“As someone who has lived here all my life and has been involved, it was easy for me to be content to have some surface knowledge of many of the important topics on the SouthCoast,” says Josh of his LSC experience. “I really liked that LSC helped the class, myself included, get a much deeper look at the local issues of our time.”
What do you do professionally?
I work at PACE Inc. (People Acting in Community Endeavors) a local non-profit community action agency that serves the Greater New Bedford area. We offer fuel assistance, preschool and child care voucher programs, a food bank, assistance with access to healthcare, job skills training through YouthBuild, housing assistance, and plenty more. I split my time between the fuel assistance program and administration of the agency as a whole. I’ve had the opportunity to lead our strategic planning efforts and improve overall operations. One day I might be working on a budget or meeting with staff to implement agency-wide plans, and another I might be meeting face-to-face with a client to help them get their electric turned back on. Many of us in the non-profit sector wear a lot of different hats and I enjoy putting my skills to use on the administration side, but it’s also great to stay grounded and connected with our clients because ultimately creating a positive experience and connection for them is at the core of what we’re here to do. It doesn’t always match the perception, but it’s a lot easier to sit behind a desk putting together a report or to go from meeting to meeting than it is to provide great customer service to each person that walks through our door. Our front line staff have the most difficult jobs in the building.
How are you involved in the community and what motivates you to engage?
I’ve always felt a need to be involved in the community, and it was a factor in why I chose to “commute” a couple miles to UMass Dartmouth rather than going away to college after I graduated from New Bedford High. Making that decision allowed me to really explore the dynamics of the community more while I was in school, and it ended up with me getting elected to the New Bedford School Committee when I was 20. In my second term now, I’m still as enthusiastic as ever about improving our schools. My involvement on the educational and political side started first, but now occasionally runs together with my professional involvement in the community through PACE. For example, I sit on the city’s Homeless Service Providers Network for work but have known most of the people in the room for years through other projects. New Bedford is just small enough that one or two or three people can make transformative change, but large enough for that change to have a monumental impact.
I grew up in New Bedford in a similar situation to that of many of our New Bedford students, or of many of our clients at PACE. In fact, we received fuel assistance at home growing up and I went to pre-school thanks to a PACE voucher. It’s really important to me that folks in the city that find themselves under similar circumstances have the same good fortune and opportunities to get ahead. Obviously that’s deeply important to each person on a personal, individual level, but it’s also a huge part of the future development of New Bedford and the South Coast as a whole. As the city remakes itself as a more desirable place to live and work, the goal has to be for the people of New Bedford to “come up” too. I’m extremely proud of the work we do toward that end both at PACE and in the school department.
What did you find most valuable about the LSC experience and how did it contribute to your community leadership?
As someone who has lived here all my life and has been involved, it was easy for me to be content to have some surface knowledge of many of the important topics on the SouthCoast. I really liked that LSC helped the class, myself included, get a much deeper look at the local issues of our time. I know a learned a lot that I was ignorant to that was happening right under my own nose.
The real highlight of LSC for me was in getting to know others in the class and forming those relationships. As I mentioned earlier, you don’t need an army to make an impact here. Most of the time, you just need the phone number or e-mail address of someone you think would make a great partner on a particular project. LSC increased my Rolodex (contacts list, but Rolodex sounds cooler) by thirty people and across every sector imaginable. Now when I see Jim McKeag (from MassDevelopment) at a Homeless Service Providers Network meeting, we’re more likely to sharpen our ideas to get to a solution. When a city board I’m on is looking to increase the accessibility of the city’s polling places, I can reach out to Heather Heffernan (from Sylvia Group), recently appointed to the Elections Commission. Through the Positive Leadership curriculum, I also learned more about myself and found a way to put a name to concepts and ideas that I couldn’t before. If finding allies is a skill I already had, the class definitely helped me realize what I bring to the table as a partner myself.
Describe your leadership in one word.