#ConnectionPGH Talk: “What I Learned From My Millennial Interns” by Grace Franklin-Gross

#ConnectionPGH Talk: “What I Learned From My Millennial Interns” by Grace Franklin-Gross

About The Speaker

A young New Orleans native, Grace Franklin-Gross currently serves as the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, New Orleans’ juvenile public defender. As an adopted only child of a state social worker and single mother, she grew up exposed to the harsh realities many youth face. Her personal journey of being disconnected from school and work and her deep empathy ignite her passion to bridge the communication gaps between young people and those who serve them. She has helped lead many important conversations about youth empowerment and engagement at a local and national level.

About Connection 2017

The Connection 2017 experience took place in Pittsburgh, PA. To learn more about the event, visit http://connection17.manynet.org today.

About The Talk

As Sir Isaac Newton once said, “If I’ve seen farther, it’s by standing on the shoulders of giants.” A millennial giant herself, Grace Franklin Gross shares her experiences supervising her millennial interns, outlining the real “CHIT” that young people need to succeed.


Everybody knows the phrase, “If I’ve seen farther, it’s by standing on the shoulders of giants,” right? Sir Isaac Newton brought this phrase about, but it was to honor those who came before us.

Adults, and those who made the way and pioneered the discoveries and explorations that he had all accomplished in his own journey.

I want you guys to imagine giants in a different way, though, because imagine how far you could see if those giants were the young people that you actually serve.

I consider myself a millennial giant. I’m 24, I work full-time, self-sustained, I meet the accomplishments of myself and my employers, and I’ve made so many mistakes that nobody knows about, because, well, there’s great stuff that I do.

I went from dead-end jobs, looking for mentors, looking for people who could help me find my way to a full-time career with my own interns that I’m trying to figure out how to help on a daily basis. And it is hard, so congratulate yourself for taking on probably the hardest job in the world, but it’s part of the best – that’s me – so I want to- cool. I want to start with this idea of real CHIT. C-H-I-T, not the bad one, so Chances, Help, Investments, and Training.

And I’ll start with real, because for young people, real is like the most important thing you can be. My definition of real comes from online, because Google is my answer, and it is not imitation or supposed, not artificial. Everybody has these organizations where they want to do this work for young people, and it’s hard sometimes. Like we were listening to Nadim say, to be real sometimes you have to start with the action and work your way to be something that’s really inside of you.

But young people need the real from you guys, and I’ll start with chances, because we all need more than one chance, obviously, but young people need more. I needed more than 100,000 chances. Maybe it wasn’t about me being late, and wanting someone to say, “okay, well it’s okay you know, you’ll do better,” but those days, you know, young people go through a lot.

And it’s like it’s crazy – my interns tell me the craziest stories about like, “yeah, I was on my way to work, and my mom realized that our car got repossessed, and this-” and I’m like, “oh my god, like, and you got to work!”

You know, sometimes we can’t always get over that hill and make it, sometimes we need someone to be there and to explain to us not to give up.

The best way that you can show a person not to give up is to not give up on them, and so those chances mean everything. Usually through this process of learning how to be adults, we we get tired of it, we want to go back to running under our moms and dads, and sometimes we can, and so asking for help is the second step because we don’t always have the answers and we think that adults sometimes have it all figured out.

My interns and I are very, very close, and so they know like, “okay, Grace, can’t do this.”

I’ll be like, “no, yeah, asking too much of me, I love you, but I can’t do this for you.”

That’s really for them, then. Telling them, “oh yeah, I’ll make all your dreams come true”?

You know, sometimes we set these goals for our young people and then we don’t even help them. Not the way they need. We give them everything they need to do, and be like, “okay you got ten days, you got this.”

That’s not enough. Sometimes helping me help myself is like driving me to the bus stop so that I can take the bus to work. It’s not going out of your way or exhausting your own resources, but it’s helping young people find their own resources.

So when I go into investments, people always get nervous, because, you know, obviously money is a big deal, it is. We’ll get to money. Right now, I’ll talk about time.

I met somebody last night when we went out to dinner, and they were explaining that they’re like a matchmaker for young kids in their community, and to find mentors. And she was saying that- shout-out to Beth, by the way, hey- she would think that she has to spend time with each one of those kids to learn things about them, find ways to match them to people.

How many of you are aware of the things that the young people that you serve like, or even the things that they hate? You know, sometimes, that time that you spend to get to know them is the difference between placing them in another job or bringing them somewhere closer to where they want to be.

And it starts with spending the time to know where they want to be, because most of us want to be paid. You guys have the answers, and you’re not telling us! Income is such a huge deal, like, stipends are great, and a little, you know, rewards are great, and pizza is a great way to like celebrate when you did something right, but we’re over that. Like I don’t want another slice of pizza, I’m just being honest, hey, I mean, you know.

I tell people all the time like I’m-I’m getting to the point where I can do your job for you, so the best thing you can do is find me a job, because I don’t want to take yours. You know we are taking on this world, it’s gonna be ours, the least you can do is help us move into that without being on the outside. Not having the things we need, like a place to live, we’ve talked about homelessness, it’s so presently in our nation, and I didn’t ask anybody to give me a house. But the job that I got made it so now I have my own house! Those little steps have changed my life, and made me more able to change other people’s lives.

I referenced the networking, I mean, everyone knows how powerful that is.

The way I got my job was meeting a social worker at another event, and she just loved me, and I had no idea why, but she worked with me. She helped me through it, she introduced me to the ED, she was like, “this is what you need to know.” She was sending me stuff on the way, I hadn’t even done an interview yet, but she was so invested, so she prepared me to the best of her ability.

We see each other everyday now, and it’s like she’s always happy to see me, and so I feel comfortable to come to her to talk to her and talk to those  in her office to be like, “hey, this work thing and this adult thing is getting a bit much, tell me what to do.”

And they’re always there, they never make me feel bad. Or I’m the youngest one in my office, and everybody knows me, and I’ll just come in there, and be like, “hey, um, what’s that you’re doing?” and they’re like, “you know, working like you should be.” And I’m like, oh, you’re right, okay, bye, and go back and get my stuff together.

We need breaks. I won’t lie, but you guys have breaks too. Just imagine that everything that you need is everything that young people need, and you probably won’t go wrong serving young people.

And this is my favorite part. Um training, like what we’re doing now. Young people and adults, I’m not gonna call you guys old, in one place, learning together. This is from the White Card Center’s Quality Program Assessment Training. And it was so powerful to me, because if you see the image, you have this objective, right, the girls going out to the ball. They probably told her to get the ball and not cross the line, just from what I’m seeing, but look how many people are like involved.

Like it can’t be this, it is complicated, right, but it is because she need it. One person to hold her legs, she made it, one person to hold her hand, someone else to support her, and she’s still not there yet, so she’ll probably need someone else. If you think of those training experiences in the time that you spend with your young people and the times that you learn new things together as ways that you’re helping them reach that goal, or that ball, you’ll never go wrong.

I have trained with my EDs, I’ve trained with people that are in other organizations, and those are like my go-to people. Like, if I meet a kid who doesn’t have a place to stay, I can call Covenant House. If I meet a kid who needs to get her sent, I can call New Orleans’ Opportunity Works.

I have these networks because of the training, that we, in the time that we’re together, getting to know each other, getting to know what people do. Sometimes people spend time with organizations and don’t even know what the staff does inside of the organization and that’s just because we’re so busy. And being busy is understood, but when you take that time to get together, and really make those connections with your young people, the results are so valuable.

So I’ll go back to this concept of giants, and I just want you to consider how much further you would see if the Giants that you were standing on were the young people that you were serving. We love the world we live in. I know we spend a lot of times on our phones, but that’s because there’s so much going on, it’s like, “what’s your apps and stuff?” It’s great, but in the end, we- we know, this is- this is it, I’m 24 next year, I mean I’m already married, I have three kids already, just putting that out there, my life has started. There is no wait until you reach the real world thing, you know, I’m here.

And so I’m ready to take on, and most of the young people that I come in contact with are ready to take on, this world and do something amazing with it. And so you guys have the power to stand on our shoulders if you lift us up, and you’ll see the ways that you can help us that you never thought you could. You’ll see systems that you never thought you could, change processes that you never thought that you could, manipulate, and it’ll be amazing world for all of us. And that’s about it for me!


Aaron Hefelfinger

Aaron Hefelfinger

Aaron is the Digital Communications Manager at MANY.