Nonprofit Professionals

Interviews with nonprofit staff members:


One thought on “Nonprofit Professionals

  1. Amaha Sellassie

    Interview with Adrian Miller staff at NCCJ
    Am:”How did you come to NCCJ?”
    AD:”I learned about NCCJ while working as a school based therapist at Longfellow here in Dayton public. We had the opportunity to bring our kids to Teen Summit, which was great for our kids because Longfellow is where our kids go when they get expelled. So we didn’t have a lot of opportunity to do things that other kids got to do. So Teen Summit was great because our kids would go there and we didn’t have any behavior problems because it’s such a well-structured day. They would go and be like typical kids which was really neat. When you are at Teen Summit they divide the kids up into different groups so you’re at a table with kids from 7 different schools and its always a day of nonviolent inclusion. I had 2 people come up to me and say ”your kids are talking about pressure and the pressure to fight. What are you going to do about that? How are you going to change that in your school? “ I knew there was a problem that existed and I was thrilled that the kids were sharing it and that they felt safe enough in that environment. So that’s where I first learned about NCCJ I thought wow I love Teen Summit day! The woman who actually had the job, Susan Sibbings, contacted me. She really wanted a social worker to take over her position. So when she first told me about the job I said I really loved what I do and really did not want to leave. She called again and just shared her passion for NCCJ and I thought ok I will give it a try. And then we had always sent a student to Anytown from our school who would get a scholarship and a peacemaker award and Susan would always come and give the peacemaker award that was also through NCCJ and that student would receive the scholarship and got to go to Anytown and I thought well that’s pretty cool too. So that’s kind of how I learned about it.
    AM:” Can you share some of the background of NCCJ?”
    AD:”NCCJ started in the 1920’s by a social worker Jane Adams as one of our founders. I thought that was so cool. I thought that was how it was meant to be in the universe. So if I wasn’t sure, I thought well a social worker started it, I should be involved. So it was a national office for Christian and Jews back in the 1920’s. There were issues in our government and religious people were not getting along. In the 90’s they changed the name to the National Conference for Community and Justice because they said they were doing much more than religion so they wanted to show that but they didn’t want to loose the NCCJ brand. Unfortunately in the early 2000’s the national org fell apart. NCCJ of Greater Dayton is what we became then and we have been around since 1978 working in this community, serving and trying to go.
    AM:”so do you guys communicate with each other at all?”
    AD:”Its basically just us but this weekend I did call around a few of the other ones because I had some questioning about our Anytown program. I was curious to see what other places do. And I know I got a call from Las Vegas a few days ago about Anytown. That is a program that has been kept alive by many NCCJ’s. There is a new org that is trying to bring people back together but we haven’t decided yet.
    AM:”even like a loose network?”
    AD:”They are tying to put conferences together again and we are still deciding because we don’t want to just jump into something not knowing for sure what’s going to happen with it. But we do communicate but we are not part of any formal network”
    AM:” So is Teen summit something was developed out of Dayton?”
    AD:” Jim Hagan brought that to us because when we didn’t do it this time because of funding he said I used to do this for $500 and kids brought their own lunches. I said I don’t have a problem with that because last time we spend $3500 just on food. That just seems crazy! You know we don’t have to five them breakfast.”
    AM:”whas that was because you were over at Sinclair and you had to use airmart?”
    Am: Has funding changes had an impact on your service delivery?
    Adr: it affected the national organization. And yes it affected us. We had an org in Yellow Springs who had always worked with us who decided to change the way they do their funding and putting all of their attention to Antioch so they’re not funding other places and they had helped us fund programing in Yellow Springs. So we’re just learning more about grants and trying to get into corporate because they have the funding. And we have the opportunity to go into more schools. Because if we can get more money from corporate, then we need less money from schools. Plus we get a lot of personal donations. So maybe people aren’t giving as much as they used to.
    Am: How has these funding cuts affected societal changes…or have you had to shift how you do things?
    Ad: The population of Dayton keeps changing; being a Welcome community, there are a whole lot of cultures that weren’t here before. So we want to be aware of all that. See, what’s going on and get a better understanding about the people who are in the community. So that’s one of the changes. I think the internet and cyber affects things as far as the kids that we work with because we deal with the issues and bullying always comes up into it. Although that may not be the main focus of why we’re there, but it’s part of it. If people can relate better with each other, then the bullying will not be happening. So I think the internet plays a role in it.
    Am: How has bullying affected the type of services you provide since it seems like bullying has become a major issue?
    Ad: I don’t know that bullying has changed anything because we’ve always been about teaching people that even though we may look a little different on the outside, on the inside we’re all the same. And that’s the same message that we’ve always tried to carry. The only difference would be getting into the whole cyber part of it.
    Am: Have you done anything towards bringing together the new cultures being introduced to the area with the ones that are already here?
    Ad: With Anytown we do that. We recruit from all over the area. We’ve had people and kids from Africa, Mexico, Romania; Belmont has all those kids. Same thing with when they come to Teen Summit. About 10-12 kids came from Belmont. I’d like to get into Belmont and work in that school and deal with some of the issues going on there, but the schools need to be willing to let us come in. It’s about building a relationship. So between the two I built some relationships. And the more I get to build, the more opportunities that come. The hard part is when they change principals. But as long as you can keep a track of where they’re going, we’ll work with the kids anywhere. So it goes back to those relationships.
    Am: What careers in non-profits do you see growing or shrinking in demand?
    Ad: As far as growing, Marketing and Funding is going to develop more because we are going to have to come up with ways to increase our funding and get our name out there. So that’s something that’s growing. As a social worker I’ve always looked at things in micro, but I think we’re going to have to start looking at things in macro because you can learn a lot from other communities. A lot of the issues are the same no matter where you are.
    Am: How has your organization formed interorganizational partnerships to adapt to community funding issues?
    Ad: We’ve started talks to partner with K12 and the Boys & Girls Club to do grants together because funders are all about funding partnerships these days. So I think it’s about connecting with other organizations and trying to work together. So we’re adapting. And I think it’s good because we each provide a different expertise so we can only give even better service because there are so many great organizations out there. And I’ve learned so much about the community being here in the past year. And there are a lot of great services in Dayton.
    Am: How has being at NCCJ expanded your outlook and knowledge on services and programs?
    Ad: I was at Longfellow for three and a half years and my experience was very isolated. If I had a pregnant student, I didn’t know where to send her for services and my supervisor didn’t either. But here we’re all on different committees so we’re all part of the United Against Violence…
    Am: Which committees are you on?
    Ad: The Family Engagement committee. It’s a great way to meet people and connect and find out what’s going on. The Downtown Dayton Partnership on Diversity gets me into different meetings. The partnership with Dayton schools gets you into different meetings and you find out about other organizations. At the Friendship Dinner you meet different people. And we run camps through the Fraternal Order of Police of Dayton. I go to board meetings, which as a social worker I never went to board meetings, and they provide a plethora of knowledge because they all have such different backgrounds, which is why they’re on our board to give us different information. I have an education committee that I’m a part of, and being part of MLK, and there are just so many things that I know nothing about. It’s all about building relationships. So if I need to go out and meet somebody, I just go out and meet somebody because it’s actually part of my job. And I still have a lot to learn. And it’s really great! I get to go home and say, ‘hey, I learned something new today.’
    Am: What do you love most about this job?
    Ad: I still love working with the kids. I inherited some amazing programs and I believe in them. Like Anytown. I left that week exhausted, but at the same time I was saying to myself, ‘I can’t wait to come back and do this again.’ I truly believe in it and we have an impact. At Anytown you get to see when the light switches for a kid and he says, ‘I get it!’ And that’s really cool.
    Am: What is your message here?
    Ad: Our goal is to eliminate bias, bigotry and all forms of discrimination. We just want everyone to get along. It seems like such a simple message, but it’s amazing.
    Am: What are the challenges of working a non-profit? How do you stay motivated and passionate about your work?
    Ad: I truly believe in what we do and I’ve worked in non-profit all my career and I just love what I do. It’s interesting because I’ve always loved what I do, but when I came here I thought, ‘Oh, this is true love!’ I didn’t know I could love something I do so much, I mean the connections, the people, the kids-all of it is just phenomenal. To know that there are kids out there doing great things and they really get our mission. This is the job I took that I plan to retire from; I don’t plan on leaving it. I just love it here.
    Am: Thank you for your time.
    Ad: You’re welcome.

Leave a Reply