Jessica Moore is the Early Childhood Services Director at Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency in Highland Park, Michigan. The program serves nearly 1,100 children. For Jessica, the challenges of 2020 illuminated what community truly means. She saw the need among her families for food, household supplies, and at-home learning materials. She also saw the importance and mutual benefit of helping local small businesses stay afloat.
These long-term relationships with local businesses have helped her program in many ways in the past, and helping them keep their doors open was a key part of her strategic problem-solving. Partnerships with a small-scale wholesale food supplier, a local food bank, and an educational toy store became mutually beneficial relationships that helped the community through the turbulent year by becoming a lifeline for businesses facing shutdown or closure.
On top of supporting families with access to food and materials, Jessica approached staff support in a new way. Staff were, of course, navigating their own challenges during the pandemic, and Jessica placed a high priority on self-care and communication. At the same time, she looked to them for advice and collaboration in planning. Jessica’s visionary approach and inclusive thinking have created a symbiotic network that she hopes will be a new model of collaboration going forward.
In her own words:
“Martin Luther King said, ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’ 2020 was our moment of challenge and Wayne Metro Head Start rose to meet it. I will continue to look for opportunities to strengthen the family unit and keep them connected during times of uncertainty: supporting basic needs, continuing to decrease the digital divide, and providing and connecting families to training and growth opportunities. I will also continue to support small businesses. I am also using this time to strengthen staff skills to be able to support families in different ways utilizing new and innovative tools/methods. Bold leadership isn’t about what I could do or did alone. Bold leadership is about who I can bring along to show our families and community that they are not alone.”