Program Coordinator, NCCJ
For most, retirement holds the promise of spending more time with family and catching up on favorite hobbies and pastimes. For Jeanette Taylor, it meant an exciting new chapter where she continues to give back to the community, empower Dayton’s youth, and welcome new faces.
“I decided to retire from the Ohio Head Start Association in 1998; it was time to move on, time to give back to the community and share what Head Start had given me.
I enjoyed making my children more well-rounded and educating the parents. Many young people bring a child into the world but don’t have the tools to give that child what they need. I would like to think that I gave them what they lacked at home.
I helped my children realize that they could contribute to their community regardless of their religious background or what they looked like.
After I retired, I searched for a new position. I wanted to continue doing what I like and wanted to have passion for the new position as I did with my previous job. This is when I was presented with the opportunity to work for National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). It was very similar work, but new work. I was responsible for helping people understand that diversity and inclusion is the main element in the equation that will bring us together.
It’s been seven years now, and I have to stop and think about it sometimes. A part-time retirement job, and seven years later, I’m still enjoying it.”
What does NCCJ do?
“My passion is to work with families and individuals and uncover the potential that exists in people. My work at NCCJ focuses primarily on the young people, specifically children in elementary schools. We discuss how we are alike and how we are different. Most of the time, their ideas of hatred, discrimination, and prejudice stem from home. Young children don’t usually arrive at those conclusions about an individual on their own account. We all have a responsibility to inform each other that some thoughts and feelings are hurtful not only to other people, but to themselves.
Some schools are very diverse and have second- or third-generation immigrants attending. You can always distinguish the children who have been exposed to a diverse background. Interactions with students whose family has lived in the United States for multiple generations can be very interesting. At the end, these interactions are helpful because the children learn from each other.
At NCCJ, we recognize that working at a school is just a small portion of what it takes to make people feel welcomed in Dayton. A part of the team goes to community centers, senior center buildings, juvenile courts, and nursing homes. Also, working with Dr. Theo Majka and the Ethnic and Cultural Diversity Caucus was instrumental in getting people to understand what it is that we do. We advocate for people to understand and be more welcomed. We strive to build a stronger family unit here in Dayton. ”
Making Our Neighborhoods Inclusive
“I think people often have a lack of understanding about others. For instance, for many years, when an African American family would move into a predominantly white neighborhood, their neighbors would get alarmed. Within time, white residents would realize their new neighbors worked for the things they have received and they had many characteristics in common.
Some people don’t seem to accept the fact that people don’t look like them and are fearful of what they don’t know. It’s the unknown that often causes people to panic. People are very quick to label others because of what they look like on the surface. I work to combat and reverse this from happening.
I like to teach others that unless you take the time to get to know a person, you will never really know him or her. Stereotypes will remain and the building of a relationship will never occur. Speaking is probably the easiest way to break the ice, but sometimes people are too scared to do that. My job is to promote dialogue and interactions, so that people are not frightened of their new neighbors.”
“All city of Dayton residents can benefit from welcoming our new community members. There are several new traditions to experience and new cultural aspects to hear. Once people create a dialogue, that’s when they are able to acknowledge their similarities, especially when both parties have children.
Knowing that I have been a part of the process in making our wonderful city more inclusive is the most rewarding aspect for me. With the help of organizations such as the Caucus and Welcome Dayton, we are able to make incoming families an integral part of our society.
The Welcome Dayton staff and their commitment–I am convinced they are doing the right thing. I feel honored to be a part of many of the collaborations with Welcome Dayton. It’s a great partnership and relationship. Our missions are similar and we always support one another. On a personal level, I feel like you have to believe in something if you’re going to spread the word and stand up for what you believe. And that’s what we do.”