01/31/2013 10:32 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Seeds for Growth

My name is Shelley Jacobson, and I'm the Chief Operating Officer at Twin Cities RISE!. The mission of Twin Cities RISE! is to provide employers with skilled workers -- primarily men from communities of color in the Twin Cities area -- by training under -- and unemployed adults for skilled jobs that pay a living wage of at least $20,000 annually. Inherent in this mission is the concept of empowerment. Empowerment can be a difficult concept to define, observe, or assess because it is based on a vision of what can be.

I had the opportunity to hear about an illustration that Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, shared that I believe is meaningful when we talk about empowerment.

Covey spoke of the Chinese Bamboo tree. The tree is planted as a small bulb. For the first four years, the planter of the bulb sees nothing or perhaps just the smallest stalk, barely above ground level. Year after year, she or he persistently, faithfully nurtures, waters, cultivates, perhaps fertilizes -- does what she or he can to maintain a healthy environment for the tree to grow. But the planter sees nothing -- no visible change. Finally, on the fifth year the tree grows an incredible 80 feet. Can you imagine -- 80 feet!!! 2013-01-31-IMG_7909.jpg

What we know now but those early planters could only have guessed at is that those first four years are the years of root development. The intricate root network, sometimes fragile, yet fundamental to survival, growth, resiliency and production, was developing under the nurturing, persistent care of the planter. Can you imagine the vision that person must have had?

In some ways, the story of the bamboo tree is like that of empowerment. The vision of Twin Cities RISE! is that if we plant the bulb together, persistently tend the roots of resiliency and support skilled workers in living wage jobs as the environment, families will grow strong and become part of a forest of 80 foot bamboo trees that make up our communities.

I believe this vision happens every day through Twin Cities RISE!. Empowerment comes through discovering individual strengths and accepting personal responsibilities. Our goal is to provide a safe and nurturing atmosphere in which individuals and families can determine their own goals for growth and development.

Please take a moment to learn more about Twin Cities RISE! and the work we do for low-income adults. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, check out our website at, and, if you feel compelled, help us with the JobRaising Challenge by donating at Crowdrise.