Judy Young is Assistant Director of the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women's Health (CoE) and Manager of the Women's Health Resource Center located in the Women's Health Building on the UCSF Mount Zion campus. She leads a variety of internship programs for CoE, including the upcoming Young Women's Health Leadership Conference. Read her biography here. For more information on the CoE, visit their website.
Judy (left) presented the following remarks when she received the UCSF Chancellor's Award for the Advancement of Women. Judy was honored in the staff category.
Thank you, Chancellor Desmond-Hellmann and members of the selection committee for this amazing professional and personal honor.
Recognizing the many campus leaders who have previously received this award, I am proud and humbled to join their ranks.
I want to thank those who nominated me and congratulate Lauren Booth and Phillip Darney with whom I share this honor today.
I believe that most experiences we have in life are neither accident nor chance. We are presented with opportunities and challenges that teach us valuable life lessons and we are presented with people who support, inspire, and mentor us into being the best we can be. So as I accept this award, I would like to honor my mentors and share with you a few key lessons that I've learned on my own journey.
Two of the key lessons that I will share with you today, I learned from my parents. The other key lesson, I learned from so many other women and men in my life including my own mentors, colleagues and staff at the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women's Health.
As a young African American girl growing up in the late 60's, 70's and 80's, I was painfully shy. A keen observer of all that happened around me, I struggled with knowing what to say and having the courage to speak up. I often felt that I did not fit into whatever situation I found myself and was always worried about being misunderstood. My parents, who both attended segregated elementary and high schools knew first hand the difference in the education received in the black schools vs. the white schools. However, both of my parents completed college and were committed to giving their children the best education possible. In the 70's and 80's, this meant living in the suburbs so that we could attend the schools with the highest rankings. As you can imagine, in all of the schools we attended, my siblings and I were among only a handful of people of color. At the time, this isolation added even more weight to my shyness and presented challenges in finding myself, finding my voice and discovering my potential.
Creating a space to be myself
My mother was an extremely wise and generous woman who understood how to love and support each of her children to meet our individual needs. She understood that what I needed was the time and space to find and be myself. And she created a loving environment within which I could do this. I was given the freedom to explore, to make mistakes and to learn. I had a place where I could try different things, really mess up, and still be treated without judgment. In fact I was always treated with kindness, respect, and unconditional love, which enabled me to experiment and grow. Through my mother's example, I learned how to create a non-judgmental safe space for another person, to support their learning and growth.
Finding my Voice
My father was a strong man who spoke his mind with both passion and compassion. He rarely let an opportunity pass for his voice to be heard. I remember clearly the events in 1979, when our church was facing the decision of whether to ordain our first lesbian minister. Although I was not in the board meeting to witness the role my Dad's voice played, those who were present continue to tell the story even today. After much discussion and conflict, the board members were split on what to do. It was then that my father stood up and said in his powerful voice, "Let me tell you a thing or two about discrimination!" He proceeded to talk about his life experience as an African American man. He called the issue being debated for what it was and his message was clear: discrimination because of sexual orientation is as big an injustice as racial discrimination.
After he spoke, there was nothing anyone could say...the Board took the necessary vote and we became one of the first churches in our denomination to ordain an out lesbian. Later, the church officially adopted an "Open & Affirming" policy.
Through my father's example, I learned the value and importance of speaking up. I learned not only that I do have something valuable to say but also that my voice needs to be heard. I found my voice and became empowered as an African American, as a woman, as a lesbian.
I believe it is the responsibility of a mentor to enable each individual to find her own voice. I share some of my experiences in order to demonstrate the importance of finding the courage to speak up. The personal is powerful and diverse voices and perspectives create a better collective whole. Thus I encourage each mentee to find her voice and speak her truth with passion and compassion.
Unleashing our potential, reaching for the stars
I know I was blessed to have the parents that I did and the opportunities they provided for me. I have met too many young women and men whose talents, creativity and self esteem has been diminished by their every day environment, environments in our schools, in our streets and in their families where abuse is present. Yet in each of these young people there is a unique and positive potential ready to bloom. And I believe that all of us here have the ability to provide what is needed to unleash that potential.
I have seen it happen here at UCSF in our work with young people.
I was delighted and grateful to be asked to direct our CoE internship programs. It gives me an amazing opportunity to work with our future leaders to actualize their dreams. Everyday I see, and I admire their resolve to make the world a better place.
One of the many privileges of my job is to work with a group of high school young women, our youth steering committee, to design and implement a day of empowerment and health education for their peers. The Young Women's Health Leadership Summit is coming up on April 7th of this year. As their theme the Youth Steering Committee members have picked: Unleashing our Potential, Reaching for the Stars.
Unleashing our potential, reaching for the stars is their hope for and commitment to themselves and their peers in the San Francisco Unified School Districts.
They cannot do it alone and I urge each of us and UCSF to make a commitment to everyday find a way to unleash the potential of our diverse faculty, staff and students including those who are not here yet but just starting to explore these opportunities in our internship, school and community outreach programs. If we do so, UCSF will be successful in continuing to reach for its stars.
In closing, I want to thank Nancy Milliken and Dixie Horning for their leadership in creating an environment and implementing values at the UCSF National Center of Excellence that:
1) Creates space for diverse individuals to be themselves, share their expertise and make progress towards their goals;
2) Develops and supports platforms for diverse communities to raise their voice and
3) Provides mentoring for faculty, staff and students by reflecting back to them their individual and organizational potential
It is with deep appreciation that I honor the life and memory of my parents, Joseph and Mary Ann Young. I also celebrate the living presence of my aunt, Lenore Bellinger - who just relocated to California to be near our family.
I am grateful for my loving family, which includes my partner Cheryl whose unconditional love, grace and support give me strength; my siblings Jennifer, Tony and Dori; my nephews LJ and Makari - who always warm my heart and keep me smiling and a host of other people in my life who nurture my spirit.
Finally, I invite you to use my lessons when you are mentoring someone
1) create a safe, non-judgmental space for her to be herself
2) support her in finding and raising her voice
3) reflect back potential that she may not yet see
4) and finally - ALWAYS mentor someone to "pay it forward" to the next person.
Receiving this award inspires me to continue this important and satisfying work.