by Rhonda Bishop
In Her Shoes is a series that profiles young women working in YWCAs across the country.
Jenna Lodge is the community outreach manager and community court advocate for the YWCA of Central Virginia in Lynchburg, Va. Jenna, 27, serves on the International Relations Council and Young Women’s Task Force. In her community, she is also a part of the Leadership Council for a local leadership development program and leads a child and youth advocacy task force. We interviewed her about her work…
YWCA USA: What excites you the most about your job?
Jenna Lodge: The opportunity to empower women to make positive changes in their lives. Whether working with domestic violence victims or educating women in our community, I am always reminded that there is work to be done, people to be helped and lives to be changed for the better.
YWCA: Describe your normal day from your first morning coffee and onwards?
JL: Working with domestic violence and in the human services field, there is no such thing as a “normal day!” I may drive into work with a full agenda only to find out that my day will be completely different. If I do not have a protective order hearing to attend with a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking first thing in the morning, I go to the YWCA Domestic Violence Prevention Center where my office is located. Because I juggle two positions, my week is split between court and community. I typically spend Monday through Wednesday in court and meeting with victims of violence. I also plan several community outreach events that vary in focus from young women’s leadership development to dating violence awareness and empowering domestic violence survivors.
YWCA: What challenges or obstacles do you face in your role?
JL: In some respects, I think perceptions about my age have been a challenge for me. Although I am highly trained and educated, it can sometimes be hard to break typical age stereotypes different people hold. For example, it can be challenging to work with an older woman who has been exposed to violence and who may have a grown child that is my age. They sometimes see my age as a deterrent to them getting proper assistance.
YWCA: Tell us about a time when you successfully created or executed a goal, strategy, program or event in your role at your YWCA.
JL: In an effort to educate the Central Virginia community about dating violence while helping parents learn how to talk to their children about healthy relationships, I wrote a dating violence prevention and intervention curriculum entitled, “Meet D.A.V.E.” DAVE, which stands for Dating and Violence Education, is a theatrical workshop that addresses five key areas: dating violence, stalking, bullying, cyberbullying and building healthy relationships.
Since this program launched in 2009, more than 1,200 young people have been positively influenced by Meet DAVE. We have received several small grants to help sustain this program and have the support of volunteers who play the different characters in the skits. I am extremely proud of this program, its success, and the amazing young people who walk out of each performance empowered to take a stand against dating violence in their schools, social circles, and individual relationships.
As the facilitator of this program, I build upon my passion for young people, love of training and outreach and the need for increased awareness to continue making DAVE a growing success. Every time another DAVE workshop is scheduled, I say, “I’m just waiting for Oprah to show up with my tour bus so we can take this show on the road to schools across the country!” Dream big, right?!?