Strengthening My Skills and Igniting My Passions as a YWCA Volunteer
Melissa has been supportive of our work for years as a racial justice facilitator. She has volunteered for every single one of our events from It’s Time to Talk: Forums on RaceTM, It’s Time to Act!TM, to facilitate dialogues in the community. She continues to expand her knowledge of racial justice and bring people along with her to learn more – helping to support others’ critical thinking and openness to continued growth. She has dedicated hours of her valuable time to expand racial justice conversations in the Twin Cities and help us live our mission more fully. In this Q&A, Melissa describes her volunteerism and her dedication to the work.
How did you first get involved with YWCA Minneapolis?
I first became familiar with YWCA Minneapolis when I joined as a fitness member. The staff was always authentic, welcoming, personable and consistent. Additionally, no matter how bad my day was, the sense of community I felt upon entering the door, instantly made me smile.
What prompted you to begin volunteering?
After taking a few years off to work, I decided to complete my bachelor’s degree and was looking for a major to finish my degree quickly. I choose an ethnic studies program. While in the program, I learned about the importance of these programs, their fight for relevancy and credibility, and their history. Later I discovered more about the spectrum of black identity, which varied from my early educational experiences that stressed assimilation as a key to success. It made me rethink my intentions for entering the program, and in turn, sparked my curiosity for equity, inclusion and racial justice.
“Volunteering with YWCA Minneapolis is an important part of my identity and has helped me in my journey.”
During this time, my mother had just retired and began volunteering with YWCA as a racial justice facilitator. I remember my mother coming home from her first It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race™ and seeing the world through a new lens. That night, I began to explore the program and completed the training to become a facilitator a few months later. Currently, I am in a doctoral program, studying public policy with an emphasis on social policy. Using my skills as a racial justice facilitator, I am able to approach my classwork, including discussions, with neutrality, and validate and combine multiple perspectives. Volunteering with YWCA Minneapolis is an important part of my identity and has helped me in my journey.
How do you feel about the experience of volunteering with YWCA?
Over the years, I have thoroughly enjoyed volunteering as a racial justice facilitator, as well as for the Indoor Triathlons. Meeting new people, learning their stories, as well as sharing your personal journey makes the work rewarding. Although not everyone may always agree, the Racial Justice department staff ensures a neutral, nonpartisan, nonjudgmental, safe, inclusive and equitable environment.
What would you tell someone who is considering getting more involved at YWCA?
I would tell someone who is considering getting more involved to go for it! Volunteering with YWCA Minneapolis strengths your current skills, helps you discover hidden talents and ignites your internal passion. Often times when we meet new people, we give our 30-second elevator speech. But with YWCA, elevator speeches are unnecessary; just showing up as you are makes you an integral part of the community.