Eliminating Racism, Empowering Women: YWCA High Point
It’s hard to catch Heidi Majors sitting down for long. As the Executive Director of the YWCA High Point, Heidi oversees the YW’s seven programmatic areas, not to mention the organization’s partnerships with seemingly every organization in High Point. In the more than 20 years Heidi has spent at the YWCA High Point, she has seen a lot of changes. Unlike other national organizations, the YWCA is allowed to adapt and adjust to meet the needs of the specific community they are situated within.
"Our YWCA was founded in 1920 and the mission of YWCA is that we are here to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, dignity, freedom and justice for all,” Heidi explains. “But the beauty of the YWCA is that we are able to really focus on programming that ensures we're not duplicating efforts, but making sure that we're meeting those local needs."
So for the YWCA High Point over the last century, programs and areas have developed to continually better address the needs of individuals in our city. Heidi remembers when she started at the YW, there was essentially just a pool, a youth services department, and a small teen mom program.
"In 2005 we brought in the Women's Resource Center. In 2013 we brought in the Latino Family Center,” she says. “Through all this time, we really focused on: ‘How do we get into the mission work that we're doing?’ In 2018, we formed the Community Builders Task Force to focus on the racial justice work.”
Today, the major areas of focus at the YWCA includes: Aquatics and Wellness, the Latino Family Center, the Women’s Resource Center, Maternal Health Services, Youth Services, the Teaching Kitchen, and the Racial Justice programs. But what fits into those target areas begins to splinter off into much more localized needs in the community that the YW either meets or finds a right partner to meet.
From offering doula services to organizing Girl Scout troops to make cards for shut-ins, there is no shortage of projects taking place at any given day at the YW – and that doesn’t even include all of their after-school care, summer camp programs, and day-to-day services.
"Through all of this work, we also do a lot of advocacy,” Heidi says, “and within that work, we thread in the focus of empowering women, eliminating racism, and reducing health disparities."
So what does the YWCA do to accomplish all those goals within those focused program areas? Plenty.
Women's Resource Center
Latino Family Center
When it comes to Maternal Health, the YWCA offers:
- The Healthy Beginnings Program - A program for minority women to receive support in areas of goal setting, transportation, peer group education, parenting support, and more.
- Doula Services - Services contracted with licensed doulas to offer moms a say in making informed, personalized decisions about their births.
- Parents as Teachers - A program that equips parents to teach their children during the foundational early development stages.
When it comes to the Women’s Resource Center, the YWCA offers:
- Baby Basics Closet - closet stocked with clothes, diapers, wipes, equipment, and more items parents may need for their little ones.
- Individualized support to women in other areas besides parenting – like resume building, career coaching, mental health support, and more.
The Latino Family Center is designed specifically to support the Latinx community in High Point through youth STEM and art clubs, leadership training, and support through parenting programs. The Center also amplifies the voices of the Latinx community and reduces disparities brought about through language barriers.
Specifically, during the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, the YW offered VaxConnect, a program that partnered with Dr. Iulia Vann, Public Health Director for Guilford County to canvas areas that lacked education, language-accessible information, and/or transportation to receive the vaccine.
Afterschool Care & Summer Camps at the YWCA
Heidi notes that even the afterschool care at the YW is built with holistic family support in mind, strengthening the internal relationships of High Point families:
“[A mom] knows that we have her back here with her kids,” Heidi says. "They've had a healthy snack, they've been given the time and support with their homework, so that when she goes home, she can spend quality time and simply be mom with her child.”
Along with the work they do to support mothers in High Point, the YW looks at other areas of inequity when it comes to voices being heard and reducing barriers to healthy living in our city.
And while the majority of the programming the YW offers is free (with some sliding scale and scholarship opportunities around Youth Services and Aquatics and Wellness) – their goal is to do more than just provide services and resources.
"Not only are we meeting the immediate needs,” Heidi explains, “but we’re also providing individuals the tools they need to go out and lead independent lives and make changes for themselves.”
And the proof of the YW’s success is in the statistics and the stories.
“We focus on our specific areas because the statistics are there. The statistics speak of the need,” Heidi says, noting that at one time, the 27260 zip code was number one in the state for teen pregnancies. Today, that statistic is much lower for the 27260 zip code, and the YW continues to make it a goal to break cycles that lead to teen pregnancy risk factors – like dropping out of high school.
“We want to make sure our teens are staying in school so that they're graduating and becoming independent leaders and parents,” Heidi explains. She recalls one teen mother who utilized the services of the YW, and eventually went on to graduate six months early from high school, receive her degree from GTCC and eventually her nursing degree from UNCG.
Racial Justice Work at the YWCA High Point
But for real, systemic changes to take place in our community regarding women, minorities, and other vulnerable populations – our community has to both be made aware of issues and align on strategic missions to maximize individual impact.
In 2020, the YWCA began a series of conversations that they continue to this day, “Where Do We Go From Here?” Those conversations invite community members into dialogue about topics like education, food security, and more that are affected by systemic racism. The YW also partners with the Racial Equity Institute to provide Groundwater and Phase I trainings – trainings designed to build a practical understanding of systemic racism.
“We want to ensure that our leadership within our community has that knowledge about the injustices that are there and how we got to where we are,” Heidi says. “It's not about an individual piece... but that systemic racism... There are so many systems that are in place that just need to be changed and challenged.”
But just the like the YW understands that systemic change can only happen when we address the larger structures, they also understand that change can only happen when we engage the entire community. Maybe that’s why Heidi can list off more community partners that the YWCA has than most citizens could name in the whole city combined.
“United Way, Family Center of the Piedmont, Family Justice Center, Triad Adult Pediatrics Medicine, Community Clinic, Guilford County Schools, UNCG, Second Harvest...” Heidi counts off, doubling back on organizations she’s forgotten to mention. High Point Regional Hospital, Communities in Schools, D-UP, Greater High Point Food Alliance, the YMCA of Greater High Point, Ralph Lauren, WeeRuns... the list goes on and on.
“We all have our strengths,” Heidi says about other organizations in High Point, “and we can all lift each other up together.”
"Not only are we meeting the immediate needs, but we’re also providing individuals the tools they need to go out and lead independent lives and make changes for themselves.”
Heidi Majors, Executive Director of YWCA High Point
The key to the YWCA’s success is in their ability to be a conduit. They have relationships with High Pointers experiencing the need and relationships with organizations that have resources to meet those needs. For example, when it comes to their Baby Basics Closet, the YW receives donations from places like WeeRuns, NC Diaper Bank, and more. But the YWCA also has the reach within their programming to meet teen moms where they’re are at to provide for these tangible needs.
“We strategically have staff involved in a lot of different areas,” Heidi says of their 16 full-time and 38 part-time staff members. “It's not a competition. There are enough families and individuals in the community that we just need to all work together to make sure the opportunities are there.”
The YWCA Board of Directors and staff doesn’t just creatively find ways for their own team to meet needs however; they are also open to any and all community members who want to participate in serving our city. Heidi can rattle off a handful of creative ideas in the span of 30 seconds – from knitting circles donating blankets to the Baby Basics Closet to corporate employers offering brand-building seminars.
“I’m all over the place!” she laughs. But perhaps, it’s in being all over the place, that the YWCA makes good on their mission, uniting the best of our city’s leaders, givers, and change makers, to truly create a High Point that promotes peace, dignity, freedom and justice for all.