Natosha Lancaster is the program director at Isabel’s House and graduate of Leadership Springfield Signature Class 38. She is a natural leader with a passion for bettering the communities around her. Natosha is a member of Leadership Springfield’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and volunteers as a Signature Class Advisor. She has also been an integral part of Signature Class 38’s involvement with The Milly Project.
Natosha has fond memories of the Signature Class 38 opening retreat. She looks back on those first days as some of her favorite memories from the year. She enjoyed being able to get away and the many opportunities for meaningful conversations with her new classmates. Natosha says, “Had we not had that experience, I’m not sure how our relationships would’ve developed throughout the year.” After looking back on the experience as a whole, Natosha shares two of her greatest takeaways: be vulnerable as a leader and be open to collaboration. Figuring out how to work as a team despite different professions, backgrounds, experiences, and strengths as classmates was powerful for Natosha. She recognizes now more than ever that you must own your weaknesses in order to benefit from the strengths of others.
A large part of her experience that Natosha has continued to be a part of is Class 38’s involvement with The Milly Project.She was on the Springfield, Our Community program day team and they knew early on in planning that The Milly Project was something impactful they wanted to include. Natosha notes this was especially important for her to show her classmates as a Black woman living in Springfield. The program day was just the start of her journey with The Milly Project. Natosha and other members of Class 38 met weekly for months brainstorming how to further raise awareness about Milly’s story and evoke change. Their driving goal is to have Boonville Ave. renamed Milly Sawyers Ave. So far, Natosha and her classmates have officially partnered with The Milly Project, raised funds to get an official graphic for the project designed, and Natosha is currently writing language for a marker on the African American Heritage Trail in honor of Milly Sawyers. Natosha is extremely passionate about this journey of telling Milly Sawyers’ story and sharing not only the positive parts of Springfield’s history but also where the community has been in order to grow.
Natosha loves Springfield and she appreciates the efforts for inclusivity in the community but is eager to see more actions supporting them. When talking about how Springfield can continue to grow as an inclusive community, Natosha says, “You really have to be committed and willing to examine yourselves and the systems you operate in and make changes in order to be truly inclusive.” Natosha became an involved Leadership Springfield alumnus straight away which included joining the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. “I want to help Leadership Springfield [be inclusive] and hopefully this committee can help them be the innovators and do some really groundbreaking work that can become a model for other organizations in breaking that mold and breaking down barriers,” she says referencing the committee’s work.
Natosha is the Program Director at Isabel’s House. She is dedicated to Isabel’s House’s focus on prevention and the work they do to empower at-risk families and connect them with resources. When looking at her career path, Natosha feels like everything she has done thus far has prepared her for this job. Her multifaceted experience in social work, behavioral health, and more all culminates in this role allowing her to work with families to prevent abuse and neglect. She says that this truly is her dream job.
Natosha volunteers with the Missouri State University Alumni Association as a board member on the Black Alumni Council. She serves as the Public Relations Coordinator in which she manages social platforms and reaches out to university leaders as a voice for black alumni and students. “It’s heavy stuff but I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else.” Outside of work, Natosha enjoys quality time with her family. Natosha, her husband, and daughter love spending time at Springfield parks, supporting local restaurants, visiting the art museum, and attending shows at the Springfield Little Theatre.
Finally, Natosha has some words of wisdom for budding leaders of Springfield. “You can’t just sit around and wait for someone to ask you to participate in the community that you live in. You really have to own that.” As a leader who has seen her career continue to grow, she encourages young leaders by saying, “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Go for the thing that you’re passionate about.”