Sometimes change can be scary as we await the unknown, whether that be a new person, new idea, or new way of doing things. Fortunately for BGCSM, change has been positively progressive. One of those changes is the introduction of the new board chair, Jennifer DeMello-Johnson. Uniquely nicknamed “Mama DJ” by the youth at BGCSM, she has had an extensive background with this type of environment, not just in work, but in passion. She says accepting this new role has “really presented an opportunity for me to leverage my passion for youth, education, entrepreneurship, and being a change agent in my community. Itwas only natural for me to lean in and step up.”
Jennifer has been preparing for this position before it became a reality. She served on the executive committee, helping with the strategic direction of BGCSM. Board members are strategically chosen to ﬁll the gaps in skills, resources, and expertise required to support and promote BGCSM’s ecosystem. Before being considered to serve as the new board chair, she worked closely with the previous board chair, HiramJackson. Hiram came at a critical time, as there were many essential changes required of the organization. “He was up for the job, and I was able to witness his unprecedented leadership. He is the epitome of progress over perfection because he was able to get us to a point of stability. Because of that, when webrought Shawn in (as president and CEO of BGCSM), he was able to evolve the true mission of the organization.” Because she was able to work so closely with Shawn, transitioning to the seat as the new boardchair was a natural move for her.
The organization’s board leadership has been impactful. Jennifer wasted no time in taking the torch and continuing to carry the vision of BGCSM. One thing that she has been actively involved in is the Industry Club Data Science and Risk Management Program. Jennifer partnered with numerous organizations to come together for six weeks to teach the youth key areas of insurance as it pertains to business. After the program, the youth had a greater understanding of insurance and risk management and were able to pitch their own agencies.
She is very passionate about getting young people career, start-up and being homeowner ready.“70% of children born in poverty remain in poverty. The only way to combat this reality is through education and providing opportunities outside of education. If higher education is not the route they want totake, they can create their own businesses and be their own change agents.” As Jennifer stated, the goalis not to just be a safe place for students to go to after school, but to prepare them for the future.
Conclusively, she wants to ensure that three things happen under her leadership:
- BGCSM has an active board of directors, optimizing talents and contributions to fund the mission
- Protect and support the culture and values of BGCSM, and
- Ensure that all youth have access to mental health and wellness programs.
To do this, she has a 3-fold vision for her tenure:
- To serve as a role model to the board members and ensure 100% full participation and engagement.
- To re-imagine the Women’s Association.
- To provide mental wellness programs and resources to all BGCSM’s youth members.
She ends with a favorite quote of hers that she often shares with her team, “We make a living bywhat we get. We make a life by what we give.” (Winston Churchill) Jennifer and the whole BGCSM board have done a great job living this quote as they strive to give and improve the lives of each young person that comes through any BGCSM door. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan looks forward to the amazing advancement that will happen under Jennifer’s leadership as she carries the vision forward.
If you’d like to get involved with BGCSM please visit bgcsm.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.