Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

Linda Pearson — Putting People First

Published in the July 2010 issue of Boom! NC Magazine

By Whitney L.J. Howell

Leaving a place better than the way you found it might be an old, well known campfire adage, but it is also the mantra by which Linda Pearson lives her life. In our conversation, it was easy to see, whether she talked about her career, her family, or her future dreams, she is passionate about making a positive impact in all she does.

Linda Pearson, executive director for the Moore County United Way, strives to leave things better than she found them in all her activities.

Pearson, a 51-year-old Moore County native, is currently the executive director of that county’s United Way. She manages the organization’s $550,000 to $650,000 annual budget and fundraises for other non-profit groups that are important and beneficial to the surrounding community. She told me those parts of her job are important, but the projects that immediately touch others are the ones that let her know she is making a palpable difference.

“I’m particularly proud of the 2-1-1 service the United Way helped bring to Moore County last year,” Pearson said. “People in this area will now be able to get answers and help for their service and health needs from certified professionals.”

The 2-1-1 Information and Referral Service connects callers who simply dial 2-1-1 with specialists who can offer government, municipal, and health services assistance. The calls are free, anonymous, multi-lingual, and open 24-hours a day. The United Way partnered with several organizations, including FirstHealth of the Carolinas, Progress Energy, and First Bank to launch this service.

Pearson’s path to the United Way was a winding road that began in broadcast radio and television. Straight out of college, she worked for Florence, S.C., stations WBTW and WPDE. She spent ten years in the industry before realizing that she did not want to be in front of the camera.

“I remember going to the grocery store at night when I’d get off after the news at 11:30 just so people wouldn’t stare at me,” she said. “But, they’d still stare at me like I was an alien — I just wanted them to realize that I was doing a job just like they did every day.”

She later took a job with a company that provided security for South Carolina’s Savannah River Site, a nuclear waste clean-up facility.

Pearson is true to her mantra in other ways. She told me helping the children in her life — both her own and the ones she mentors — is the most important thing she does. She worked hard to give her two girls a chance she never had — the opportunity to pursue music and dance. Her eldest is an accomplished trumpet player, and her youngest excels in dance.

I was impressed that, even with all her responsibilities, Pearson has been a mentor for high school students since 2008. She is a Moore Buddy through the Compass Project, a federally funded program that provides community-based mentoring, and she meets with a student one hour a week outside of school.

“Mentoring can be very challenging, but I had an awakening in my mind that this was what I wanted to do,” she said. “I hope to guide her through life and have an impact on her so she stops and thinks before making a wrong decision.”

Thankfully, Pearson has no plans to stop leaving her mark. Her future plans include launching a venture designed to guide and lift up young black men. She hopes to give that group more opportunities and every chance to succeed.

“I have a great concern for black youth growing up today,” she said. “I believe if you care about people, you give 100 percent, and I want to make things better for them.”

Whitney L.J. Howell is a freelance writer specializing in personality profiles, community, parenting, and health news. She can be reached at whitneyljhowell@gmail.com.

To see the article online: http://www.boomnc.com/2010/07/articles_fiftyfab_triangle_201007.html

July 1, 2010 Posted by | Profiles | , | Leave a comment

Affirmative Action Advocates Consider Recession’s Impact on Diversity

Published in the July 1, 2010, issue of Diverse: Issues in Higher Education

by Whitney L.J. Howell

RALEIGH, N.C. – Diversity isn’t recession proof, and higher education and corporate officials agreed that

Dr. James Anderson is chancellor at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina. He was the introductory keynote speaker at the American Association for Affirmative Action annual meeting on June 30, 2010.

institutions of all types must be proactive to prevent the faltering economy from overly impacting one or more underrepresented groups.

That was a theme of discussion during the American Association for Affirmative Action (AAAA) annual meeting in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday. The main question: how can organizations maintain diversity when the bottom line forces downsizing?

“You have to pay attention to what’s happening and what decisions are made because downsizing is an opportunity for inequity,” said Dr. Benjamin D. Reese, Jr., vice president of the Office for Institutional Equity at both Duke University and Duke University Health System. “It’s difficult to develop a strategy around diversity. We all want to create an inclusive environment, but in practice, it’s very, very challenging.”

Duke created a group — the Duke Administrators Restructuring Team — that analyzes the potential cost savings of any financial change against the effect on employees. If the human impact is too great, particularly on one population, such as reducing housekeeping services, the team rejects the proposed budget cut, Reese said.

Voluntary, early retirements can pose just as big a problem for maintaining diversity, especially when Baby Boomers hold key positions in the organization, said Michael Leach, chair of the Human Relations Commission in Raleigh. Suddenly eliminating most older workers who are well versed in their jobs from the payroll could negatively impact the delivery of services.

“In some cases, you have to really step back and look at the rational for getting rid of people,” Leach said. “It’s imperative that you know who will be prepared to step in and take on the majority of the job functions.”

It’s the details about these types of experiences that make meetings such as this one beneficial, said Jerry Knighton, interim director of Clemson University’s Office of Access & Equity. Coming together as a group gave him the opportunity speak with other peers in the diversity profession about their experiences with trying to maintain diversity in their organizations in the face of economic downturn.

“It was interesting to hear how others in our community are dealing with downsizing,” Knighton said.  “We’re dealing with a lot of the same issues, and it was good to see how they made sure these decisions don’t overly impact one or more groups in their institutions. These are ideas that I’ll take back to Clemson.”

Although maintaining diversity is a popular buzz phrase, making it a reality can mean opposing a long-standing culture in an organization or an institution of higher education, said Dr. James A. Anderson, chancellor of Fayetteville State University and introductory AAAA keynote speaker.

It’s imperative that Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity officers speak up and advise their organizations on effective and appropriate ways to mitigate the effect the economic downturn has on diversity, said Frank L. Matthews, session moderator and co-founder of Cox, Matthews & Associates Inc., publisher of Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine and DiverseEducation.com.

To do otherwise sets a bad precedent, he cautioned.

“You are the change agents on your campuses and in your organizations,” Matthews said. “People will try to play it safe, but you must find advocates who support maintaining diversity. If we don’t, it’s like the old saying, there will be no one left when they come for us.”

To view the article online: http://diverseeducation.com/article/13924/affirmative-action-advocates-consider-recession-s-impact-on-diversity.html

July 1, 2010 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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