As one of the pioneering black women in the Club Movement, Judith J. Pickens opened doors, minds and horizons for millions!
Sure, there are bigger names in black history than Judith J. Pickens. But as a Club member, you are probably just as familiar with the steady hand and influence she heaped upon the Boys & Girls Club Movement as with any other historical figure!
Pickens -- or "Miss Judith" as she is known to the thousands of Youth of the Year representatives and Keystone members who have gotten to know her -- recently retired as the senior vice president for Program & Youth Development Services (PYDS) at Boys & Girls Clubs of America. For 18 years, her trailblazing efforts at the helm of PYDS led to such pivotal Club programs as SMART Moves, Triple Play, Club Tech (which spawned myclubmylife.com!), and also allowed for the growth and expansion of programs like Keystone Clubs and Youth of the Year. We are beyond proud to honor her as our Black History Month Boys & Girls Club Movement's pioneer!
We recently caught up with Mrs. Pickens (pictured above at the 2012 National Keystone Conference with singer Miguel) and asked her a few questions about her influential time at BGCA and her hopes and dreams for Club youth!
Q: How did it feel to be involved in the creation of such programs as Money Matters, SMART Girls and other programs that grew much bigger under your watch?
A: I am thrilled that Program Services evolved to Program & Youth Development Services under my leadership and (our wonderful staff) developed outstanding programs and services such as Be GREAT: Graduate, Club Tech, myclubmylife.com, CareerLaunch, Money Matters, SMART Girls, Passport to Manhood, DramaMatters, Triple Play, Youth for Unity, Family PLUS and Latino Outreach, to name a few. The reach of our programs to local Clubs has been extensive and BGCA is continuing its legacy of changing and saving lives by focusing on the priority outcome areas of Academic Success, Good Character & Citizenship and Healthy Lifestyles. I feel honored to have led Program & Youth Development Services and its magnificent staff for 18 wonderful and rewarding years.
Q: Many professionals in the Movement have called upon you as a mentor over the years. What was your guiding philosophy as you mentored people and how much do you advocate for mentoring to continue for teens and others
A: Mentoring has always been a required part of my professional development and for me to encourage the professional development of others. I have been very fortunate to have had extraordinary mentors in my life who have shaped my success in many ways. For me, it is unthinkable to not give back to help and inspire others to dream big, set goals and work hard to achieve them with character, professionalism and excellence. Although I have retired from BGCA after 32 years in our Movement, I will never retire from mentoring others and advocating for the very best services for children, young people, families and communities nationwide.
Q: It being Black History Month, who are some of your biggest influences among black history makers, e.g. the teachings of Dr. King or the inspiration of a Harriet Tubman, the steely determination of a Rosa Parks, etc.?
A: Black History Month is full of heroes and heroines who have been instrumental and inspirational to me throughout my personal life and career. Their influence cannot and should not be relegated to just 28 or 29 days of celebration, but should be recognized and remembered for their accomplishents every day of every year. I have a very long list of African American ancestors who have touched my life because of their greatness and significant contributions. Some of the most endearing to me are: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. DuBois, Dr. Marian Wright Edelman, Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, August Wilson, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Hon. Thurgood Marshall, Langston Hughes, Dr. Benjamin Mays, Oseola McCarthy, Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint, and Harriet Tubman.
Q: Finally, you may have retired from BGCA, but your legacy will continue to have an impact on Club members everywhere. What is your continued message to them about their future?
A: There is no substitute for getting a good education and young people need to have a thirst for knowledge and reading. Hard work is still the best investment for your future. Always be persistent and persevere to reach your goals. Never give up! There is absolutely nothing that you cannot achieve. Strike the words "I can't" from your vocabulary. Finally, be a giver and you will always be abundantly rewarded far beyond your wildest expectations.