Employee Spotlight: Celebrating Global Diversity Month with Helena Vaughnes

Helena Vaughnes Employee Photo

Employee Spotlight: Celebrating Global Diversity Month with Helena Vaughnes

Get to know the people at Milestone in our Monthly Employee Spotlight

In honor of Global Diversity Awareness Month, we celebrate Helena Vaughnes.  Learn more about Helena and hear her story below.


What is your role at Milestone ?

I have been with Milestone a little over 13 months and I am a Sr. Instructional Designer for my daily grind. I also volunteer on the D&I council here at Milestone. I enjoy coming to work everyday and for me it is about “walking the talk”. In what I do daily and the people I do it for, I believe I am helping to educate, elevate and enlighten those I work with and for. This is a pretty great assignment, if I do say so myself!

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am passionate about Adult Learning, Organizational Change Management and Diversity and Inclusion. Based on the times we are currently living in; I have seen where all three of my passions have become part of one concentric circle within today’s organizations in America as well as globally. I’ve known for some time that I was passionate about these three area’s and have put in many years of effort and attention to stay socially, organizationally and academically trained within these three areas.

It was always a dream of mine to be able to experience a position where I would get to touch all three of these areas at once within an organization. I have been a CW since 2009 (which I refer to as “the fall of Camelot”) when almost everyone I knew got laid off or displaced from their employer. After I recovered from the shock (mostly) I decided to go after my dream.

I knew my worth and I had the academic as well as professional successes there to support me. I only needed to make up my mind to step out on faith. I knew that I wanted to work in eLearning for adults which usually puts you in the realm of Organizational Change, which was 2 down and 1 to go in my dream career list. The D&I portion did not come until later, but I kept educating myself (both academically and experientially) to be ready when the time came.

Did I tell you I enjoy being a “CW”?

Not so much fun in the down times (no assignment) but it is wonderful to know when and where you enter for a client. What the target is and when they expect you to hit it. Oh sure, it is not always this concise, but when you fooling with me, I am going to find a way to create a structure around what my client tells me they need (even if they are not aware of it) .  I also enjoy the “earned autonomy” and the “distance” from organizational politics. It has been my experience that as an employee you end up going along to get along, so unless you are in a position to be the change, you rarely see the change. Just my experience. I have worked for many organizations and have always been the cultural novelty within my assignments. I nor more am the voice of All African Americans or all Women than anyone else, but if you ask me and are receptive I will share what I know to be true with you. Rarely happened in my prior assignments.

I was already working at Milestone when I was recommended as one whom may be interested in their Diversity and Inclusion Council. I was grateful for the recommendation and when asked, jumped at the opportunity to serve. I have always believed in “being the change that I want to see”, so this opportunity was welcomed for me. I am an an African American woman (of a certain age) who has prepared for this and all other career opportunities as if it were the Superbowl or the Olympics.

Since a teen I have always tried to represent the change I wanted to see as much as possible. I grew up on the East Coast and came into my formative years on the West Coast .  In earlier years, the opportunity to combine my three passions never really came wrapped so neatly as it has manifested itself to do so in this past two years of Social, Political, Civil and human health issues and unrest that we are currently experiencing.

I feel like now is the time for anyone who wants change, to exemplify the change they want to see and be about the task of trying to support or implement other like-minded folks doing the same. I am trying to do that here at Milestone and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so. It is my hope to become more integral within my areas of passion for my employer(s), myself and the various communities that I can and do serve.

My next big accomplishment is to be called Dr. Vaughnes. Please cheer me on as I move forward toward completion of my Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Diversity in 2024. When my next opportunity meets my abilities, my plan is to be ready! The goal is to Stay Ready so I don’t have to Get Ready!

What does Global Diversity Awareness Month mean to you?

It appears that Global Diversity Awareness Month may be in its inaugural showing this year. And I say, No time like the present. To begin with, I want to make a statement regarding Global Diversity Awareness. I have been aware of Global Diversity my whole life. Not so much in relation to myself but in relation to others around me.

I was raised in a Military family, my dad did 23 years, thanks dad! Since I am the last of 9 in my family, I was born when my dad was about ready to retire. As such, we were raised around all cultures and ethnicities, so I was very used to it. I remember being in second grade at my Catholic school and writing book reports about our military life adventures. Many kids in my class in New York knew very little about military life and always wanted me to take my turn in class to tell them about it. So, I (yes me ) suggested that we have “Explorer” days for Social Studies. Every week someone would showcase a continent and bring food, dress-up and sometimes they even had family members (New York is truly a “Salad Bowl”) come and show us things like dances and stuff. It was great. We would have to write reports on it and even tests. Easy 100% They did it for all 8 years I was there and then I heard they still did it after I was gone.

When I moved to California (Monterey) I got my Civics class into doing the same thing. They did not so much as have family members to bring in, but Clint Eastwood (my classmates dad) brought a real Indian (East Indian -”Sabu” from the TV Show Tarzan) in to our class and he bought food and everything. I know they continued to do civics that way at Monterey High. At Monterey high school they did not have many African American students. The school asked us if we wanted a Black Student Union (sign of the times and all that). They did, I did not. I wanted a Multi-Cultural Students Association. Students of all races together as one. I did a debate (more like a filibuster) and won (of course ). I come from a very large and diverse family, so we never had the issue of Black vs. White or whatever in my family. My brother was a “revolutionary” in his day, but heck wasn’t every young teenage guy then?

I knew that different cultures and ethnicities had issues, but it was never “a thing” in our household. It became a thing when I got older and went out into the world.

Today, I still hold the belief that each culture, ethnicity, self-identifier is unique and deserves the same rights and respect as everyone else. I walk as I talk and only gravitate toward people who are like minded in this respect. So, this month of Global Diversity Awareness may be an inaugural observance for some, but for me, just another month that I respect and expect to be respected by those I meet and those who meet me.


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