Meeting i.c.stars President and Co-Founder Sandee Kastrul has been a huge blessing in my life. Not only is Sandee a friend and mentor, she is pure inspiration. I am in awe each and every time I am in her company – virtually or otherwise. It is fitting, therefore, to highlight the amazing program she has built as part two of McCann Partners’ “Learning as We Climb” three-part series.
Sandee co-founded i.c.stars in 1998, giving low-income adults access to IT education and employment opportunities. What makes the program special is its dual focus on both education/employment and community impact. The students are given the tools not only for a career, but for a lifetime of community-based advocacy to fight the root causes of unemployment.
Sandee joined our bi-weekly roundtable and introduced us to i.c.stars alumni Julie Brito, who was recently onboarded as a technology consultant at Accenture. Julie shared a bit about the work she did while with i.c.stars, as well as the lessons she learned along the way.
Confidence to speak up
For Julie, a big learning experience at i.c.stars was about using her voice. The lesson came during an exercise called “whistle stop,” where participants were given phrases to say at certain points that derailed the meeting, forcing the moderator to start over. Growing frustrated with each other and feeling confined by their instructed responses, the participants learned about the structure of oppression and their role in oppressing others.
This exercise is a good example of the powerful way i.c.stars brings the concept of community advocacy to life and creates a lasting impact. Before we can act, we must understand, and the whistle stop exercise teaches participants about oppression and their response to it in a tangible way.
The importance of mentoring
Perhaps the biggest takeaway for Julie was how impactful and important having multiple mentors was for her throughout the experience. One of Julie’s projects during her i.c.stars training was building automations using UiPath’s robotic process automation (RPA) technology. She relied on a technical mentor for support, but also sought out advice on her overall career and personal life from an additional mentor as well.
Through the conversation, Sandee shared a well-known quote: “People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.” Suffice to say, Sandee and the entire i.c.stars organization are here for a lifetime. Both Sandee’s personal mission and that of i.c.stars is truly what “learning as we climb” looks like in practice.