Dwana Caliste: Leveraging her Voice to Empower Youth and Inspire Positive Volunteer Work
Updated: Aug 3
Throughout her life, Dwana Caliste has made it her mission to inspire and empower youth by giving them the tools to succeed, assume leadership roles and cultivate positive change within their communities. Having been involved with Thrive 9th Ward and it’s predecessor for over 20 years, Dwana has a rich understanding of the community around her, as well as the things that would allow the Desire Neighborhood to thrive.
As Thrive 9th Ward’s Director of Youth Programming, Dwana works hard all year-round to create a safe haven for the neighborhood’s youth, coordinating mentorships, tutoring, youth leadership programs and more during the school year. But it’s during the hot summer months when T9 hosts its annual Summer Camp that she really thrives.
“I’ve been involved with summer camp at T9 for years and years,” says Dwana. “I love the work I do during the school year, but there’s something special about the summer and seeing the joy and consistent smiles on the children’s faces.”
Described by her colleagues as a kind and empowering disciplinarian, Dwana is particularly skilled at taking holistic approaches with kids in a way that cultivates long term growth and development.
“The best thing about what I do is that I get to experience a child setting their goals, and be there to watch as they see them through. The work I do isn’t about a salary, it’s about empowering the people around me, and being a light in a dark place,” says Dwana.
Leveraging Her Influence to Teach Others
But Dwana isn’t only using her voice to empower youth. In her upcoming book, “So You Say You Want To Help”, she tackles issues around volunteerism, and offers the do’s and don’ts for folks looking to serve communities in productive and long-lasting ways.
“This is really a manual on how to help serve inner-city communities,” says Dwana. “We often see people with hero mentalities who want to ‘save the day’ without putting in the work to cultivate real change. It’s really important to listen to the people who are already doing the work to figure out the best ways to show your support”.
When we look at Dwana’s body of work, her commitment to empowerment rings clear. An example of what can happen when you leverage your influence and voice for good, Dwana is already hard at work inspiring the future leaders of tomorrow.
We at Thrive are continuously grateful for Dwana’s contributions to the organization as well as the greater New Orleans community.