How My Passion Triumphed Over My Training: The Path to Happiness
Raina Turner, native Atlantan, left the state of Georgia in 2005 to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Initially entering the university for a career in business, she quickly discovered a career in Marketing would best merge her love of art with her innate business skills. Raina not only excelled in her courses, but she served as an extremely active member of a business fraternity, a social sorority, Vice President of a Marketing Association and Vice President of an International Business Association. She studied abroad in China in 2007, assisted her professor in teaching a class on business plan development and upon return to the U.S., added additional courses to obtain a minor in International Business. Needless to say, Raina was on her way to a successful career in Marketing.
Upon graduation she wanted to learn from a leading advertising company so she could gain the skills needed to provide better advertising/promotion within urban communities; increasing positive images and lifestyles versus the reiteration of false stereotypical images. However, she landed a Partnership Development position with the Department of Commerce and was selected to work in the Atlanta Regional office supporting community partnerships across three states (AL, GA, FL). When she took on the job with the Department of Commerce, Raina wasn't aware how much it would positively impact her spirit when she was able to not only help others learn how to help themselves, but empower them to also help their families and community. Here she worked with a team to manage a regional road tour to advocate the 2010 Census, coordinated with media outlets, faith-based institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's) - particularly those in the AUC - and Hispanic Served Institutions (HSI's), community leaders, K-12 schools and Count Me Black (an African-diaspora unity initiative). Here Raina gained immense skill sets mobilizing communities to improve their social conditions by using data and fostering strong community relations.
Eventually, Raina left the South and moved west to California; discovering an advertising agency whose tagline was “Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good.” It was here where her career would shift even more towards one with societal impact. Though the company wasn’t hiring, Raina’s strong desire to learn from this skilled team prompted her to offer to work for the company for three months free of charge. Within a few days, they found the funds to hire her. As Marketing Associate, Raina worked with sustainable restaurants, community organizations geared toward the education and literacy for children, educational institutes and music festivals, not merely advertising, but making a difference in the lives of the people served.
"Traveling the globe has provided me with an unrivaled education. Having visited five of the seven continents, I am determined to merge my love of traveling with my ultimate goal of exchanging best practices for creating and sustaining healthy communities without causing irreversible damage to the planet (including the people who occupy those spaces)." -Raina
After two magnificent years, Raina decided to leave California and head back home to Atlanta, GA. Upon her return, she wanted to continue making a difference in the lives of others. As she searched for work, she operated as an independent business consultant and finally decided to formally shift her career focus to one that would have an impact on generations to come. Considering the most effective way to promote such a change, she was certain the best way to achieve such an impact was the direct education of the future generations. Recalling her fulfilling service as a tutor to elementary children through the sorority, business fraternity and as a YMCA counselor, for 6-7 year olds, she was confident this was a field in which she could excel.
From February – May 2013, she volunteered as a teacher aid every Tuesday and Thursday at an independent school in metro-Atlanta (West End/Cascade Road area). What Raina discovered was not only did she LOVE working with the children and teachers, she thrived in that environment. Here she was able to share her knowledge of world history and culture from her personal travels to China, Africa and the Caribbean, express her love of art through painting, as well as, assist the children in reading and literature, one of her strongest skill sets. The teachers focused on holistic education, clustered learning environments and creative expression. The children were full of energy, open to learning and when you showed your sincere belief in their ability to achieve, they excelled in every subject. Unfortunately, the school was not able to open for the Fall 2013-2014 semester and she resumed her work as an independent consultant.
Her work as an independent consultant led Raina to accept an employment offer from one of her clients, serving as Assistant Director for an AmeriCorps program at Georgia State University’s Alonzo A. Crim Center for Urban Educational Excellence. Here she managed service-learning initiatives and advised AmeriCorps members on how to effectively implement STEM programming to enhance mathematics and science scores in marginalized K-12 schools in metro-Atlanta.
Despite her training and skill set to market products, advertise digitally and build brands, Raina’s passion for traveling, advertising the importance of a sound, global education and building a strong future for youth triumphed. It was clear that developing solid communities could only be achieved by improving the economic structure of the communities in need. This is done through selfless service, culturally-relevant education, economic reform and by promoting entrepreneurship/small business development. Raina volunteers at an independent agriculture, math and science institute and continues to share her weatlh of knowledge and passion for global education and sustainable community development with youth and elders alike.
She is currently organizing the second Black Sustainability Summit (May 2017), geared to educate marginalized people on sustainable community development. Raina built and designed the website and has worked with elders and community leaders in Atlanta, as well as those she met along her travel in the US and the world, to offer this platform to a global community. Last year, she registered over 1700 attendees. She is currently building opportunities to better assist communities in need by offering sustainable solutions to the challenges they face.
I am because we are. We are, therefore I am.
For assistance building your business, and training or connecting with likeminds, Raina's company, Sustainable Community Solutions Network, LLC offers various methods to reach your market while employing sustainable practices.
Diaspora Advocacy & Policy Work
At the end of the 2016 Black Sustainability Summit, Raina Turner connected with the Constituency for Africa's (CFA) President, Melvin Foote. She began learning about how to effectively shift and change policy through the work he and other diasporic leaders have been conducting. Shortly after connecting with him, Raina received an invitation to sit on a delegation organized by CFA and has not looked back.
Most recently, she had the opportunity to meet with the AU Ambassador, H.E. Dr. Arikana Chiamborhi Quao, Ambassador Erieka Bennett of AU DAF and former Nigerian and Congo Ambassador Robin Sanders.
The amount of work that must be done on behalf of the continent is clear and the role that the diaspora plays in Africa's development has been outlined. Unity and advocacy are the two major components of our success as a people. For those interested in learning more about advocacy and the work our network contributes, please send us an email directly.