Hiring Locally Strengthens Local Organizations
As a high school math teacher in Tacoma, Tim Herron developed the Act Six initiative in 2002 to help his students succeed in college and return to lead in their community. Today, as the President of Tacoma-based nonprofit Degrees of Change—which now operates the Act Six initiative—he continues to build on that effort by hiring staff locally.
“The greatest assets of any community are its people, and Evergreen Tacoma seeks to grow students who will lead in the communities they come from.”
Hiring locally and seeking out individuals who are already deeply connected to the community is a trend that GTCF sees among local organizations. Seven of the 24 Degrees of Change staff members—as well as 3 Board members—are Act Six alumni themselves.
Herron believes having staff who reflect and model the outcomes of the program for the students they are serving supports the organization’s mission, “When our new program participants are being led by people who have experienced the program and are living it out, they see their own path forward. It is not exclusive to Degrees of Change, but there is something powerful about someone who has had a particular journey and can relate to you.”
At Evergreen Tacoma, they’ve also seen the power of drawing from local residents when looking for both faculty and students. John McLain, Director of Grants, says the college has been able to grow and attract its own talented local workforce, and that many students have opportunities to work in the program while they are still attending. Evergreen Tacoma alums like Carol Wolfe, the City of Tacoma’s Business Services and Workforce Partnerships Manager; Nate Gibbs-Bowling, Washington State Teacher of the Year in 2016 and a local podcaster; and Korbett Mosesly, Director of Family Stability Initiatives at United Way of Pierce County, have become influential leaders in the community as well.
“The greatest assets of any community are its people,” says McLain, “and Evergreen Tacoma seeks to grow students who will lead in the communities they come from.”
A newer arrival in Tacoma is also recognizing the value of hiring locally. Green Dot Public Schools established numerous schools in California and Tennessee, and is now making efforts to hire more local staff for Destiny Middle School, their first Tacoma location. Local community leaders regularly teach enrichment classes, and as the school grows, they plan to add more local faculty and administration. “We recognize when we reflect the community we serve, we can serve them better.” says Vivienne Nguyen, Green Dot Schools Development Officer. “We want to grow with the community and develop cross-sector partnerships that help our graduates find pathways to leadership opportunities here.”
Having staff and Board Members who are deeply connected to what’s going on locally can also help organizations secure community support. Andrew Whitney, Tacoma Site Director for Degrees of Change Career Programs is a prime example. Having graduated from Foss High School and Pacific Lutheran University, Andrew then spent several years at Russell Investments. Tim Herron has seen that Andrew, “understands the corporate business needs and has lived the experience as a kid growing up in Tacoma thinking about his options and having those expanded. As he is in the meetings recruiting businesses for our internship program, he is able to share his story and inspire both businesses and youth to partake in this process.”