Norinda Rosario Yancey

Norinda Rosario Yancey
Director of Community Impact

Describe your role as director of Director of Community Impact.

As director of Community Impact, I work with an incredible team to ensure that donor investments are strategically aligned with our community’s greatest needs in the areas of education, health and financial stability. I work closely with the 24-member Community Investment Council to oversee our Impact Partner and Community Investment Fund relationships from application to collaboration or award, including the grant reporting process. I also have the privilege of managing important community resources like UWNCFL’s 2-11 Resource and Referral hotline, FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program and the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program.

How did you get into the nonprofit sector?

The short answer is: It’s in my blood. I was born and raised in Philadelphia during the anti-poverty movement. My mother and her friend cofounded a nonprofit agency to address the housing, education and safety issues in our community. I grew up watching them mobilize neighbors, small business and local government to transform their community. It’s no surprise that my first official job at age 13 was a summer opportunity working for a city commissioner, a placement I received from Aspira, a nonprofit agency, that focused on youth development.

Did you always want to go into this field?

No, it was not a conscious decision. Growing up I dreamed of studying international affairs and being a journalist or politician, but I didn’t have enough money to finish college. Soon my path was focused on needs and not wants. It wasn’t until after I survived spinal meningitis at age 31 that I realized it was time to make a major change. That meant finally going back to college, getting that degree and figuring out what was next for me. What is funny now is that all that time I was busy trying to find my purpose, it had already found me. I had always naturally gravitated to jobs where I could help others. Whether I was the big cousin, the administrative assistant or the classroom teacher, my goal was to understand what other people needed and find a way to help them accomplish it. After nine years of teaching, I was ready to use my experience to serve at the community level. So I made another big leap and moved to Gainesville in the spring of 2013. Thank goodness I landed a job as education manager for UWNCFL that August.

How do you connect with the community and what have you learned about yourself since being involved with the United Way of North Florida?

I’ve always been able to talk to anyone no matter their age, ethnicity or bank account. My ability to connect with others is about being myself. It’s about being sincere and transparent while giving myself permission to be hopeful, expressive and authentic. Since being at UWNCFL, I’ve learned that effective communication is an art. It requires intention and skill to come together for a clear purpose. I may not always know how to tackle a problem, but usually talking to someone or asking a question is the first step in finding a solution. I’m not shy, and as long as we can have a conversation, there’s a chance something good will come from it. And because I’ve had lots of practice overcoming adversity, I’m determined to help others do the same.

What are your strengths and how did you identify them?

Self-confidence can be a real issue for women. Truthfully, despite my determination and many successes, my strengths were still hard for me to recognize. Whenever I looked for a job, I looked for jobs that I could do, not jobs that I wanted to do. I had to raise a family, so I didn’t have the luxury to think about what I loved or what I was good at. It wasn’t until I started to work specifically on my leadership skills that I could see the benefit of taking assessments that could help me map out a career plan or shift. I took several that addressed personality, work style, career interests or strengths. When I finally took the StrengthsFinder assessment, I realized once again what I should have already known. Communication was my greatest strength, and I shouldn’t have needed an assessment to point that out. My other strengths include learner, connectedness, relator and developer.

How have your setbacks and weaknesses made you stronger?

I was born to a single mother during a time when it was very unpopular. Despite her best efforts, we struggled in a number of ways but primarily financially. That stress created other issues, and I spent two of my elementary school years living in a boarding school for orphans. While I had regular visits with my mother and twin sisters, my day-to-day life was physically separated from them. I went from living in the city and playing in the street with neighbors from Africa, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Mongolia and Puerto Rico to living in Amish country and having to explain how a brown girl could possibly speak English so well. It forced me to be strong and grow up fast. I learned that no matter the circumstance, there is usually something I can do to improve my situation. Once I get that idea in my head, I’m like a dog with a bone. Side note: My name translated from Spanish actually means do not give up.

How do you define what it means to be a fierce woman?

Being fierce as a woman means buying a tandem bike and trailer instead of a car and commuting daily in rush hour traffic with three children under seven or return to college at 31 to make the Dean’s list, serve as a Student Government Association officer and become editor of the school paper. Being fierce as a woman means you are purposeful, passionate and determined. Fierce means going through the fire for what’s on the other side. Fierce is pushing through fear in the name of love, progress and peace. Fierce means sometimes you have to be a “badass” and that’s okay. Being fierce means transforming your life and helping others do the same.