We were lucky to catch up with Kenneth D Crowley Sr recently and have shared our conversation below.
Kenneth D, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. What do you think Corporate America gets wrong in your industry? Any stories or anecdotes that illustrate why this matters?
Corporate America has historically had one major concern, it’s bottom line! More recently, it has become cool or acceptable for Corporate America to involve itself with community or to do business in communities of “Color”. While this sounds good and sometimes feels good to big business, banks, major corporations and oftentimes larger foundations, there is a huge disconnect and Corporate America checks a “box” instead of building and growing RELATIONSHIPS. With community organizations, this is the only thing that matters, at least if the organization itself cares about relationships. Just because Corporate America “throws” a few dollars to NPOs and BIPOC lead communities and refuses to visit community events, to actually see what they are investing in, it does everyone a disservice because we need to build authentic relationships, authentic allies, true lasting partnerships in order to continue the work!
Kenneth D, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
My name is Kenneth D’wayne Crowley Sr, I was born, raised and educated in Denver, Colorado. The youngest of six children with a two parent household, traditional values rooted in strong family culture were extremely important and necessary for the structure of my childhood. My father (Aaron Crowley, Sr) started his own business and was very successful. As a young man, I watched how he managed his business, his family and led the community by keeping us off of the streets on Friday nights. This is where I began to learn the discipline to stay focused and fight for the things I believed in. My mother (Lillie Crowley) worked at nursing homes for over forty (40) years, this is where my commitment comes from! Both of parents shaped me in their own way. Since neither of them graduated from high school, it was obvious to me that I had to pour myself into education and achieve something that my parents or siblings couldn’t achieve.
Upon graduation from high school, I attended Langston University (HBCU) in Oklahoma. This was the beginning of everything for me. My father passed away after I was in school for a month, It wasn’t until several years later in my adult life (and several therapy sessions) that I realized how his death affected me. I began acting out and took a turn for the worst. Needless to say, I finally got it together and found myself ready to graduate. In my senior year I began an internship with The Development Fund at Langston. Here I managed a donor base that allowed us to track gifts and donations. These gifts were used as emergency funds for students. It was in this moment, I decided what I wanted to do with my life. I was going to start a fund that would support Colorado students in their pursuit of higher education.
Upon graduation and moving back to Denver, I got married and started my family. After several years and a few corporate (and not so corporate) jobs, I decided to start The Crowley Foundation. Originally designed has a scholarship fund, we quickly implemented a college prep program that offered ACT/SAT prep testing, campus tours and more. Shortly after that we created boy2MEN; workshops and mentoring which quickly evolved into leadership development and social emotional learning!
Starting this work in 2009 in Denver, we now have expanded into Dallas and Oklahoma City. Utilizing our core values of FAMILY – SERVICE – PAY IT FORWARD – AUTHENTICITY – INTEGRITY – LEADERSHIP – SCHOLARSHIP to lead the way and program for the next generation.
We often hear about learning lessons – but just as important is unlearning lessons. Have you ever had to unlearn a lesson?
I had to unlearn making myself available and accessible to so many people. Being a servant leader and one who always wants to ensure that others are taken care of and have what they need, it was the murder of one of our own Young Kings that started my thinking to shift. Shortly after this, COVID-19 introduced itself to us and later in 2020, I lost 2 brothers. After several therapy sessions and taking time to “be still”, I learned that being busy and serving others required a healthy balance! Now my focus and ME and I’ve learned that being selfish with myself is absolutely normal (when we were taught the exact opposite growing up and going to church)!
Let’s talk about resilience next – do you have a story you can share with us?
So many times leaders of organizations hit the wall! What do you do when that happens? The average person will throw in the towel, run from challenges, close their doors etc.
My upbringing teaches me that I must continue to fight because others are depending on me and looking at my leadership to determine if I can lead in the tough times. This is all God’s work and people often don’t understand what that means. It means that whenever I hit that wall and think that I’m throwing in the towel, God sends me a gentle reminder that our services are needed, it never fails! I have literally thought about it and in that still moment, I can hear God whispering to me, “you think you’re doing this by yourself”, and I’ll receive a call or message from a parent or a student with the confirmation I need to continue this journey!
- Website: https://www.crowleycollegeprep.com/
- Instagram: https://instagram.com/crowleyfoundation
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thecrowleyfoundation/
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/crowley-foundation-inc/
- Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/crowleyfdtn
- Youtube: https://youtube.com/user/CrowleyFoundation
Headshot photographed by Jayana Crowley