Tiffany Young, Executive Director at the Hartford Yard Goats Foundation, delivered an encouraging speech about community engagement at a MetroHartford Alliance Breakfast in April 2019. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price followed up with Tiffany to find out how Hartford can engage with its community and what it means to be a minority woman in a leadership role.
NAN PRICE: In the speech you gave at the Alliance breakfast, you noted, “Community engagement is about asking the right questions. Not asking: Are we engaging the community well? Instead asking: How can we better engage the community?” Let’s delve a little deeper into that.
TIFFANY YOUNG: Sure. What that means is, we have to go beyond the norm and ask what more can be done, because we can’t settle. I feel like every organization, every community member, every human, needs to ask: How can we do better?
Even with the achievements we’ve made, we can’t become complacent. This world is constantly changing. The community is constantly changing. We have to continually ask how we can improve and look at more ways to help make changes in the community in all aspects, regardless of whether we’re talking about diversity and inclusion.
NAN: How are you empowered to make change?
TIFFANY: Great question. I feel empowered to help make change through my visibility in my position. Recently, I was promoted from Director of Community Partnerships to Executive Director, which puts me as a woman and a person of color in a senior leadership position. That’s important because all views and all perspectives need to be at the table when decisions are made—especially when you’re talking about decisions that affect a community that is very diverse but not always inclusive. That’s in any community and in any organization.
I want young people in our community to see that change is possible. I want them to see the change in their community leaders and know they’re capable of becoming the change themselves.
The Hartford Yard Goats is still a new organization. One of our biggest initiatives was making the Hartford community feel inclusive in this ballpark, which meant we had to develop some sponsored programs to include the community and attract people to the ballpark.
I always think you have to start at the heart of the community—that’s where you can find the youth. So, building youth programs was very important because, once you engage the youth, you can engage their families. And once you have parents and caregivers entrust you with their children, then you can begin building relationships.
Most of the youth we service had never been to a professional ballpark before, so it became a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It also helped them realize that this ballpark is more than just baseball. Our youth can learn to cook here, they can build their leadership skills here, they can possibly get a job here.
And they can see me here in this leadership position as a women and person of color, which hopefully encourages them to take risks as they become active members of this community. We, as an organization and community, can help empower these young people to offer their talents in organizations like ours.
NAN: In what ways were you mentored as a youth and encouraged to pay it forward?
TIFFANY: My dad, Elijah Young, was my greatest role model and made the biggest impact on me. He worked for WFSB Channel 3 back when it was located on Constitution Plaza and was very well known in the community when I was growing up.
When I was about six years old, I was watching TV with my family. I turned to my dad and asked: How come I never see people who look like me on TV? He said: You know what, that’s a good question.
I don’t know that he really had an answer, but two weeks later, I was cast in a commercial. My dad told me: I wanted to do better than give you an explanation. I wanted you to see yourself in a commercial so you know it’s possible.
NAN: That’s powerful.
TIFFANY: And I didn’t realize how powerful it was at the time. It changed my life. I shared that same story at his funeral when he passed away in 2008. I didn’t understand the impact it had until I was an adult. He showed me anything is possible. I want to show that to other young people.
NAN: How did you get the background and skills to do what you’re doing now?
TIFFANY: I had a nontraditional path. I’ve never worked in sports management before. My first experience working with youth in the community began years ago when I started a nonprofit organization that serviced youth through theater arts. That ignited my passion. I knew I wanted to help young people because they grow up to be adults and go back into the community.
The Yard Goats were taking a risk on me—and I was taking a risk joining the team. But, after talking to the owner and listening to his passion about community, I knew this was something I definitely wanted to take on.
I saw a clean slate for me to possibly do some powerful work. It’s been challenging, but we’ve been successful, too. And there’s so much more work to be done, which is always exciting for me.
NAN: What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
TIFFANY: Public speaking—specifically talking about community engagement, why community partnerships are important, and how to strategically create those community partnerships. Obviously, seeing the impact it has on young people in the community, but also being able to go out and actually talk to people about it. That’s probably one of the most profound parts of my job.