South Sound YMCA’s First EMLE Conference was Power-Packed


The South Sound YMCA recently wrapped up its first regional EMLE conference. EMLE stands for Emerging Multicultural Leadership Experience. “It was an exhilarating experience designed to provide opportunity to emerging professional staff of color,” Executive Director of Community Engagement Kyeshia Likely shares. “It brought black and brown leaders together to rejuvenate and scale their careers.”

a woman sitting in a crowd is smiling
Young leaders of color came together at EMLE, Emerging Multicultural Leadership Experience, for professional development. The event has organized by the South Sound YMCA. Photo courtesy: South Sound YMCA

YMCA Holds Intention to Diversify Leadership

The South Sound YMCA stepped up to the challenge of including people of all sorts. Meaningful personal and social change emerges from working together, regardless of age, income, background, health, race or gender. The YMCA decided to launch the first EMLE in the northwest.

EMLE is an immersive learning opportunity tailored to emerging leaders of color. Participants explore anti-racist principles, strategies for fostering belonging, and tools to break down structural racism. It fosters success in challenging times.

Kyeshia and her team geared up to plan a program and identify regional speakers. The event was promoted widely. Local attendees ranged in age from 19 to late 30s.“There is never enough opportunity to engage the multicultural base,” Likely shares. “Seeing these multicultural leaders feeding back to the younger members is the way I am changing conversations for the future.”

large group of young professionals in a conference room
The Emerging Multicultural Leadership Experience, which was hosted by regional YMCAs, kicked off with a social for participants to get acquainted and network. Photo courtesy: South Sound YMCA

EMLE Leadership Conference Highlights

The South Sound YMCA partnered with the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties and the Tacoma Center YMCA. It was hosted by the YMCA in Tacoma for a central gathering place.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Karen A. Johnson (Dr. J.) brought her decades of leadership experience in government and nonprofit organizations to the forefront. She is an unapologetic change agent. Johnson served as the inaugural director of the Washington State Office of Equity, has owned several successful small businesses, and has earned a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy, a master’s in public administration, and a doctorate in Urban Services.

Johnson says she will not rest until equity and justice freely flow for all people, nations and generations. The presentation encouraged self-awareness and life-long learning. She believes each culture has notable leaders who left legacies, and that multicultural leaders of today can learn from their journeys.

A team of BIPOC professionals from WSECU talked about personal finances and looked to the future. Young leaders examined multicultural wealth building, including understanding saving, investing and budgeting in relation to economic success.

Phil White is the deputy commissioner for the Washington State Employment Security Department. He explained how to improve dialogue while navigating social justice in the workplace. Leaders can become more competent to lead teams and organizations towards a more inclusive and equitable future.

young man laughing
Young professionals learned together with peers at the EMLE event which was launched for the first time in this region by our South Sound YMCA. Photo courtesy: South Sound YMCA

YMCA’s EMLE Leadership Conference Workshops

Jasmine Faulk-Dickerson engaged participants with conversations about mental health, drawing boundaries, and mastering conflict resolution skills. Other workshops covered interactive leadership and emotional intelligence. People talked about building and motivating your team.

There was thoughtful sharing and exploring experiences. Skill building was emphasized. There was even a special time called “Off the Record!,” where participants joined other leaders to ask whatever questions were on their minds. The social event the evening before the day of workshops gave people time to mix and mingle.

Attendees came from California, Oregon and Illinois. The National YMCA holds an EMLE on alternate years. This region plans to host one annually. The 2024 Regional EMLE will be held on November 6-7, 2024, with the location to be determined.

two people go to hug each other with people around them.
The recent EMLE, Emerging Multicultural Leadership Experience, was engaging and inspiring for young professionals in our area. Photo courtesy: South Sound YMCA

Find Your Involvement with the YMCA

Anthony Brock, principal at Thurgood Marshall Middle School, is also a South Sound YMCA board member and the current board president. “The YMCA is one of those organizations that reflects the community,” he says. Anthony is grateful the event was launched. “It’s awesome to see folks implementing this and bring it to our community,” he says. He also noted that Olympia does have experts right here to present on these topics.

Our local YMCA is proud to be part of professional development and supporting people to be their authentic selves. Sometimes it is about opening doors that others did not know even existed. The South Sound YWCA really holds a high BAR (Belonging/Achievement/Relationships) for creating a place to belong.

It’s easy to become a member. You can join singly or as a family of varying configurations. The Y is known for child-centered activities, but there are also classes for adults. “You can still have a connection to you even if it’s indirect. You don’t have to have kids in care,” says Anthony. You could volunteer with youth sports, become an instructor, and much more. Find enrichment programs, activity schedules and more on the South Sound YMCA website. Your generous support is truly appreciated.

South Sound YMCA Locations

Briggs Community YMCA
1530 Yelm Highway SE, Olympia

Plum Street YMCA
505 Plum Street SE, Olympia

Shelton Family YMCA
3101 North Shelton Springs Road, Shelton


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