Charde Houston Q&A

Charde Houston acts as a positive role model for young women in the Minnesota community
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Charde Houston of the Minnesota Lynx has always played an active part in the community. It's no wonder then that she was recently named the recipient of the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award for her charitable contributions in 2010. The award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the characteristics of a leader in the community and reflects Staleyís leadership, spirit, charitable efforts, and love for the game.

Houston took a few minutes of her time to chat with about her organization, the work she does for others, and what the future has in store for her continued efforts that aim to improve the lives of those around her. For the past two years you have organized your Christmas with Y.O.U. initiative, but what else have you done in the community?

Charde Houston: I run a weekly focus group here in Minnesota with Perspectives Inc. and basically just teach girls about issues in the community that they face as young women. So we meet every Monday and just talk about issues with self-esteem, the importance of practicing safe sex or leadership, career-building, goal setting and things like that. Where do you hold those meetings and how do you get people involved?

CH: Actually just through the Perspectives Inc. Basically what they do is they reach out to mothers and their children who are recovering from addiction, and theyíre like the only corporation in Minnesota that does that, so thatís a great thing. I just go to Perspectives and use one of their rooms there. What kind of stuff do you do with the girls in the group?

CH: I have six girls that I really mentor. And I pick them up during the week and just spend time with them. If theyíre feeling bored and I donít have anything to do Iíll pick them up and just spend time with them because Iíd rather them be with me, a positive role model, than for them to be doing something that could possible get them in trouble. And this is all your own organization?

CH: Yes. Itís kind of evolving. I just wanted to start off by holding the focus groups but then once you get involved with the young ladies you just want the best for them all the time. So even when Iím away from them, all is safe with them, all is right. They always have a way of contacting me. Theyíre always like, ďWhy donít you hang out with me,Ē you know, one-on-one, and I canít say no to that. So if Iím not busy then I definitely pick them up and weíll just hang out for the day and whatnot. When you go out with the girls, what kind of things do you do with them?

CH: It just depends on my day. If one of the girls wants to hang out and she asks me what Iím doing for the day and Iím like, ďIím just running some errands,Ē then theyíll say, ďOh itís OK. I donít mind running errands.Ē So weíll run errands. A couple of weeks ago I was hanging out with one of my youths and there was this store called Platoís Closet that sheís been into but Iíve never been to. So we took a trip to Platoís Closet and she was just kind of showing me around and then we went to the pet shop and we held puppies. She wants to be a veterinarian, so we just went and held a couple of puppies. I donít think we necessarily have to spend money or anything like that, but itís more so the time that you spend that makes a difference to them. Would you say your organization continues to grow, now that youíre well into your second year?

CH: I would say in the amount of participants, no. But in the amount of time that Iíve spent with these youths, yes. Itís more that Iíve developed personal relationships to where they can talk to me about anything. When theyíre bored they can call me, they donít have a problem or feel uncomfortable calling me or asking me to come get them or hang out and stuff like that. I want them to look at me as a big sister and not someone who trying to rule with an iron fist, so I think Iíve done a good job of establishing sort of a sister-to-sister relationship. Outside of running errands and having some fun, do you find yourself talking about things like college and school too?

CH: Yes, actually itís something that I incorporated this year. We have a couple of girls who are going into 10th grade and Iíve been talking to them about when they fill out a college application and it asks you about your community service, so weíre going to get out into the community and volunteer with organizations and whatnot. Just get them out there and understand that itís very important to give back to the community and weíre going to start working on resumes. In talking with Marie Ferdinand-Harris in the past, she was someone who made it a point to emphasize how girls can use basketball to further their education. Is this something that you do too?

CH: I do. For me, my organization is not really focused around basketball, but I do have a couple of basketball players and of course they can kind of see what basketball has allowed me to do in my life, but I just really try to stress the importance of having a goal and having a dream and whatever it may be you can obtain it as long as you put yourself on the right path to achieve that goal. Is there an age limit or do you anticipate remaining a big part of these girlsí lives?

CH: I canít imagine myself just cutting these girls off, especially the ones who really want to do something for themselves. Thereís people that Iíve known since I was in the sixth grade and they had to cut me off. And to this day, itís kind of like how dare I think about cutting them off. Once youíre in my program youíre always a part of me. Always. It doesnít matter how old you get or how old we think they are but theyíre always able to call me and ask me anything. Youíve emphasized the importance of playing a part in the community but what is the main objective of Project Y.O.U.?

CH: Our main objective is to provide focus groups and workshops to educate them on certain issues in relation to their life. Weíre in July now and I remember you mentioning during your Christmas project that it takes some time. Have you started to line up a family and prepare for that?

CH: Yes. Iím kind of working already to meet and figure out exactly what we want to do for July in terms of starting early. We figured itís a lot easier to start early rather than do six monthsí work in two months, which weíve been very successful at doing but at the same time we want to give people enough time to be able to contribute to our fundraisers. With everything youíve done and everything youíll continue to do, how does it feel to receive the Dawn Staley Award in honor of all your contributions?

CH: It feels really good. Itís affirmation that not only me but the staff that are a part of Project Y.O.U. are doing great things in the community.