It’s obvious that Danielle Summerville has a heart for serving the community — it’s what she spends the majority of her time doing.
At work and outside it, the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters-Pikes Peak empowers young girls and women to aim high in their careers and in life. She mentors other women through her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc., through the women-led organization The Links Inc. and as a Big Sister in the nonprofit she oversees.
This is the 37-year-old’s sixth year heading the youth mentoring chapter. Over time, she said she has fallen in love with the nonprofit’s mission and experienced its impact throughout Colorado Springs.
What brought you to Colorado Springs?
I attended high school here [Fountain Valley School] and went to college at Lake Forest College in Illinois because I was born in Chicago. After that, I moved back to Colorado Springs and got a job at Community Outreach Inc., an organization that helps individuals with developmental disabilities find employment. My next job was at Big Brothers Big Sisters.
What made you want to lead the nonprofit?
I like to see the big picture and vision; I’m the type of person who likes to drive toward that vision. It may take me some time, but I’m not afraid to make a decision and when a decision is made, I stick to it.
Why are for-profit and nonprofit partnerships important?
We need our for-profit partners to help us sustain our mission at BBBS. Nonprofits such as BBBS are 100 percent donor-supported. Without donations from individuals, foundations and companies we would not be able to exist. Thankfully, our for-profit partners are able to find alignment with the mission of their companies and the mission of BBBS to say, ‘We want to support the financial donation because we believe in the work you do’ and oftentimes it closely aligns with the work they’re trying to do.
It’s pretty magnificent because those dollars could be going to someone’s bonus or something else, but these companies see the importance of philanthropy.
What do you appreciate most about Colorado Springs?
You have access to different aspects from government to nonprofit leadership. You have access to your city leadership and if there is an issue, you can bring it to someone’s attention pretty quickly and be a part of the solution. I appreciate that about this city and don’t think you can get that everywhere.
What advice do you have for other young professionals about getting involved?
Get out there and see what the community has to offer. You can serve on a board — there are boards at the nonprofit, city and county levels. Find what you’re passionate about, pursue it and make sure you get a seat at the table. And don’t see it as people trying to keep you away from the table. Be a part of the solution for this community. Colorado Springs is growing, so let’s grow with it and shape what the future of this city looks like.
What is your next goal?
BBBS is launching a new mentoring program this fall, working with high school students. It fits in line with our mission and I’m excited because we’re going to be able to work with students, helping them become college- and career-ready by the time they graduate.
It will be an opportunity for people who’ve wanted to work with high school students to become a mentor and help shape what their future success looks like. The name of the program is Mentor 2.0.
What is your biggest challenge?
We depend not only on donations but volunteers. One of our core challenges is getting men to volunteer to be role models. When I sit across the table from a young boy and he wants nothing more than to have a man to spend time with — to show him the ropes or how to shave — it’s challenging. If I could solve any issue at BBBS, it would be finding enough men to become Big Brothers and volunteers.
What else do you want the community to know about you?
Remember to congratulate those around you. That is something I feel strongly about, especially when it comes to women celebrating other women. Let them know that you noticed what they’re doing and show gratitude. Sometimes we get so self-absorbed that we forget to show gratitude.