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Amanda Vaden

I want to start from a place of empowerment rather than a place of lack

Published

May 30, 2024

Neighborhood

West Philadelphia

Cohort

Fall 2021

Amanda Vaden calls herself a navigator. She discovered her path when she began to understand the impact of trauma on economic development in her community. After that discovery, she made it her mission to address this issue.  

Amanda’s journey began with her post-pandemic work with the Landcaster Ave Business Association. While there, Amanda saw how hard it is for small and local businesses to learn about the fast-changing city, state, and federal grant opportunities. This drove her to become a “navigator.” She worked with women-owned and BIPOC businesses, like the Silk Tent and Part of Me Boutique to help them access vital funding and technical assistance to stay in business.   

Three women standing in front of a glass storefront with three tops hanging above them in the window. The leftmost top is a grey tweed blazer with a red pocket hanker-chief. The second top is a white t-shirt with a floral design in the center. The third top is hot pink with black polka dots. Down below, the first woman is African American with rectangular glasses a black and white striped top. The second woman is African American with large black glasses and a grey top with a bright pink floral design. The third woman is caucasian with a blue floral dress.

Amanda standing in front of A Part of Me Boutique with shop owner Phyllis Jones Carter and corridor manager Jackie Williams.

While doing this work, Amanda enrolled in the Citizen’s Planning Institute. Amanda listened to the stories of her multigenerational peers. She also learned about Philadelphia’s history with redlining and discrimination. The dots connected. She saw it was no accident that the city was planned as it was. Through CPI, Amanda instantly connected with a network of like-minded individuals who would hold each other accountable for contributing to the project of building a more inclusive and sustainable city.   

Post-CPI, Amanda felt equipped with the tools necessary to do her part. Currently, Amanda is an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services. She is using her passion for mental health to create a program for youths who have experienced trauma. The program centers skill development and career exploration. Inspired by CPI’s 10-week format, the youth program will include topics like interviewing and resume building, and would center participants’ values, motivations, and assets:  

With trauma, social bonds can get disrupted, and I want to start from a place of empowerment rather than a place of lack... these skills will help them deal with uncertainty, frustration, and conflict. Amanda Vaden

Amanda participating in the Fall 2023 CPI course as a mentor.

A virtual meeting with 22 participants shown in a grid view. Some participants have their videos on, while others have their cameras off. Various backgrounds and expressions are visible.

Amanda participating in CPI on Zoom.

At first, Amanda approached this work with doubt. She remembered struggling to find her own place in the working world. She knows the flaws of work, which can oppress those in poverty. Understanding minimum wage jobs do not allow free time or agency. But her work as a Trauma Work Coordinator with DIBHIS let her take a critical approach to workforce development. It has given her the freedom to create something transformative. Inspired by her work with small businesses on Lancaster Ave that fostered sense of identity and community:  

I set out to make sure I was not replicating the pieces I found objectionable. The workplace can be a sense of confidence, affirmation, and stability where you can move to a place of security and be able to live a full life for yourself and those around you too. Amanda Vaden

Amanda will be working on her VISTA project with DIBHIS until August 2025. In the meantime, Amanda is active in her community. She is working to get traffic calming structures on her street. She is also staying in touch with CPI alums Ali Saribas and Sasha Mendez to bounce ideas off each other.   

In the future, Amanda would like to continue addressing workforce development and design mutually beneficial collaborations that address mental and behavioral health, and wellness. Her dream project would be to partner with colleges and universities to assist trauma informed populations with finding ways to make learning a part of everyday life.