For a Better Us: Expanding our DEI Initiatives To Ensure the Y is a Place for All
September 8-17, 2023 was Welcoming Week, a national initiative put forth by Welcoming America, which celebrates the efforts and journeys of new Americans, refugees and immigrants. This population is an important piece to our communities where individuals make vibrant contributions and add to the mosaic of our society. Here at the Y we’re proud to be an organization that celebrates Welcoming Week as part of the initiative but in addition to everyday as we continue to welcome immigrants, refugees, and new Americans with open arms into our facilities and programs.
Part of our association’s efforts of continuing to expand our efforts in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion has been the re-launch of our JEDI (Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion) Committee which focuses on how welcoming and inclusive the Y is, as well as how we are giving those in our community a deep sense of belonging. The JEDI members are made up of staff, volunteers and community participants who have a passion for this work and serve not only as integral perspectives of the committee but as advocates for the work as well. JEDI members have been meeting monthly for just over the past year and recent accomplishments include supporting the placement of a outsourced language service at the Y to break down language barriers, contributing to the creation of our DEI strategic plan goals, and taking steps on collaborating with cultural organizations to partner on future events to be hosted by the Y.
Co-chair of the JEDI Committee, Iraida Munoz, who works for the Public Health Office of Nashua as well as the Y as both a Group Ex Instructor and an Adaptive Swim Instructor shared her vision for the initiative, “As a co-chair of this committee I expect to use the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) framework to improve social responsibility, to become ethical leaders in our communities, to attract and retain diverse and inclusive talents, to reduce discrimination and biases overall, and to improve engagement and collaboration. In summary, a JEDI framework is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic advantage. Organizations that prioritize justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion are better equipped to attract top talent, and contribute positively to both their internal and external culture causing a positive impact in our community.”
In addition to these initiatives we are always looking at ways to expand our programming to be inclusive of all, we have received two separate grants over the past 18 months which both support adaptive swim lessons through our Aquatics program, specifically which engage autistic youth. We have served 31 participants in this program in the past 10 months of operation. Grant funds cover the cost of training Aquatics staff and subsidize the cost of the private lessons.
As an organization we’re very proud of the DEI efforts we’ve made to be a true representative of our diverse community and a resource for all, but we know there is still work to be done. We are actively looking for additional participants to be a part of these efforts, whether it is joining our JEDI Committee, serving on our board, volunteering or teaching a swim lesson, please reach out to Executive Director of Community Impact Lynne Boyer at email@example.com. As Iraida shared “Our committee is very important because it allows us to bring together staff from our branches and YMCA members to listen to them, identify their needs and address their needs so that everyone feels that they belong to our organization. An inclusive environment promotes open communication and collaboration among employees. When employees feel comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas, it can lead to more effective teamwork and better decision-making.”
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