Today’s real-life Wonder Woman is a servant-leader, improving the lives of many–especially kids–in Central Minnesota communities. She’s silly and strong, passionate and playful, benevolent and brave. It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Jackie Scholl Johnson, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota.
KR: What brings you joy and fulfillment?
JJ: People. Whether it is being with old friends, family, or meeting someone for the first time, I’m intrigued by people and interested in their stories.
I find great joy working with kids — I’m a youth leader at our church and have been for 7 years. Being around youth gives me great hope for the future.
I’m one of the lucky people who loves her job–and the people it brings into my life. At Big Brothers Big Sisters we operate with 13.5 FTE and about 100 volunteers, this includes all of the programming, recruitment, administration, fundraising, etc. It is amazing to work with people who share my passion about mentoring kids. When you are focused on the same goals, it is incredibly bonding and empowering. Every day I witness people pushing themselves out of their comfort zone, because they deeply believe in what we do.
KR: How did you become involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters, Jackie?
JJ: I think having 11 older brothers and sisters made me uniquely qualified to run Big Brothers Big Sisters, don’t you?
Growing up, my dad was an alcoholic and there were a lot of challenges that came with that. Challenges that fell on my mom and older siblings. Mom was really our rock and my siblings helped her in every way, including running the farm. My siblings tried to fill the gaps for our mom and for their younger siblings. I’ll never be able to thank them enough for being there for us, working so hard, and for their love and encouragement.
One of my brothers says it this way “school was the break we had in between farming.” In addition, there were a few adults who stepped in to be there for us, to help fill some of the gaps. I will always so grateful–taking time out of their lives to come and be with us–even though our situation was less than ideal. My work is my way to thank them and to pay it forward.
I was drawn to the human services from an early age, I really can’t imagine working in any other industry. My past jobs have all prepared me to be the executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Even though I’ve been here almost 9 years, I feel like we are just getting going on some of our dreams. We have BIG dreams AND we have the team (staff, donors, and volunteers) to make them happen! #WaitingListOfBigs
KR: Can you share some examples of how a Big/Little match has impacted participants’ lives?
JJ: Our new logo is a B drawn with three lines which represent the Little, the parent/guardian, and the Big….together they grow and change. We know that our kids are less likely to engage in risky behavior, more likely to graduate and go on to schooling, becoming self-sufficient and contributors to the community. We also know that having a Big helps the parents/guardians. And that the Big’s tell us that they get more out of it than they give.
KR: As a Big Sister, I completely agree with that statement! You go into the relationship thinking “I’m going to help a kid” and end up receiving way more than you give. It may sound cliché, but it is true. I’m sure you get lots of positive feedback from Bigs, Littles and their families. I know it has impacted our family tremendously–in a wonderful way.
JJ: It is incredibly rewarding to be out in the community and hear “I had a Big when I was a kid and I can’t imagine where I would be without him.” “Our Little has become a part of our extended family.” “Ever since my grandson got a Big, my daughter is a better mother.”
KR: Let’s talk about superpowers–your superpowers. What are some of your strengths?
JJ: At Big Brothers Big Sisters we focus on, and operate out of, our strengths rather than focusing on weakness. It’s based on StrengthFinders. We even have it charted out and displayed to help us to identify those who complement our own strengths. We know who on the team to pull in for a particular task or situation. It is such a positive way to operate, helping people fine-tune and grow in their strengths while being able to use them for the betterment of the entire team.
My strengths include:
Connectedness – having a strong faith and being able to look at the big picture and purpose
Belief – passionate, steadfast, family-oriented and altruistic
Individualism – appreciating the uniqueness in all types of people, being able to put myself in someone else’s shoes
KR: Can you tell us about an influential woman in your life and how she inspired you?
JJ: My mother, she was the essence of love, perseverance, and forgiveness. In the midst of the chaos, she would be able to make us feel loved, find reasons to celebrate, and have hope for a better day to come.
KR: If you could have one super-human power, what would it be?
JJ: Growing up, I was a big fan of Bewitched and Samantha’s ability to wiggle her nose to clean the house in seconds. Now THAT would be amazing!
KR: What are some of your hobbies?
JJ: Cooking and eating with people who are special in our lives. Traveling–experiencing other places, foods, people, cultures. Yelling at our dogs.
KR: Knowing what you know at this stage of your life, what words of wisdom would you give to your 20-year-old self?
JJ: Be Present…wherever you are, whatever you are doing, be there. In the words of M*A*S*H’s Col. Sherman Potter “If you ain’t where you are, you’re no place.”
KR: Thanks for your time, Jackie. Before you go, I know you have a BIG event coming up. Can you please let our readers know what it is?
JJ: We have our “50 Years of Big Magic” Gala coming up on March 29th. This will be a night of celebration and recognition of our matches. Patty Funk and Anya Iverson, both of Marco (and both real-life Wonder Women!), are our co-chairs. We still have tickets available and I’d love to invite your readers to come!
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