They buildOn: Missy Shields Empowers Youth With Her Leadership

This week buildOn celebrates women who are Breaking the Cycle through empowerment. It’s fitting to profile a strong female leader who has her finger on the pulse of what’s happening at buildOn’s Afterschool Programs across the nation and has been empowering youth for nearly a decade: Missy Shields, buildOn’s Vice President of United States Programs.

Missy came to buildOn over four years ago as a Program and Trek Coordinator in New York before transitioning to New York’s Regional Manager, and then her current position this year. She’s done everything from taking her students camping for the first time in their lives to helping inner city teens realize their goal of raising $74,000 to build a school. Missy takes on challenges with grace and is a constant inspiration to buildOn.

City: New York (raised in Atlanta, Ga.)

How do you manage your busy job?

You have to be available to do visits and be present. Consistency is important and making time to be in person. If you’re not really around, it doesn’t matter what you do.

How has buildOn changed your life?

Working with the youth that we work with has made me feel a lot more connected to humanity. By working with our students every day, and also traveling to build schools, we’re so much more connected to what life is about. Connecting people and sharing cultural experiences – that whole piece has been rewarding for me. Seeing the students develop and grow and being a part of that has impacted my life.

What is one of your favorite memories working with buildOn?

Last year the Bronx Center for Science and Math raised $74,000 to build a school. I was a Program Coordinator there for four years. That one was my favorite projects because a lot of people felt that school couldn’t raise that amount of money. They set the goal and we raised that much. We sponsored a school in Mali (for $32,000) and paid for a trip for 13 students and two teachers to build a school in 2011. It was a group of students that were together for three years, and they were committed to an idea. It was probably one of the best things that I got to be a part of – and I got to lead the trek.

Complete this sentence: buildOn is… an opportunity for young people to gain skills and realize they can change the world with their own hands.

Learn how you can get involved with buildOn here. Read more inspirational stories about people who are Breaking the Cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations with buildOn here.