Meet Tyese Lawyer

Tyese Lawyer is the CEO of Our House, a nonprofit organization that aims to fight homelessness by providing quality education for young children and support systems for families in order to break the cycle of poverty and give kids the resources they need to thrive. She became chief executive of Our House in 2004 after over 20 years of work with non-profits providing help for homeless and low-income families. HFW: How did you first get involved with Our House?

TL: Working with at risk children and families has always been an important part of my work. In 2004, my family and I were relocating to Atlanta and the previous organization I had been working with had a very similar mission as Our House so it was a natural fit.

HFW: How has being a part of the organization changed you?

TL: I have been fortunate to participate in the growth of Our House over the last 14 years, including doubling in size twice. Being part of this experience has really helped to stretch and grow my leadership abilities. It’s helped me to think more globally about the work that we do with the children and families that we serve. It’s also been very rewarding to be able to be a part of the lives of families as the move towards self-sufficiency.

HFW: What kinds of challenges did you face on your journey to become CEO?

TL: One of the most challenging aspects of being CEO of a nonprofit organization that has experienced such growth is leading through the change process and really embracing the nuances of the organization as it grows and morphs into the center of excellence that it is today. Another challenge of being CEO is board management. Our House is fortunate to have a wonderful group of committed volunteer board members, and it is a large part of my job to keep them engaged and focused on the mission, vision, and activities of the organization.

HFW: What do you most enjoy about what you do?

TL: There are so many aspects of my job that I love, but the most rewarding is watching individuals grow and develop. I say individuals because it is just as important for me to see staff members grow, develop, and take on new roles as it is to watch our families grow and develop. We see the children make strides in their education each day, we see families move from a place of homelessness to permanent housing and stability and increased ability to provide for their families and be more productive members of our community.

HFW: Who has been your biggest inspiration?

TL: My grandmother was a woman who really believed in community, education, and that all people are capable of achieving their personal best with the right support system and the right sense of community surrounding her. Growing up my grandmother’s house was always filled with neighborhood kids, she was a foster mother, and a nurse’s aid. She really dedicated her life to the care and concern of others.

HFW: What do you do to encourage others?

TL: For me, encouraging others is really about providing opportunity and space for people to try new things and to be successful at those new things. Sometimes it’s as simple as words: ‘you can do it,’ or ‘I believe in you.’ Really just checking in with those in my vicinity to see where their goals and aspirations lie, and providing guidance and support to have them move forward.

HFW: What advice would you offer other women looking to make a difference?

TL: Start with a dream. Break that dream down into actionable pieces. And then just do it. It’s one deed at a time that leads to transformation and even revelation in some ways. We often get caught up in drawing out the big picture when it often just takes that first step.

HFW: What’s one message you wish all woman could hear?

TL: Value yourself and your ability; own your leadership and have courage.