Beyond the Bio feat. Elycia Cook
March 11, 2021 @ 6:30 pm - 7:45 pm
About this Event
Each of us has an essential story that leads to inclusion, builds connection, and has the power to bring about change. Beyond the Bio is a healing storytelling series featuring key influencers in our culture and community. During these interactive workshops we will dive into the stories of these inspiring individuals beyond their impressive biographies. We will also engage in individualized workshops to empower your individual storytelling, to create space for healing, empowerment, and community building.
About Our Featured Storyteller Elycia Cook, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Colorado
Elycia has fifteen years of experience working with positive youth development programs in the nonprofit sector. She has managed federal, local and state grants with multi-million dollar budgets. Her diverse employment history also includes strategic planning, sales & business development, fundraising, board and employee development, community, corporate and national partnerships, sales and corporate training, teaching, event planning and cross-cultural relations in the business and public sector. Elycia received her Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Marketing degree from Wayne State University, graduating Cum Laude. In 1989, she received a full-ride scholarship to the Japan Center for Michigan Universities studying language, Japanese culture, art history, religion and business. She lived and worked in Japan for eight years, is fluent in the language and has spent time in 12 countries for business and leisure.
Under Elycia’s leadership at FRIENDS FIRST, she led a major shift in the organization’s mission and focus. By moving away from taking a singular approach to positive youth development, she led the transition to a whole-health, whole-child approach. This important change meant shifting from a teaching organization to a more defined, evidence-informed mentoring organization. Elycia and her amazing team zeroed in on an innovative, group cross-age peer-mentoring model that has a revolutionary and brilliant approach to solving the mentoring crisis. The STARS (Students Teaching About Relationships and Success) mentoring program looks at the most vulnerable youth from an asset-based lens as opposed to deficit-based. It also contributes to very important equity work as this program seeks to provide young people with more mentoring relationships with those that look like them and are from within the same communities. We know that representation matters. There are many benefits to having mentors. Especially those in which you can find common ground and common experiences.
As an extension to the importance of equity in mentoring, a goal to solve the mentoring crisis where 1 in 3 teens do not have a mentor and the mission of FRIENDS FIRST, Elycia led FRIENDS FIRST to adopt the expression MentorLife. This means training teens always have someone investing in them, and to pay it forward by always investing in someone else. Today the FRIENDS FIRST peer-mentoring program is in 10 states, more than 30 schools, and is one of the premier peer mentoring organizations in the country.
FRIENDS FIRST is a thought leader in peer mentoring on a national level. In 2014, Elycia received the Woman Making History award from Colorado Black Women for Political Action. In 2015, the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority presented her with the Community Leader of the Year award. In 2016, she received the Aspire Award for her work with teens by Trilogy Financial, and won the very prestigious award of Professional Fundraiser of the Year from the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In 2017, Elycia received the African-American Making A Difference award from the Urban Spectrum news publication. In 2019, she was recognized as a Girl Scouts Woman of Distinction. She is also graduate of Leadership Denver class of 2019. In 2020, Elycia was a Denver Journal Outstanding Woman in Business and in her opinion; she reached her greatest milestone, when she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in Mentoring in 2020.
Today, Ms. Cook is the Program Director for Jack and Jill Inc. South Suburban Denver Chapter, serving on the Executive Board. Elycia has a seat on the Community First Foundation board and serves on their Community Impact and Philanthropic Services Committee. She also serves on the board of Social Venture Partners Denver and on the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee. In 2009, she founded and originally financed the Cherry Creek STARS Mentoring Program. From there she led and mentored teens and for several years has supported teens with cause advocacy by escorting several groups to participate in Mentoring Day on the Hill in Washington, DC. Elycia continues to mentor many young women. She also leads two powerful workshops for youth and/or adults. One is about overcoming abuse and building resilience. The other is about engaging youth in their communities and as mentors.