Jennifer Ray visited Genesee County this past week and attended meetings with local officials. The national president is a civil engineer from “ a little bit of everywhere”, but currently calls Baltimore, Maryland her home. She states that she moved to Maryland for a job after graduating from college and she only knew one person in the area. This one person encouraged her to join the Jaycees and after two years of coaxing, she decided to become a member. That was in 2001. It was through the Jaycees that she met her husband, became connected to the community, and the reason she now calls Baltimore “her home”. The Jaycees , she states is “an opportunity to be part of a global network… to do projects that make an impact and to then raise awareness through social media sources.”
Dating back to 1915, the Jaycees was started by Colonel H.N. Micgran, a prominent citizen from St. Louis who approached Henry Geissenbier who was the leader of the Herculaneum Dance Club and asked they become involved in civic issues. Geissenbier and his young men friends formed the young men’s progressive association (YMPCA), which then became the Junior Citizens, called the JC’s … thus, the name “Jaycees.” The whole concept started in St. Louis but grew outward from there. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the organization.
The Jaycees were originally an all men’s club that had a woman’s auxiliary and in 1984, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing females as members. This decision then led the way for other organizations to allow women in as members. Currently, Jennifer Ray is the national president, and Cathy Colby is the New York State President for the Jaycees; proof that the decision made a gateway for females to not only join, but to take on leadership roles.
The Jaycees has over 200,000 members and is always looking for civic-minded people from the ages of 18-41 to join the various chapters. The various chapters “seek out solutions to local problems to create a sustainable global impact.” In meeting with local representatives, President Ray addressed problems regarding local socioeconomic issues, citing the number of students eligible for free and reduced lunches. By meeting with different chapters, the Jaycees can share community and global resources to hopefully find solutions to an issue such as this.
On a global level, the Jaycees have assisted with numerous projects and in June, they have a National Summit in Washington, DC, which brings together national policies and public policies. The Jaycees partners with various organizations to discuss national and global issues. Then they write resolutions and meet with legislators on Capitol Hill then return to their local chapters and look at opportunities and ways to resolve issues. Jennifer mentioned the “Nothingbutnets” Project, which supports President Obama’s Malaria Initiative, and provides insecticide laced bednets that prevent Malaria in African countries. This is one of the many global projects the Jaycees work on. For more information on these projects, go to www.jci.cc
Cathryn Colby is the New York State President and she can be contacted at 716-474-3343 for anyone interested in learning more about the Jaycees and how to get involved in the local chapter. Her mantra is “choose your tomorrow” – encouraging the youth in the community to get out and make a difference in your communities.
And as her final message, President Ray stated “young people are the movers and shakers.. it is important to become active in the community by not only identifying problems, but acting on them… and that is what we do”.