Nicole Vick has spent the last fifteen years providing tools and strategies to stakeholders, community-based organizations, students, and residents to improve health and prevent disease in some of Los Angeles County’s most underserved communities.
She also has 12 years of teaching experience. She is currently an adjunct professor in the Urban and Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College and has taught at Cal State LA, Ashford University, and the University of Phoenix.
Ms. Vick serves on three boards. She was most recently appointed to the boards of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles and Public Health Advocates. For the past 5 years, she has served as Board Secretary at Esperanza Community Housing, an organization that works to achieve community development in the Figueroa Corridor neighborhood of South Los Angeles. For two years she chaired the City of Los Angeles’ newest Commission, appointed by District 8 Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson.
Ms. Vick earned both her B.S. in Public Policy and Management and Master of Public Health degrees from the University of Southern California.
In her first book “Pushing Through: Finding the Light in Every Lesson” she shares both the heartbreaking pain and the extraordinary triumphs that led her to advocacy and social justice work. Her story takes place against the background of the long-neglected and overlooked community of South-Central Los Angeles, where she grapples with the grotesque imbalance of power and privilege as it unfolds in every aspect of her life and those around her. She traversed seamlessly between the past and the present, and poverty and privilege. As time passed, the duality in her world grew larger and much more complex, manifesting very deep and painful emotional experiences. She learned to make sense of the two worlds she existed in and used that skill to connect, build, and create community, comradery, and a sense of purpose.
PWH: Describe what you do in five words.
NV: Public health professional, educator, author
PWH: How do you balance being in the work field and a full-time entrepreneur, author, and speaker?
NV: Interestingly enough, I feel quite uncomfortable if I’m not busy. I prefer to have a lot going on. Also, all of my endeavors are an extension of who I am, so it doesn’t feel foreign to make them all work. My day job takes up the majority of my day and I make everything else fit around it. My daughter is an adult so I don’t really have anything else to fill my time other than working on all of my endeavors.
PWH: You are a known speaker, what message do you hope your audience receives at every engagement?
NV: That everyone has the power to change their community. It doesn’t require being a celebrity or having a huge amount of money. Everyone has a talent or skill that they can share with others or use to help a community-based organization in some way.
PWH: What sparked your interest in writing?
NV: First, I honestly believed my story was worth telling. I believed that the world needed to hear how I grew up, the struggles I had with my body and my self-image, my journey as a teen mom, and all the other things I went through to get where I am today. Secondly, at the time I decided I needed to tell my story, I had just turned 40, which to me was a good point in time to reflect on where I came from and where I was going. Lastly, I had an interesting reaction to a bit of information that was shared during a work meeting that really got the ball rolling for me on writing my book.
PWH: Tell us about your first book, “Pushing Through: Finding the Light in Every Lesson”?
NV: The book outlines my journey to public health and social justice work. I also spend quite a bit of time sharing key points in my life that played a big part in shaping who I am today. I highlight those points in my life through public health and social just lens. In essence, the book is an example of a life lived through a public health framework. I also give tips on how a woman can change their lives and their communities.
PWH: What motivated your title?
NV: I originally wanted to name the book, “Made in South LA”, but my book coach Kim O’Hara was against it. I mentioned it on a video podcast once and Kim said “Nope, I watched their reaction when you said it and there was nothing. You gotta change the title”. I was lost at that point because I was so sure that “Made in South LA” was what I wanted. Before I started writing my book Kim gave me a questionnaire to complete and so I decided to take another look at it to see if I could find something there to help me land on a title. One of the questions asked what I most proud of or something like that. My response was “I’m most proud of my ability to push through”. I decided on “Pushing Through” was more appropriate because it indicated action as if I was continuously working, moving, achieving, thriving. The subtitle came from my publisher, Juliet Clark. I told her that when I think of “Pushing Through” I think of a plant growing through concrete and she wanted to play on that by using “light” since plants need light. She came up with it while on one of our scheduled planning calls. I was at work on my lunch break and on a zoom call with her and when she said “finding the light in every lesson”, I remember being so happy that I rolled back in my office chair. It hit that hard.
PWH: What challenges did you face during the writing process?
NV: In the beginning, finding a writing routine was hard. It took a while to get into the groove of writing, but once I figured out a strategy, it all came together.
Another challenge was trying to remember past events in sufficient detail so that when I wrote them out readers would feel as if they were right there with me. One example of a moment I had trouble with was when I found out I was pregnant. I could not remember how I felt when the doctor told me. I had a relatively good memory of what happened leading up to that moment and what happened after it, but that moment was gone. It was really weird.
PWH: Where can readers find your book?
NV: My book is available on Amazon. The Kindle version is available now and the paperback version is available on September 14
PWH: Bonus: What advice do you have for upcoming writers?
NV: Don’t be afraid to tell your story. It’s valuable and someone will benefit from the lessons you’ve learned. It’s also okay to use a book coach or some process to keep you on track. I benefited greatly from the insight and guidance from my coach.
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