Celebrating Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate historical and current contributions from women.

March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the historical achievements and contributions of women and honor the ways they are helping to shape our future.

Women have fought long and hard throughout history for equitable treatment and opportunities, while simultaneously making contributions that forever shaped our society. Women like Dolores Huerta, Pauli Murray, and Fannie Lou Hamer were integral to the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Title IX, prohibiting federally funded educational institutions from discriminating against students and employees based on their sex, wouldn’t have become a reality without the work of women like Patsy Mink, Bernice Sandler, and Edith Green. Mary Jackson, Dr. France A. Córdova, and Dr. Ann Tsukamoto are among the scientists and inventors who have changed our world.

It’s important to recognize the role that gender plays at OYA in our work toward diversity, equity, and inclusion. Historically, the correctional field has been dominated by men. Currently, women make up 35.3% of the OYA workforce overall, and 41.7% of those in management positions. Those numbers are better than in the past, but we still have a ways to go toward improving gender diversity and equity for our workforce.

Gender is also an important consideration in how we provide services for youth. While young women and teen girls make up only 11% of the youth in our custody, they often have higher levels of needs. A few examples: 89% have a diagnosed mental health disorder, 68% have experienced substance use or dependence, 30% have had past suicide behavior, and 39% have reported being sexually abused. Different crime histories and developmental needs for young women are critical to address as we help these youth become successful and crime-free.

To prepare for this month, we interviewed some of our women teammates about their approach to our work: Elizabeth Arellano, Monica Moran, Kimberely Dixon, and Liz Muro. Please check out their answers below. We hope that reading their perspectives will be one of many ways you’ll take time this month to reflect on important roles of women in our society.

March calendar of diversity, equity, inclusion celebrations

Elizabeth Arellano

Juvenile parole/probation officer, Multnomah field office

Headshot of a Latina woman with long dark hair

Elizabeth has been working at OYA since October 2016, when she was hired as a JPPO in Multnomah County. Before that, she worked as a county probation/parole office officer in Clackamas County.

Elizabeth grew up in Portland and says she enjoys working with youth in the same community where she lives.

How would you describe your approach to OYA’s work?

“I try to use a developmental and creative approach. I know that each kid, each family, each case we get is unique and has its own challenges and strengths. It’s important to get to know the kids and their families and support networks before trying to make decisions. A lot of times, they haven’t had a voice in what happens, so I try to build that rapport and trust, and have buy-in from the kids and families.”

What’s something you’ve done at OYA that you’re proud of?

“I’ve had kids from different backgrounds and situations where there may not be a picture-perfect program or placement for them. I’ve often been able to connect them with different resources in the community. There was an Eastern European family who was really connected with the church, and we are able to find a faith-based residential program that traditionally we would have no clue existed. With the family’s culture and history and religious beliefs, they were really helpful in bringing up different resources.”

Who is one of your favorite women from history and why?

“One person I definitely admire is (former Supreme Court justice) Ruth Bader Ginsburg because of everything she’s done, and the powerful woman she really was. She was a minority in her field and still overcame so many struggles. She took a stand and was not afraid to give her opinion and voice her concerns and frustrations with different things going on in society. I think it takes a lot of guts for people to stand up for what they believe in, especially when you’re in certain roles with certain expectations.”

Monica Moran

Lead worker, Community Resources Unit

A mother and daughter sitting next to each other
Monica with her mom, Grieke

Monica started her juvenile justice career with the Yamhill County Juvenile Department. She started working at OYA in 2003 as a foster home certifier in Washington County.

After that position, worked alternately as a juvenile parole/probation officer in Linn County and in the Professional Standards Office, where she was the agency’s first PREA coordinator. In 2014, when she joined the Community Resources Unit.

How would you describe your approach to OYA’s work?

“I’ve always been aware, regardless of what role I’m in, that we have a tremendous impact, not just in our youths’ lives, but with their families and communities. I always remember that everything I do, from the decisions I make to how I interact with people, is impactful. I advocate strongly and I’m fully committed to doing whatever it takes for youth and their families to be successful. It’s led to some difficulties because I won’t stop questioning or advocating just because I know I’m the sole person in the room who has that perspective. I don’t let that get in the way of voicing what I feel is the correct way to go.”

What is something you’ve done at OYA that you’re proud of?

“My involvement in the creation and support of Rivera House, a residential program for LGBTQ+ youth. Being a queer person myself, I felt especially close to the youth there. I always bring a lot of effort and energy no matter what I’m doing, but with this one, I felt more connected. I liked being able to be more aware of the supports for the queer community. Being more aware of what was out there for youth and the whole community was pretty cool.”

Who is one of your favorite women from history and why?

“It’s my mom. She was born and raised in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands. Her dad was part of the resistance, and they became a haven for people who were being pursued to stay in their house. In her late teens, she achieved RN (registered nurse) status in the Netherlands, and then in her early to mid-20s, she said, ‘I want to go to America.’ She didn’t know much English, didn’t have friends, didn’t know where she was staying, but she found her way to Long Beach, California. The nursing license she had in the Netherlands was not accepted in the States. She had to do her training all over again. She’s amazing because I know that’s not a risk that a lot of people would take. I couldn’t do everything she did and take that risk today. The tremendous courage that she showed, her sense of adventure, and the work ethic she instilled in her kids are impressive.”

Kimberely Dixon

Diverse workforce recruiter, Human Resources

Headshot of Black woman with long purple and pink braids

Kimberely has been at OYA for almost a year and a half, helping our agency improve the diversity of our workforce.

Before coming to the agency, she was an executive life coach with a background in organizational culture, behavior, and change. She’s also an adjunct professor at Portland Community College, teaching courses in management and supervisory development.

How would you describe your approach to OYA’s work?

“My approach has been very observational, and then making intentional recommendations. I don’t see recruitment from a perspective of only who can we bring in, but I want to know how we retain people. As we center our work in DEI, I think it’s imperative that we highlight and amplify the efforts of retaining folks. We have great people, great talent, and we need to really look at how we care for one another as we do this great work. Youth will only believe what we say when they see it aligns with what we do.”

What’s something you’ve done at OYA that you’re proud of?

“My goal was to impact OYA across the agency, and I feel like I’ve had opportunities to do that by partnering with people in all service areas. I’ve spent time with staff (and some time with youth, and I look forward to more) in a variety of positions and who have different lengths of time with us. I believe I’ve been able to bubble up their experiences, concerns, and accomplishments in many different spaces to influence decisions and processes that impact our staff and youth. Given that, I think I’m most proud of the collective relationships I’m developing throughout OYA.”

Who is one of your favorite women from history and why?

“My grandmothers are my women in history: Gramma Lewis, Gramma Limmie McNeil, and my great grandmother, Gramma Mary, who lived to be just shy of 102. Gramma Lewis, who has passed, recently was honored as the godmother of La Porte, Texas, for all of her care and contributions to that community. My Gramma Limmie passed away last summer at 94 years old. She’s the reason why I cook with a smidge of this and a little of that, why my doors are open for someone who needs an ear, a meal, or space. She housed many people over the years, including people who were displaced because of the flooding of Vanport (a primarily African American city near Portland that was destroyed by flooding in 1948). I was blessed with having women close to me that left those imprints on me.”

Liz Muro

Skills development coordinator (SDC), MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility

Headshot of Latina woman with long dark hair

Liz first came to OYA and MacLaren in 2016. She has been working in the Intervention Unit (IU) at MacLaren for about two years. Before that, she was a group life coordinator in the Jasper living unit.

She’s also studying now to be a drug and alcohol counselor and has been running groups alongside the substance use treatment team.

How would you describe your approach to OYA’s work?

“I think the biggest thing is understanding that each and every one of these young men has their own story, their own personal struggles. They all have their different reasons for why they’re here. Understanding that allows me to get to the next step, which is, ‘How can I help you?’ Once we establish their goals and desires, even if they seem far-fetched because of where they are, then we can break their goals down into steps for what they can do while they’re here.”

What is something you’ve done at OYA that you’re proud of?

“Being part of the substance use disorder groups. I really get to know the young men on a whole different level. We go to the most vulnerable places and talk about their dreams and their fears. I love that I can educate them about the effects that substances can have on their bodies and minds and lives overall, and do all that with compassion and non-judgment.”

Who is one of your favorite women from history and why?

Maya Angelou. I love her poetry. She wasn’t fearful to express her thoughts, but she did it in such a gracious way. She helped bring us all together as human beings living in this world of different cultures. She was courageous.”

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