The 2019 Leadership Ohio (LO) cohort is off and running. This year’s program lifted off in Union County, Ohio and the bar is set very high. Thank you Marysville, Union County, and Ohio Reformatory for Women.
On Friday, April 26th, the City of Marysville welcomed our 2019 Leadership Ohio cohort (LO’19) in high style. The five-star reception with no-topic-off-the-table made it clear to us that Union County is prepared to grow. They welcome innovation, small business, agriculture and every level of economic development. We learned of the rich cultural history of Union County as well as a forward-facing vision for where Union County plans to go in the next 10 years. The collaborative efforts of this County alone are an innovation worthy of study—and that’s topping the community’s real-world testbed of connected vehicle technology-- the largest such experiment in the United States.
Saturday, day two for LO’19 started early at the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW). The Area Director, Roni Burkes-Trowsdell (Warden of the Year 2017, Governor’s Arts Award 2019), Warden Teri Baldauf, classroom teachers and a holistic team of wrap-around service providers welcomed us and ushered LO’19 from building to building, sharing the outcomes and impact of the programs they support.
At ORW, I spent the day in a space that felt unlike any other I have ever experienced. I never realized how much happens behind these walls. I encourage more people to visit and to make the connection between the hard work and self-development happening here in relation to the work we do in our communities.
While touring the ORW, each space we visited provided us with meaningful stories of impact that touched the heart, stimulated the mind, and called us all to take action as well. Our time in TAPESTRY, a dorm for women who were once drug addicted, previously commoditized or systemically marginalized set the tone for the day.
Tapestry participants met us at their front door and they welcomed us with applause. Seventy-nine women dressed in pink and teal uniforms, symbols of status or class removed, no makeup, no name brands, no distractions. These women were fully present in their simplicity. These women, through group and individual counseling sessions, yoga and mindfulness, have gotten to know and love who THEY ARE. There is a palpable strength of self-awareness seen in each of them. Through their applause and their lyrics, the women of Tapestry reminded us that we are still in community – together. Tapestry also reminds us about the power of RESILIENCE. These women are physically removed from society, but they each spoke about how they are a part of a community they want to connect with more meaningfully. They share gifts – literally, they make items that are shared worldwide.
Oddly, the strongest feeling one gets at the ORW despite its ground-breaking programs isn’t one of innovation, but rather a feeling of LOVE and belonging. We visited women who have learned to sew while imprisoned, work with clay to create jewelry, train dogs to assist people in the community with special needs and limited mobility, build websites, master horticulture, and master trade vocations. Many of these programs are self-sustaining and more than 50% or all funds raised by their work is donated to area nonprofits.
Marysville and Union County as a community is a special place. The leaders we spoke with made it very easy to see how we can celebrate a rich history, build a future that is inclusive to all who wish to engage, and how we can even help to rebuild those who have made mistakes along the way.
-By Malik Wayne Moore, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leader, Tailored Fit Consulting | Leadership Ohio Class of 2019