Thank you, Jusna.

Dear Jusna,

“The first follower is actually an underestimated form of leadership in itself. It takes guts to stand out like that.” – Derek Sivers, How To Start A Movement

Looking back, it’s almost comical. You applied for a job with an organization that barely existed. There was no staff. There was no office.  On your first day, you actually helped pick up the desks we would be moving into our new office. You carried them up and down flights of stairs…in heels.

It seems so long ago, but like yesterday.

In many ways, you are the one that made Reach real. You helped me define the organization’s beliefs and, for five years, you held me accountable to them. You are a truth teller, an advocate, and an activist.

When I imagined an organization where love and unconditionality played a central role, you never once seemed to think I was crazy. You simply loved our kids unconditionally and learned the power of that approach. You answered the late night emails, you challenged the status quo, you gave our kids hugs and, when they deserved it, side eyes.

Kyare no longer refers to women as females. Sejal has a source of constant support. Fatimah has a twin. Terrell knows he has to defend the statements he makes. Za’Metria knows she is never alone. Mylia knows what a wonderful birthday feels like. Litzi knows how incredible she is. Miles is just getting started.

And Josh is a father. He’s a caring, attentive, loving father. He’s going to be an incredible father. Josh. Look at that. Own that. Know what you did.

The impact you had on the lives of our kids is permanent. You did that with your optimism, your passion, your fire. This work is difficult, and you feel it so deeply.

I have regrets. There are things you learned from me that I wish I could take back. At times, you focus so much on the need to do better that you lose the good you’ve done. You struggle to take compliments. When I tell you that you’re amazing, you’ll struggle not to roll your eyes. You won’t believe it to be true.

You’re amazing. Don’t ever forget that. We won’t.

As we carried desks into our new office in 2011, I don’t know if you could have imagined this. We’re a $1,000,000 organization.  Next year, we’ll serve 350 kids. We’ve published 13 books. We have a summer program. We won the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize. A to Z is part of the DCPS curriculum. Kyare is a Morehouse man. Litzi will be a valedictorian. Rashaan is a US Marine.

Thank you so much. Thank you for your commitment to our kids and to the organization. No hire in our future will ever be so important. Thank you for all you have done to make the organization what it is today.

On Monday, I’ll walk into Reach’s office, and you won’t work there anymore. Reach has never had an office that didn’t include you. The transition will be hard, and you will be missed. But, like we say to our kids, we believe in unconditionality. You have a permanent invitation and a complimentary ticket to any event Reach ever holds. Employment status changes, but family is forever.

Don’t forget to visit. We’ll miss you.

With immense gratitude,
Mark

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