In a groundbreaking gathering that brought together Board members from across BUILD Nation, BUILD’s first-ever in-person board retreat in Los Angeles was a resounding success. The retreat was a dynamic and transformative experience that reinvigorated the BUILD community, fostering deep connections and inspiring all in attendance to advance the organization’s mission.
The retreat’s agenda was packed with enriching activities and opportunities for engagement, emphasizing the importance of learning from collective wisdom and solving problems as a unified community.
The retreat commenced at the Hoxton Hotel with a lively cocktail reception, where participants had the chance to mingle and reconnect. The evening began with a warm welcome from Roy Hirshland, National Board Chair, and Bill Taylor, CEO. Board members, including Sara Ponzio, CA Board and Retreat Committee member, and Steve Mack, CA Board member, introduced themselves and shared their passion for BUILD’s work, setting a strong foundation for the days to come.
The following day, the retreat shifted to the inspiring SoLa Beehive, a unique space housing a state-of-the-art Technology and Entrepreneurship Center dedicated to developing future tech leaders of South LA by providing experiential learning to local youth. The shift in location marked the beginning of an immersive experience.
Attendees, which included Board members, students, teachers, program, corporate and funder partners, and BUILD staff, started the day with a continental breakfast and a guided tour of the SoLa Beehive, immersing themselves in the diverse and innovative environment that hosted the event.
The formal program at SoLa Beehive began with an in-depth look at BUILD’s “State of the Union,” presented by Roy Hirshland and Bill Taylor. National Board Executive Committee member and Boston Regional Board Chair Trish Walker, discussed Board development priorities, emphasizing the importance of continued growth and evolution.
Building on the foundation of BUILD’s progress, Ryan Oliver, CA Regional Director, and Thais Rezende, President, shared valuable insights into BUILD’s LA program learnings. These insights provided an opportunity for the Board to understand the unique challenges and opportunities faced by the Los Angeles chapter and explore how these experiences could be applied more broadly in our pursuit of scaling our impact
A significant highlight of the retreat was the “BUILD Classroom Experience,” led by Los Angeles Program Director Michael Arellano. Board members were given the opportunity to work directly with ninety students and their teachers. This immersive experience deepened their understanding of our delivery model, allowing them to gain insights into students’ perspectives and appreciate the power of social connection.
Lunch provided a well-deserved break and a chance for informal conversation, setting the stage for an engaging virtual fireside chat with our special guest, Daymond John, internationally renowned entrepreneur, speaker, and Shark Tank star. Through that conversation, we gained perspective about BUILD’s work in the larger entrepreneurial ecosystem, corporate DEI priorities and leadership, being an effective ambassador and how all of this can inform how we approach roles as board members and our board development priorities.
Board members then dove into “Strategic Problem Solving,” breaking into small groups to tackle some of BUILD’s most pressing strategic challenges. Leveraging the collective wisdom of the group, these sessions facilitated fresh perspectives and insights. The inclusion of John Newsome and Maria Gamboa of Public Equity Group, who are leading BUILD’s strategic planning process, added a valuable external perspective to the discussions.
The agenda also featured a conversation with Tommy Chang, CEO of the New Teacher Center, and Esther Dabogyan, CTE and Linked Learning Administrator for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Led by BUILD’s CEO, Bill Taylor, this session explored the movement to reimagine K-12 classrooms and the critical role of educator coaching, support, and collaboration in achieving this transformation.
As the retreat drew to a close, participants came together for a final session of reflection. It was an opportunity for attendees to share their experiences, lessons learned, and actionable steps they would take away from the retreat.
The retreat was a resounding success, leaving participants more informed, connected, inspired, and motivated to further BUILD’s cause. It showcased the power of coming together as a community, sharing insights, tackling challenges, and celebrating the remarkable work of BUILD. As we move onward and upward, the impact of this retreat will undoubtedly ripple through the organization, benefiting deserving teachers and students across the nation.
Retreat Detailed Recap:
Because we had never all met one another, we intentionally designed the retreat to foster relationship building on the front-end of and then throughout our time together. From there, our agenda included learning from our integrated program model delivery in Los Angeles, experiential learning in BUILD classrooms, conversations with education and entrepreneurship experts, and deep dives into strategic problem solving.
Tuesday, October 17
At our opening cocktail reception, National Board Chair Roy Hirshland and CEO Bill Taylor welcomed all to the retreat and provided an overview of the “why” behind it. Sara Ponzio, CA Board and Retreat Committee member, and Steve Mack, CA Board member, led in introductions. Each Board member and staff provided a brief introduction and included why they are passionate about BUILD’s work. Through those introductions, we learned much about the wide array of talents that just this one group of BUILD leaders bring to the work and the inspirational stories behind personal “Why BUILD’s.”
After the cocktail reception, we enjoyed a seated dinner where the conversations continued among leaders who had never had the chance to dive deep into community building and strategy discussions together before this evening.
Wednesday, October 18
We traveled together to SoLA Beehive for the rest of the retreat sessions. After receiving a tour of the impressive space and learning more about their essential work in the community, we embarked on an energizing warm-up that allowed us to get to know one another more in a short period of time.
Roy Hirshland, National Board Chair and Bill Taylor, CEO, led us in a State of the Union overview. Trish Walker, Boston Regional Chair and National Board Executive Committee member provided highlights of organization-wide Board development and governance priorities. Ryan Oliver, CA Regional Director and Thais Rezende, President, presented key learnings from the Los Angeles program implementation model. Excitingly, there is early promising data indicating that we can have strong program results with a more efficient, integrated delivery model.
Ninety students and their teachers commuted into the retreat space so that we could all experience the BUILD classroom and our integrated curriculum model. Michael Arellano, Los Angeles Program Director, prepared the board members to participate and facilitated what was an invaluable experience for all. Board members worked with students in small groups on an Empathize lesson, and were therefore able to not only deepen their learning about BUILD’s program and our students’ experiences but also support our students’ development.
During lunch, we viewed a surprise video Fireside Chat between Bill and Daymond John, internationally renowned entrepreneur, speaker, and Shark Tank star. Through that conversation, we gained perspective about BUILD’s work in the larger entrepreneurial ecosystem, corporate DEI priorities and leadership, being an effective ambassador and how all of this can inform how we approach our roles as board members and our board development priorities.
We then dove into strategic problem-solving with John Newsome and Maria Gamboa from Public Equity Group, who are leading our strategic planning this year. Board members broke up into small groups to address two questions:
1. How can we ensure students at BUILD are able to develop their social capital as we deepen and expand BUILD’s reach?
2. What else should we consider as BUILD grows its reach with students, teachers, and volunteers? (i.e. fundraising, operations, etc)
Harnessing our collective wisdom, we then shared perspectives and insights with the full group.
Bill led a conversation with Tommy Chang, CEO, New Teacher Center and Esther Dabogyan, CTE and Linked Learning Administrator, Los Angeles Unified School District. We explored with Tommy and Esther the movement to reimagine K-12 classrooms and the critical role of educator coaching, support, and collaboration in that effort and the opportunity for BUILD to meet this moment. External guests, representing BUILD local partners and supporters, joined us for this session.
National Board and Retreat Committee member, Afdhel Aziz, then led us in the Closing Session, where board members shared their reflections and what learning and actionable steps they are taking away from our retreat.
We concluded the retreat with a cocktail reception, celebrating our time at the retreat and the future possibilities as an organization-wide community. Bill even surprised us with an impressive and fun piano performance!