August community champion: Jocelyn De La RosaAug 16, 2021 10:36AM ● By Hannah LaFond
By Hannah LaFond | [email protected]
This month's Taylorsville Community Champion is Jocelyn De La Rosa. Her coworker Makaila Kelso nominated De La Rosa for her leadership and essential work with low-income families at The Family Support Center.
“She’s not the type of leader that expects the credit. She’ll let other people be the face and let other people have the opportunity,” Kelso said. “So, I felt like she deserves a little bit of credit for all her efforts for the community.”
Growing up in a low-income family herself in Los Angeles, De La Rosa saw firsthand how community centers and programs could make a difference in a child's life. Because of that early experience, she was already interested in working with community programs when she later went to BYU–Idaho for school.
"I wanted to do something that I felt like I was contributing to support or address some of the issues like intergenerational poverty and homelessness," De La Rosa said. "So, I started nonprofit work."
After college, De La Rosa moved to Utah initially to work with Early Head Start. She continued working with nonprofits throughout her entire career, including Head Start and Kids On The Move. Two years ago, she began working as the executive director of The Family Support Center.
All her work has focused on helping children and families. "Protecting children was really important to me because they're one of our most vulnerable populations,” De La Rosa said. “And I feel like we have so much opportunity to create a better future if we can prevent some of the things that are impacting our kids."
The Family Support Center is a nonprofit agency located in Salt Lake. It offers many services to the community, including a crisis nursery where they provide free childcare to overwhelmed parents, individual and family counseling, parenting classes and more. It also offers housing at LifeStart Village, where single-parent families in danger of homelessness can stay as they work (with the center's help) toward independent living.
Since starting as the executive director, De La Rosa said she's focused on making children and families are welcome no matter where they come from.
"It's been really important to me as executive director to create an environment where children feel safe," De La Rosa said. "When they walk through our doors, it doesn't matter the things that they've been through. There's a bright future ahead of them, and we can provide some of those tools to help get there."
De La Rosa hopes that the many programs and support systems at the center will empower families to break unhealthy cycles and create a better future. She also emphasized how important it is that parents feel comfortable at the center and don't feel any stigma regarding what brought them there.
"We're working on changing the way that we look at some of the systemic issues that we are encountering like homelessness, child abuse and substance usage," De La Rosa said. "Our clients, they don't need to feel shamed for their past. We all make some decisions that are not the best."
Makaila Kelso, the Community Engagement manager at The Family Support Center, told City Journals that De La Rosa uses this same compassionate approach both with families and her staff.
"She is not like a normal executive director or leader,” Kelso said. “She's an excellent listener, and she really spends a lot of time with the clients and the staff to make sure that what our programs are doing meets the needs of the community versus us just assuming what their needs are. She hears what everyone has to say and isn't afraid to make changes when change needs to happen."
Kelso listed some of the specific changes De La Rosa has made to benefit the staff since starting. According to Kelso, De La Rosa has increased salaries, given a PTO payout at the end of the year, allowed a paid hour every week for therapy (if desired) and increased days off.
Describing De La Rosa's leadership style, Kelso said: "Don't expect Jocelyn to show up in slacks or a dress. She's going to dress how she feels she can relate best to our clients and our population. She is very real, honest and humble. She's kind and thoughtful."
Kelso also added: "She's completely changed the culture of my organization, and I don't think that's easy to do. She has changed our culture to be one where the whole organization works together."
Since starting at the Family Support Center, one of the things De La Rosa said she is most proud of was keeping the center open throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Although they had to implement many safety measures and precautions to prioritize staff and community health, De La Rosa said she did not feel that they could close their doors.
"We knew that child abuse cases were going to go up; substance abuse was going to go up; domestic violence was going to go up,” De La Rosa said. “So, the community needed our services. It was critical that we stay open. We continued to provide services and provided some critical care that other places were not providing."
In the future, De La Rosa hopes to continue their work and to expand their services to more rural communities to help as many families as possible.
You can submit nominations for future 'Community Champions' here.