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Marcie Gilbert of Calibrate is the Los Angeles Rams' 12th pLAymaker honoree for her work helping transform the lives of youth from undeserved communities.
Marcie Gilbert of Calibrate is the Los Angeles Rams' 12th pLAymaker honoree for her work helping transform the lives of youth from undeserved communities.

LOS ANGELES – Calibrate co-founder Charletta Johnson was introduced in the mid-1990s to the Ojai Foundation, which trained her in a process later named Connections – the very tool used as she started schools to create the safe school culture needed by her South Los Angeles students to foster trust, mutual respect and accountability.

When the Class of 2006 had their reunion in 2016, it invited former teachers Marcos Vann and Marcie Gilbert and used Connections as its format. What Gilbert found from surveying the reunion – which served as the basis for her M.A. thesis – was that alumni felt Connections cultivated social-emotional skills and provided a foundation for personal successes. That led to the formation of Calibrate in July 2018 to increase the number of places where kids could benefit from Connections.

Today the organization's executive director and co-founder, Gilbert's role in continuing that work is why she was recently recognized as the Rams' 12th pLAymaker honoree.

"The money helps us meet the demand (for mental health services), for sure, but it's the honor and the recognition by this organization," Gilbert said. "Because I have to say, I've done my homework into seeing what our resources are here in Los Angeles, and the Rams really are about the community. I see it in the work you do, the relationships you build. We call you guys in my household our 'Ramily,' so it is an amazing honor to be part of the Ramily because it feels like a reflection back of our own value and integrity because that's what we see in you."

According to Calibrate's website, Connections is a "data-driven, social-emotional learning (SEL) program. It is a structured process designed to create a protective space, so that participants can listen and speak from their hearts." It is also designed to create that environment specifically for Indigenous, Black and People of Color who are in survival mode daily so that they can cultivate intra-personal growth and interpersonal bonds.

Collectively, that sharing – guided by prompts eliciting imagination, reflection and critical thinking – facilitates the essential qualities for healing, advocacy, sharing values, establishing narrative, and overall social-emotional growth.

"We calibrate, we transform and elevate the lives of tomorrow's leaders from underserved communities, particularly from descendants of American slavery, by providing spaces where they experience their best selves, feel value for the potential they bring to the world, and prepare to reinvest their time and talents back into society," Gilbert said of the organization's mission.

What also makes the program special is alumni like De'Anthoney Jenkins – who currently serves as director/secretary – returning to assist it.

Jenkins, who is from Los Angeles, said he is "really big" on change. To him, inspiring change means to reinvest yourself in the community you came from.

"I feel like a lot of times we are a resource, but we don't bring that resource back," Jenkins said. "Our biggest thing is we want to gain this resource, and then leave our communities. I am inspired by people who come back to the communities to inspire that change. Those are the people who are the real change-makers, those are the real playmakers. Those are real people who are going through it. So for me, it just means coming back and giving back that resource that you receive from the community."

When it comes to inspiring change in one's own community, both Gilbert and Jenkins point to action and collaboration.

"What I think of right now is being the change, actually doing something," Jenkins said. "That's the problem, is that we always plan or we always try to seek help from somebody else, but not necessarily putting up by our bootstraps. But taking the steps to actually be who you aspire to be. And you inspire somebody in that process."

Added Gilbert: "Again, it's the coming together. I mean, obviously we need resources, but we are resources. It's like what De'Anthoney said – we are resources from one another. When I shift from being at my own little Zoom desk in my office to then being with our community, like we're going to do this afternoon, I am inspired. So what are the ways that we can come together? We understand that intimately from the pandemic we were so isolated. So how do we come together physically, bring our talents together, bring our ideas together, and I feel like that's how we inspire one another, and together with our talents we will bring about the change."

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