The Love, Unity, and Values (LUV) Institute was founded in 2012 by Cosette Nazon Wilburn. The LUV Institute was chosen in 2017 as a Core participant at the Community Programs Accelerator. We spoke with Cosette about why she created her organization, her passion for the work, and the importance of self-care.
For Cosette, the LUV Institute is a passion project that got started when she was running a boutique marketing company but had lost the “why” in her work. “I was sort of moonlighting doing this work,” she said, “and it is really the way in which a young person is transformed in our program that really [had] me say, ‘Wow, this is the work that I want to do.’”
The programs at the heart of the LUV Institute originated from a coaching practice that Cosette had started in 2010 called Journey to My Better Self in which a cohort of women worked on six tenants which Cosette describes as being integral to one’s wellbeing.
The results of the first cohort were amazing. Cosette notes that, “Many of the women had doubled their income, some of them had changed jobs, three of them had gotten married, but all of them had a significant shift in their social-emotional confidence. They were able to manage their emotions so that they were not easily triggered, and they were also able to look at their social environments and really begin to identify people who were supporting their purpose and their destiny and those who were not and were able to make some significant changes as a result of that.”
When the offer to launch of pilot of the cornerstone program of the LUV Institute, the Career Academy, Cosette had not formally formed a nonprofit and approached a friend to house the program, but the results were so significant that she decided to become an independent organization.
Her passion for service started from a young age, working in the office at her family’s nursing home. “My first program, if I would call it a program, was ‘Adopt a Grandparent Day’ where I got my friends to come in and read to seniors in the nursing home, and you know, and that’s largely from the environment that I grew up in,” she says. However, Cosette credits her mother as the main inspiration for her passion. Eventually she was brought on as a program specialist at LUV
Her passion, though, is continuously fueled by the transformations that she sees in the young people at the LUV Institute: “I love just how our kids are transformed, and often, when you are dealing with new kids, they are kind of shy, quiet, but by the end of program, they are just a ball of energy, eager to talk to people, just connecting, is amazing.”
Sometimes though, Cosette admits, the work does get hard, particularly when working with young people who face significant trauma every day. To address this, Cosette brought in someone to do a trauma workshop with her staff. She notes that they found out that the entire team was experiencing vicarious trauma, and this led to important changes in the organization. “I realized,” she says, “we had to put more things in place to really make sure that the team is better cared. You need to make sure that people have more time off, that you are doing more group interactions and retreats to really make sure that the team is really fully supported. Otherwise, what you have is a team that is working really hard but is over-worked and really stressed out.”
Personally though, she says that it is difficult for her to leave the program for too long: “I’m still quite a helicopter mom,” she confesses, “I’m sort of too nervous to leave for long periods of time, but what I do personally is I cycle, I do yoga, and it really helps me to have a life that is mindful and helps me to better navigate the personal challenges that comes from doing this work.”
However, Cosette emphasizes the importance of her team in all of the achievement at LUV Institute. “While I’m the person that is always upfront,” she says, “it is really my team lead by Dr. Upshaw that helps me fly. I could not do this without my team and Dr. Upshaw.”