Woman with curly hair wearing a black FreshFest t-shirt holds a blue book.
Dawn Glasco seen here holding her book, Community Engagement Leadership: Unleashing the Power Within, wants people to tap into their inner leadership potential. Credit: Najee Hall / Signal Cleveland

Standing behind a long table with a yellow cloth, Dawn Glasco handed a glossy blue paperback book to the woman in front of her.

“You go, girl!,” the woman yelled. She and Dawn entered into a joyous hug.

Glasco manned a table as a vendor at FreshFest, a free family event featuring live music, art installations, food trucks and more presented by Environmental Health Watch, Rid-All Green Partnership and Britney’s Record Shop. The fest, in the heart of Central, was held for its fourth year Sept. 9.  Glasco has attended every one.

Glasco said she was really proud just to see the growth of Fresh Fest. She’s lived in the community for 18 years and is excited that the neighborhood embraces the festival.

“I love the people here in Central,” Glasco said. “The vitality of people here is really special. There’s always so many people to connect with and places to go.”

Central is also where she got started as an organizer, by joining the Central Promise Ambassadors, where she has been actively involved for the past 10 years. Glasco told Signal Cleveland that her time with the ambassadors has taught her what it really means to be an effective leader.

“I was able to organize events, activities, and initiatives that affect the quality of life. The work of an organizer comes with a great deal of responsibility, which I appreciate.” she said. “I look at this work in an artistic way–it requires a lot of creativity. Doing this work made me want to talk more in depth about it.”

Along with being an activist, Glasco is a mother, enjoys playing the singing bowl and Buffalo Drums, and most recently became a published author.   

Creating a plan for Central and beyond

Glasco’s book, Community Engagement Leadership: Unleashing the Power Within, helps everyday people tap into their inner leadership potential. She shares seven principles for leadership and community building. She believes compassion, communication, collaboration, commitment, courage, connection and culture leads to stronger, more engaged communities.

Glasco said she has been writing for as long as she can remember. While she started  projects in the past, she did not necessarily finish them. 

“I started writing many books years ago,” Glasco said. “Every time I started to write one, something would happen in life and I would put it back on the shelf.”

There was something different this time. “I love community building, organizing and connecting with people. I had a message to share, so I made it a point to see this one through.” 

Her initial inspiration for writing this book came while she was working in the community and saw someone being mistreated. “It occurred to me that day that it was so important to have compassion in this space.” she said. “It’s unfair to judge people in certain ways without building that connection and experiencing that commonality of being human. I thought to myself, OK, I can lead with this.”

Glasco often finds herself having to refresh herself on her own principles, as many difficulties have arisen while in the organizing space. “There have been issues around building trust. People often wonder who you are and what your motives may be,” she said.

Glasco believes that the best remedy for that initial hesitation is to simply be yourself. “Being present and excited about what I do allows me to build with others. Being self-aware and genuine is important. People can feel that. Again, it’s that compassion.”

Finding joy in the day

She encourages Clevelanders to make it a point to find some type of joy as they go about their day.

“Positivity is one of my biggest strengths. I surround myself with other positive people,” she said with a smile. “Things happen in life and you have to be able to push through. I have a family who I love and want to leave something behind to. There is no time for any type of negative self talk. That creates resistance, and those negative thoughts can show up in other areas of your life.”

Glasco’s book is available on Amazon as a paperback or as an e-book.  She hopes that leaders in all areas of life are able to find value in her words.

“One of my favorite things to do is share information. Sharing my experiences and my knowledge with other people just feels good to me.” she said. “My hope is that leaders in any arena are able to use the tools and apply them practically.”

Community Reporter (he/him)
Najee has been a Cleveland Documenter since it started in 2020. He joins Signal Cleveland from a role as an organizer with New Voices for Reproductive Justice. He leads the Central Community Listening Team.