Empowering Impact: More Than a Tagline

By Thatcher Heldring 

We’ve all seen a million taglines. All of them promise something. Whether or not we buy it depends on how much we believe it. We have to know the tagline comes from a place of truth. If it doesn’t, it’s just another string of words.  


Recently I was thinking about the LBC Action tagline - empowering impact. These two words are at the heart of the LBC Action story, equal parts rallying cry, north star, and promise. But how do we show they come from a place of truth?

There may be no purer expression of empowering impact than Fresh Tracks, a program that brings together young adults from urban and indigenous communities for cross-cultural leadership experiences in outdoor settings across the country. Earlier this month, I was with Fresh Tracks at Essex Woods, a retreat center nestled in the woods not far from the Atlantic Ocean.  The occasion was the first Fresh Tracks training expedition of 2018.


Fresh Tracks is a program of the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute. Inspired by a call from President Obama for programs that would use the outdoors to help young Americans realize their potential as leaders, Fresh Tracks was brought to life in 2016 by several members of the LBC Action team.  Two years later, more than 90 aspiring leaders from urban and indigenous communities have taken in part in at least one Fresh Tracks training.  I had the privilege of being at the recent training in Massachusetts. As the communication lead for Fresh Tracks, my job was simple: listen and report.  


For three days I listened to the stories of everyone at Fresh Tracks. Stories of people who have been tested. Who have overcome adversity.  Who have committed themselves to bringing positive social change to their communities. When they tell their stories, they do not say they want to make a difference. They say they will make a difference.  And Fresh Tracks is an opportunity for these young leaders to connect, to share, to push themselves and each other to reach their full potential as change agents. To empower impact.  

The Fresh Tracks participants came from urban centers in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Hartford, from Tuscarora and Akwesasne Mohawk communities on the border of New York and Canada, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe in Virginia, and from the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma. They come from vastly different cultural perspectives, but after just two days together, two new truths emerged. First, there is more uniting them than dividing them.  And second, when it comes to creating healthy, equitable communities, they are all in it together. As Madison White, a Fresh Tracks participant put it, “Fresh Tracks is helping me remember that the issues we face individually are really on a global scale. It's something we all face, and it unites us.”

When I see young leaders from so many different backgrounds look beyond differences to find common ground, that’s more than hope. That’s proof.  Not just that empowering impact is more than a tagline - or that it comes from a place of truth - but that something real is happening.


Thatcher Heldring