By Dwight Hobbes
Latavia Osgood contributes remarkably strong qualifications to St. Paul’s venerated anti-poverty program Community Action Partnership (CAP), starting with, as you’d expect, the credentials. Before joining the board in November of
2013, she’d been a policy council member for Head Start and vice president for Head Start Parenting groups. A surprising plus, though, is that she’s 28, apparently part of an innovative youth recruitment initiative at CAP.
Confident, capable, causally conversational, Latavia Osgood, speaking with the MSR in a telephone interview, comes across as every bit the professional. “I was doing well,” she recalls, “as a policy council member and [was] nominated to the board.”
Which didn’t necessarily mean she had to accept. That came out of a long-held desire to be of sustained service. “I always try to do more for the community, because I’m from St. Paul and there are a lot of things going on with the youth that I don’t like to see. The violence in the community, for instance.”
An age-old problem, of course, in urban communities, especially during these summer months when the warm weather, combined with a scarcity of job opportunities, brings them more and more often to street corners. That’s where they, as adolescents and known regardless of color for making questionable decisions, can easily end up making bad choices that land them on the wrong side of the law.
“[It's important] to make a difference.” Osgood has a personal stake in helping to make that difference, being a single mom raising a six-year old son (as well as a little girl who’s in Head Start).
“African American males often have a disadvantage when they don’t have a positive role model. Hopefully my being on the board will help me find more mentoring programs for him and for others like him.” She is, in fact, in the process of trying to start a mentoring program.
How rewarding an experience has her tenure on the CAP board been to date? “It’s been phenomenal.” That includes augmenting the skills she acquired on the policy council and in parenting groups.
“I’ve learned a lot more about working with the community, about working with nonprofit organizations. I’ve had the chance to work with Congresswoman Betty McCollum,” who she applauds for working to increase Minnesota’s minimum wage. “My voice can be heard. I’m not just a number anymore.”
She wants to make the most of this opportunity. “You only get to be on the board four to six years. I hope during that time that I can learn still more about nonprofits.”
She also has her sights set on upgrading her professional life. Currently she’s an optician, billing assistant and receptionist for Pearle Vision in St. Paul. Working on an AAS degree in Human Services at Century College in White Bear Lake, she intends to transition to a position at “an agency or business that has a mission to help people. So many people are at a disadvantage who don’t know, haven’t been shown how to speak up, be proactive. I was one of those people who became a mom at 14. And I thought I would ever be able to get ahead. But, I’ve never given up.”
If CAP is aiming to strengthen its standing as an agent of social change, recruiting people like Latavia Osgood to its board certainly seems like a good way to go about it. Osgood offers the possibility that agency services can be improved simply by getting more “feedback from the younger generation.” Which makes perfect sense, having decision- and policy-makers at Community Action Partnership who, realistically speaking, know from personal experience how best to empower the disenfranchised.
She adds, “I want to show my children it doesn’t matter what kind of background you come from, you can always make a difference in the community. You can do better. Your circumstance [doesn't] necessarily dictate your future.”
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.
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