Using Your Voice to Make a Difference

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“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” 

Maya Angelou

This was the theme of a recent discussion held by our ONA team. Why, you may ask? We were talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion!  

Recent events have inspired important conversations to be had in the name of moving our society forward in the most anti-racist and most inclusive way possible. As an organization that strives to empower others and aid the mental and emotional health of all, ONA recognizes that it will be critically important to be a part of these conversations. 

It is imperative to note that Operation Not Alone has *never* discriminated against any person based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, political ideology, religion, disabilities, etc.. However, we realize that we haven’t made this point abundantly clear to our supporters, donors, and recipients. Therefore, our ONA team endeavored to craft a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement to accompany our Mission and Vision Statements. 

In order to do this in the most effective manner, we realized that we needed to have more viewpoints than our own when discussing our ideas. Therefore, Susan and MeKenzie brought in their dear friend, educator, and volunteer, Sha-Nita Rhea as our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ambassador to provide a more well-rounded perspective. Sha-Nita is a ninth grade English teacher at Beloit Memorial High School pursuing a Masters in Secondary Education. She is a long-time participant and now volunteer within the Miss America Organization. After serving as Miss Beloit 2007 and Miss Racine 2009 (finishing as 1st Runner Up to Miss Wisconsin!) she has come back to serve as the Executive Director for the Miss South Central, Miss Rock River Valley, Miss Turtle Creek, and Miss South Central’s Outstanding Teen scholarship organizations. Sha-Nita also proudly serves on several other local boards in the Beloit community to contribute important perspectives regarding diversity. We are thrilled she decided to make some time for ONA in her very busy schedule to join our team and help us craft a formal statement as we aim to have a better understanding of inclusivity. 

We enjoyed a wonderful virtual meeting with our whole team and Sha-Nita where she provided her insight and thoughts about the dos and don’ts of what our organization can do to make diversity, equity and inclusion a priority. 

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Personal Note from our ONA Intern: 

The part I most enjoyed about this discussion was the practical advice. In a world filled with so many viewpoints, opinions and chaos it can be hard to decipher what our next steps should be in creating a better tomorrow. Sha-Nita did a fantastic job of laying out some of the ways we can be better. It’s a process of growing and changing, but one ONA and it’s team members value and feel is vital. 

We’re still working on writing, editing and perfecting our official statement and it’s a responsibility we do not take lightly. However, we realize the more we learn and take the time to understand the more we may need to add or change our statement. Which makes this a process of constantly evaluating what and how we are doing our best to be most inclusive of people from all circumstances and walks of life and we are excited to add that to our mission.

Allison Foster

Communications Intern

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