Get to Know the Team: Meet Dion

In the past year, the SCY/PAACT team has grown in many ways. We hope to familiarize partners with who is on the team and what they do – in the hopes of making SCY better conveners for community organizations.

Hey there Dion! Thanks for taking a moment to sit with me. Can you give a brief introduction of yourself and give us a little about your background?
Yes!  Talking about myself!  Now that’s what I’m talking about.  I’m born and raised in Chicago, in the Roseland community.  Moved to the burbs at 14, and did that for a while.  Went to college originally for music education at Western Illinois University.  I ran out of money, and after a year of working 3 jobs without making any headway, I joined the Illinois Army National Guard.  I spent 9 years in the Army National Guard, and during that time, spent a year Germany, a month in NOLA doing relief following Hurricane Katrina, and a year in Afghanistan.  I actually was going into my last semester at St. Xavier University when deployed to Afghanistan, pursuing my BA in Social Sciences/Secondary Education. Following that deployment, I returned and did my student teaching at George Washington High School.  From there, I ventured off to Alaska and spent two years teaching history/social studies in Tok Alaska, population 1200.  I then came back to Chicago and taught 2 years at Richards Career Academy in Back of the Yards.  From there, I decided to switch it up, and ended up running the education programs for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.  While there, I became acquainted with SCY and when the Communications and Community Outreach Manager position emerged, I decided to apply…and here we are.

What do you do every day at SCY?
I feel like there isn’t any one standard day.  My position focuses on the communications of the organization.  Fortunately, we have a wonderful Program Coordinator in Kirstin Grabski who does a fabulous job on our bi-weekly newsletter.  She helps put that together weekly, and I oversee the process and offer any assistance or advice when necessary, but she’s great, so often I just function as editor and proofer.  That frees up a lot of time for me to focus on our other communication outlets, which consists of our blog and social media.  Most people don’t know, but social media in and of itself is a huge time undertaking….extremely time consuming.  But I do my best to keep abreast of our social media, and the information we’re sharing, as well as engaging with followers and community partners, to amplify their message.  Kirstin also does a great job of assisting with that, to make sure we’re getting the most important information out in a timely manner.

Additionally, part of my role is facilitating community outreach.  In my first year, I was able to create some big structure pieces of that with our Social Media Principles, Social Media Plan, and Community Outreach Plan.  I feel like year 2 is making sure these plans are functional and sustainable.  Our Outreach Coordinator Linda Gordon facilitates so much of our community outreach, and I assist when necessary and possible so that we can touch and meet with as many stakeholders as possible.

Then, there is the SCY blog.  I actually love blogging, and have a personal blog as well.  I prefer long form blogging, and find that people really connect to a deeper dive into topics that surround the SCY Policy Agenda and Focus on Five…but that also takes time, and research, so it’s a process.

Finally, there is social media research. Social media is a super-fast moving field, and I don’t know everything.  Actually, I feel like I’m learning every day, and that’s a goal of mine, to learn one little piece every day that I can work on and develop, so I do a lot of research on social media trends, as well as how our social media is performing.  I don’t have a marketing degree, or a background in that field, so I always feel I’m at a deficit of knowledge that I’m trying to overcome, so I put maximum effort in.  Right now, I’m hoping to start a social media audit (yes, that’s a real thing) within the next month since I just hit my 1 year anniversary.  It’ll give me an opportunity to see what the growth of our social media presences have been, and what content I should be favoring over the next year.

Oh!  And traditional media…that’s the weak link in my game.  I’m very new to the traditional media world.  I’m always working to better know the reporters in the field, information sources, build relationships, etc.  That’s a completely different facet of communication that I’m always thinking about, researching, and trying to build upon.

What has been your favorite training or quarterly meeting?
That would have been the Communicating About Violence: Making Media Accountable Quarterly Meeting back in February.  The panel was great; Jhmira Alexander from Public Narrative, Brianna King, an independent research consultant, and Kevin Kirkpatrick from Metropolitan Group, all gave amazing presentations.  They also inspired some great conversation on what media does wrong, and right, and how they could be even better, from a community perspective via our community partners in attendance. I thought it was a great event, and much of the information from that session stuck with me.

What do you wish everyone knew about SCY?
Hmm….that’s hard.  I guess that I’m exceptionally eclectic.  I think my personality is very random, and I like random things.  My favorite classical song is Rhapsody On a Theme of Paganini by Rachmaninoff, and my favorite metal song is Knee Deep by Job For a Cowboy, which crushes the brain.  I play saxophone and used to sing in a hardcore metal band.  I work in violence prevention, and my main hobby is extremely violent in nature (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu).  I’m out the box.  You can’t box me in.

Describe yourself in three words.
Hmm….oh, give me 12 words:  “I’m not exactly flawless, but I’m gorgeous, just like a horse is.” That’s an Action Bronson quote…from the song Baby Blue…best Chance The Rapper verse ever!  Thanks for the opportunity to share.  Holla!

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