What a testament to the courage and generosity of spirit that we enjoy as citizens and neighbors in this beautiful city and country.
Matt Grant, Principal, Olympia High School
In 2006, Olympia was faced with the startling presence of a group of Neo Nazis, who ultimately rallied at the State Capitol on the 4th of July. Matt Grant immediately seized an opportunity to guide his Olympia High School students to respond with civility by learning about the underlying issues at hand with the Neo-Nazi movement and learning alternative ways of responding in a moment of provocation. He encouraged his students to engage with positive actions: screening Not in Our Town at the WCPA, hosting public forums, and offering spoken word and musical presentations.
In the spring of 2012, the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas had been making national news with hateful anti-gay language as they protested a Referendum for Marriage Equality. GLBTQ students were particularly feeling vulnerable to physical and verbal attack. Westboro randomly targeted Olympia High School as a protest site, simply because it was the school whose name was that of the state’s Capitol. Matt problem solved with his students to determine the manner in which they would respond to this conflict. OlyLove (with tee-shirts and banners) was born. Matt facilitated students providing a human circle of safety around the school.
Many schools have been trying to find more positive models of dealing with on-campus hurtful student behaviors (bullying, harassing, name calling). Restorative Justice is an emerging model that Matt embraced. In 2014, Matt worked with the DRC to initiate a Restorative Circle program where students established safe circles of communication to hear directly about the personal impact of hurtful actions.
The shooting of two black young men in Olympia in 2015 prompted Matt to give pathways to his student to explore what this meant for their community. This incident was an extension of what seemed to be a pattern of excessive police force with people of color throughout the nation. Among other pulse points, the Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter discussion emerged. For his students, Matt’s response was to: Face the Conflict – Create the space for meaningful dialogue – Provide support for safe expression.
Kerensa Mabwa, Cultivating Community and Leaders Manager, GRuB
Kerensa leads GRuB’s Community-based Fundraising, Special Events and Volunteer Coordination Programs. She comes to GRuB with passions for good local food, gardening and building relationships across multicultural backgrounds.
She has over 15 years of experience in the nonprofit world including parenting and child welfare, affordable housing, grant writing, project evaluation and management.
With Kerensa’s international background and passion for inspiring cross-cultural learning, much of her past work has been spent helping people to live successful and sustainable lives through empowerment and inclusivity. With GRuB’s exciting growth, she is enthusiastic about bringing more opportunities for donors and volunteers to move GRuB’s work forward.
You’ll recognize Kerensa by her welcoming smile and manner, and she loves how GRuB is almost a second home for her family. (Her partner is occasionally known as the ‘GRuB husband’). Kerensa and her family moved from the Midwest and she is thrilled to be living with the adventures of the Pacific Northwest right outside her door. On the weekends she’s most likely to be having an impromptu dance party with her children or cuddling on the couch after a taking a family hike.
Kerensa’s love for education and empowerment has made her a favorite partner with Olympia High School staff and students. She is highly regarded for her ability to facilitate serious discussions about race, inclusion and civility among high school students. She is a trusted liaison between the Olympia Police Department and Olympia High School Students and homeless students in our community.
Kerensa is presently serving as one of six community members on Olympia’s Ad-hoc Committee for Police and Community Relations whose purpose is to develop broad-based and inclusive engagement with the community about criminal justice issues.
Chief Ronnie Roberts, Chief of Police, City of Olympia
Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts became Olympia’s Police Chief on January 2011. His expressed goal was to build a police culture that embodies the values of respect and transparency to achieve the primary mission of “Earning the Public’s Trust.”
Chief Roberts is engaged in creating a strategic organization that is guided by fundamental values of integrity and respect. Working with a team of department and city leaders, he developed the first ever Strategic Plan to reinforce the Olympia Police Department’s mission.
He is committed to continuous leadership development for supervisors, managers, and officers so that they can be constructive partners in the culture shift within the police department: from a “Warrior” to a “Guardian” culture. The hiring practices he has initiated, his recruitment efforts, and his promotion of mentorship of 37 newly hired officers is a strategic effort to reinforce a new culture. These efforts promote values of trust and respect among the next generation of police in Olympia.
Chief Roberts understands and appreciates the power of community engagement. When he first arrived in Olympia, he initiated opportunities for “Coffee with the Chief” to become grounded in the issues affecting the citizens of Olympia. He engaged directly in social service roundtables to address the prevalent issue of homelessness. He actively engages with youth, including the Cops for Kids Program, Chief for a Day, and Youth Police Academies.
Chief Roberts is in active partnership with mental health service providers to find non-enforcement solutions to people who are on the streets and/or in crisis. He implemented the Safe Olympia project to provide safety to the LGBTQ community and other vulnerable people who find themselves in conflict. And, he has initiated a walking patrol to provide businesses and citizens with a police presence in the downtown core.
Chief Roberts co-hosts forums with the Black Alliance to educate and inform the community on issues related to racial and institutional bias. He proactively engages community leaders before, during and after crisis events.
Community Engagement Manager
2604 12th Court SW, Suite B
Olympia WA 98502
PO Box 6184
Olympia WA 98507
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Contact US (360) 956-1155
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