“Why Not” Is a Movement and a Mission

Why_Not_IncubatorJacqueline L. Sanderlin, Ed.D., is an inspiring international speaker and visionary leader whose “Why Not” attitude has led to dramatic improvements in some of Southern California’s most under-resourced schools. Dr. Jackie has served over 30 years as a special education teacher, curriculum specialist, assistant principal, principal, after-school administrator, program coordinator, district administrator and executive director of school and community engagement. She is currently the U.S. Board Chairman for WE Charity, blogs for Scholastic magazine, serves as an Executive Board Member for the Goldie Hawn Foundation – MindUp, and is a steering committee member for the Social Emotional Learning Alliance for California. Having developed meaningful community partnerships between 350+ corporations, local businesses, and underserved schools, she appeared as a guest on The Ellen Show, which positioned her for the consulting producer role of the NBC reality show, School Pride.

In a time of vitriol and division, Dr. Jackie has been outspoken about her “Why Not?” message, which is to build community, unity, equity, and partnerships. She currently serves as K-12 National Education Leadership Executive Manager at Apple, Inc., and is founder and CEO of the “Why Not?” Incubator, a nonprofit organization designed to provide leadership coaching to executives, educational leaders and teams. Dr. Jackie offers virtual and in-person interactive sessions on building and sustaining community partnerships, school community wellness, empowering student youth, race and equity, and how to support teachers and students in an online setting.

Here is what “Why Not” means to Dr. Jackie, in her own words:

For me, “Why Not” is more like a movement AND a mission. I am on a mission. I want to empower all youth to use their voices to open doors, create opportunities and invent possibilities. As an educator in very challenging school districts, I have learned about the power of asking the “Why Not?” question.

My schools lacked the resources other schools had in different zip codes and it was my goal to ensure they had the best afforded to them. That is what they deserved. I was never looking for a hand out, rather than a hand up! I wanted to empower my scholars and teachers to think bigger and broader. We did this with the help of community partnerships. We also learned the power of community.

When we began to invite others to the table to help us co-create, dream possibilities and reimagine what could be, we were able to bring music, theatre, dance and photography to our school with the help of community partners. One partner gave each scholar a bicycle to help us focus on the importance of play and health. This is something we could not do, but because of the partnership we were able to give a gift to each scholar for Christmas! After that, we developed a wellness team that included more community partners, stakeholders and local politicians.

Now, I provide workshops to educators called, Building Bridges, to help them identify ways to engage their community and empower their scholars. I wrote my book, The “Why Not?” Challenge: Say Yes to Success with School-Community Partnerships, to provide action steps for schools to engage their community partners in a real way.

The three key actions to my work are:

1.) Dream possibilities

2.) Embrace your community

3.) Find your hook (cause).

Our schools are the hub of all communities and can be a catalyst for college and career pathways. More than that, when we allow others to co-create with us, it broadens our perspectives, which helps us to provide a platform for success for our scholars! Everyone benefits–from the neighbors who own property in the communities where the schools are located to the companies that employ the talent being developed in our schools. We owe it to the next generation to give them this foundation of learning and understand that they matter and we depend on them to be all they can be.

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