and begins her new journey as SMUD’s Community Development, Outreach, and Education Manager we sat down with Rhonda to chat about her time at NELP and what her plans are moving forward.

You’ve been the Executive Director of the Nehemiah Emerging Leaders program since 2016, and before that, you were the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Sacramento; what is it like to work in the nonprofit sector and how will your role at SMUD differ from your other two roles?
I had the great fortune for working for two non-profits that make an incredible impact in our community. There are a lot of rewards being an NP leader and there are a lot of rough days. The rewards are the difference you can make in the community. For BBBS, over 200 kids served per year. For NELP, 151 graduates that have taken their place on over 272 Boards and commissions in the community. The reward to me is when a Big tells me the story of how they are still in touch with their little after 10, 20 years and that I had some small part of that relationship. For NELP, seeing that our Fellows are serving at many levels, some Board Chairs of organizations or commissioners is incredible. In my new role as Manager of Community Development, Outreach, and Education, the only major difference is that I don’t have to fundraise. In this role, I get to work on partnerships, develop internal leaders, work with Non-profits through contributions and volunteerism and educate our youth on energy efficiency. This was an amazing opportunity for me to effect change on a grander scale.

Tell me about the last Nehemiah class of your season as Executive Director of the Nehemiah Emerging Leaders Program. What was it like serving your last cohort, how did this cohort differ from the others?
Class X was phenomenal. What a treat to be a member of Class I and see it all the way through to Class X. It’s like watching a dream come true for those who were in the room in 2008-2009 when they had a vision of hat NELP would be about. All cohorts have their thing. Class X was about not standing for the status quo. Push the envelope and not take it from the professionals when they were more than capable of running things themselves. They questioned how do you make power moves in a town that is ok with this is how we always did it. They gained mad respect for challenging the way it was.

What are you most excited about in your new role with SMUD and what will you bring with you from your journey with NELP?
I’m excited to bring a new perspective into an organization that is over 70-years old. SMUD is at an exciting time to work here, challenge the way we always have done it and be able to make a big impact from whatever chair you sit in. My journey with NELP has taught me to live within my strengths and empower others to do the same. This will enable me to work with any workgroup that I encounter.

What can we expect to see from you in the next five years given your new position with SMUD?
I’m just getting started… learn the business, blend my community roots into the fabric of SMUD, boy, I have so much on my mind, but it’s only day 18!

We’d like to send Rhonda a big “THANK YOU!” for sitting down with us. If anything Rhonda said resonated with you, feel free to comment your thoughts and questions down below.

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