Changing Mindsets, Changing Community – Libby Kyles

Written by Dannie Frey, Breedlove & Company

In community development, it is all too often that we see an opportunity where our passion overlaps with a surrounding need, however there’s typically an absence of available funding to address that need. Leave it to women leaders (as we are celebrating women) who will take the initiative to develop and spearhead programs which focus on the populations who would otherwise be overlooked. Here is such a woman, our very own Libby Kyles and her story:

“I spent over twenty years in the classroom.  I began as an instructional assistant, but was inspired by the teachers and students that I worked with to go back and obtain my degree.  I taught seventh grade for four years, 3rd grade for four years, and 5th grade for ten years. As a classroom teacher I worked diligently to build community and provide new opportunities for success on a daily basis.  I used life to teach the curriculum that I was charged with teaching, and created opportunities, through field trips, for my students to experience history and experience black people with a view other than that portrayed in the media and their immediate surroundings.”  

“In 2014, I co- founded YTL Training Programs, Youth Transformed for Life, which now works with students from 1st through 12th grade. YTL was born out of the passion that I shared for teenagers who struggled academically, socially and emotionally. For five years I operated as the unpaid Executive Director.  Under my leadership YTL launched GRACE for Teens, Growing in Responsibility by Accepting Challenges Everyday Summer Camp, which has provided free summer camp for teens for the past five years; GRACE for Teens Afterschool In addition, YTL has facilitated girls groups at Vance Elementary School for the past five years, and had provided in school advocacy for students for the past three years.”

When asked why her work matters to others, Libby’s answer caused goosebumps and tears to rise… “I would imagine that for parents, who have sometimes experienced similar struggles as their children, it is a comfort to know that there are people working with their children who, to a degree, understand their struggles and still believe that they are beautiful, valuable human beings. For the students served by YTL, I hope it matters that they have a safe place where they are allowed to make mistakes, with the understanding that tomorrow is a new day!”

With all that has happened over the past 20 years around the safety and structure of public education, as a society we have collectively come to appreciate how challenging it can be now to protect the minds, hearts, and bodies of our children. Libby explains what the struggles are for educators, parents, and students now face.

“I think that in terms of students, the education world is recognizing more the role of trauma in the lives of students and how mindfulness can be a life skill that offers opportunities to self regulate.  Teaching students how to breathe properly and use their breath to regulate their bodies and control their responses and temper reactions is critical in addressing our educational woes! YTL is working to ensure that participants have that understanding!”

By changing the mindset greater opportunities exist. The biggest growth, opportunity and struggle in the area of education all related to mindset.  Change is hard! Changing one’s mindset is even harder. Mindset change for educators, students, parents and community in general is going to be where this war is won or lost  We can’t continue to do what we have always done and think in the ways that we have always thought and expect students to learn and grow.

The Citizen Times, 2019 Teachers Rally

Compassionate, confident, and capable are the three top traits Libby identifies with in her life. She explains, “my journey has not been an easy one and because of my own life experiences I have a deep sense of concern for others.  That concern drives me to do and be my best so that I may be a part of creating positive change for others. My confidence and belief in others and their ability to do, and be makes me an eternal optimist.  That eternal optimism develops my drive and strengthens my belief in my own ability to be a way maker for others!”

“My journey has not been an easy one and because of my own life experiences I have a deep sense of concern for others.  That concern drives me to do and be my best so that I may be a part of creating positive change for others. My confidence and belief in others and their ability to do, and be makes me an eternal optimist.  That eternal optimism develops my drive and strengthens my belief in my own ability to be a way maker for others!”

– Libby Kyles

Her Role Models

When asked who were the two or three women who have had an impact on her life, her answer was no surprise. “The women who have influenced my life can’t be limited to 2 or 3.  For me, the strong women in my family have shaped and molded me into the woman that I am today.”  

 My mother, Pearl, made sure that my I knew I was going to go to college, it was never an option, it was an expectation.  

 My grandmother, Libby, taught me that I  had a responsibility to myself and to my community to be and do my best.  I learned by watching as she took care of her family and her neighbors.  

 My aunt Constance taught me to think about money differently.  She lived a life of abundance, not weighted down by bills. I was in awe of how she paid bills months ahead so it wasn’t a worry.  

 My aunt Geraldine taught me to rise above the fray! She taught me to live my values and to not allow anyone or anything to hold me down in the muck!  She always reminded me that misery loves company.  

Most recently, my aunt Yvonne has been an example of how to live transparently, defying folks talk and their expectations.  

Libby’s Leadership Advice

Yes, rules are made to be broken, we are so grateful these women have shaped you into the woman you are today. 

Elijah Cummings said “My life is based on pain, passion and purpose.”  If you are not sure how to get started start by examining your pain! In that examination what is likely to be discovered is your passion and your purpose!  Your journey is yours alone and while you might look to others as examples, no one can walk out your purpose but you.

We are excited to see what 2020 will bring as Libby has a new position as the CEO of the YWCA. “I am looking forward to maintaining strong community connections, building new relationships and promoting mindfulness not only in children, but also in adults.  I hope that with the coming year the YWCA will have a greater presence as we work to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.” 

We join you in your focus for 2020 Libby. Congratulations on your new role at YWCA and thank you for continuing to serve our region with such integrity.

CONGRATULATIONS!

2019 WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP AWARD WINNER

Libby Kyles is a 2019 Women’s Leadership Award Winner in the category of “Education.” This article was written to tell her story and recognize Libby as an exceptional female leader in Western North Carolina. A video interview will also be released in the B&Co Blog.

Want to see Libby accept her award at the upcoming 2019 Economic Bruncheon? Tickets are available for a limited time at www.economicbruncheon.com