Sianni Cabello Interview
... His story is an example of why SocialSocietyU exists: to give back to kids who do not really believe in themselves..
Sianni Cabello, Founder of SocialSocietyU
How did you get started in this space?
The idea came to me when I was 10 years old and I noticed there was an influx of homeless people but I did not understand why. That gave me a heart for giving back. When I got to Hampton University, I started volunteering more within the Boys and Girls Club and I noticed many of the students did not have the proper resources to help them in their journeys after college. I was touched by one man’s story who said to me “the only thing I know how to do is smoke and drink.” I felt like we really needed to get him into our program and figure out what was wrong with him. After the workshop, he told me what he wanted to do and it was actually to become a movie director. His story is an example of why SocialSocietyU exists: to give back to kids who do not really believe in themselves.
Why is giving back important to you and how have you seen yourself grow as a person because of this?
Many of the kids we work with are first generation students. I try to put myself in their shoes and figure out how I would want to learn about college. I definitely feel like it is important because when they have that support system, they feel like they can have a chance at their dreams. Giving back allowed me to focus on the students and not myself. It is not about how many accolades I can gain for my name, but how many students I can really help reach towards their dreams.
Can you talk more about the importance of mentorship, especially for students on their college journeys?
Mentorship is so important because while we can give students the tools they need to succeed, there needs to be a person that is constantly checking on them, making sure they are okay, that they have had a good day and that they have enough money to eat. We like to see mentors following up with the students and doing things with them so when they get to college, they are not experiencing some sort of culture shock, but can see they have the tools they need to make it.
How you seen SocialSocietyU grow from when you first started? Where do you see it going next?
SC. When we first started, it was a great faith journey. Our very first event we were just trying to get people there; that was our main goal and we were worried about not having enough. Our second event comes around, and we were worried about the space not fitting the number of people we had. I have seen it grow a lot of traction. It has gotten a lot of attention of different people from amazing platforms like BET and Essence and we are very happy about that. I see us traveling to different states and bringing our programs and workshops to various schools to touch as many kids as possible.
I noticed you have a prayer line associated with your organization. Can you talk more about its purpose? How does faith connect to what SSU stands for?
Our faith aspect is what makes us different from many college prep organizations. Aside from our main goal of appealing more to students, we also want to bring God into the picture. On the outside surface, we can be doing great, but how are students doing on the inside? How is their spiritual growth? Are they stressed? Are they depressed? Those are not easy things to come over. Our faith aspect is getting people's attention but also providing them with spiritual guidance as they give to us.
What are some of the ways you connect faith to the culture of SSU? Why is it necessary?
SC. Before our events, we all pray together. Not only that, but we do our best to get the kids' attention so that if they are lacking in their self-worth, motivation and their happiness, they also have a place to turn to for that. Personally, I think it is very necessary because I notice when I am constantly giving without taking time to check on my mental health, well-being or my spiritual clock I burn out. We want kids to stay motivated while also providing them with a sense of direction.
In addition to working on SSU, you are also in school. How are you able to balance going back to school and working on SSU?
It requires staying up late sometimes. Every night I plan my schedule and where I have to go for the week. I make sure my assignments are done and I am doing great in my classes so I am not slacking anywhere. Creating a schedule for myself and being disciplined enough to stick to it has helped.
How will you continue to shift culture through your philanthropic endeavors?
We are shifting the culture by hosting our events. We host this big event called The Gathering, which is a college prep program done differently. It is for youth by youth. We bring out DJ’s, Greeks, colleges and we have workshops. We call it a college prep party where you turn up with all of your friends, but also get the resources you need to be successful. Many times, you go to a college prep event, and it is an environment where students have to conform to a civilized, mature state when all kids want to do is have fun. Our big gathering does that.
What is the biggest myth about giving back and volunteering that needs to be debunked?
People always ask me how I make money. For our big gathering, we make zero money off that event. However, non-profits make money in different ways. We host workshops where we charge schools for our workshops. It comes with having a mix of bringing in revenue but also knowing your mission. Everything that is mission focused I personally feel should be free of charge.
What are some of the workshops SocialSocietyU brings into these schools?
We have talked about leadership, why HBCUs are important, STEM, finding your purpose, having faith in college and resume building. We are getting ready to host another workshop on overcoming fear and finding your purpose.
What is your organizations biggest need and how can people support?
We need more opportunity to get into different schools. We have great data and we know our stuff works. We just need to go into these schools and implement what we already know works.
Finish this sentence: I give too because...
It is a part of me.