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LCS employees benefit from one-of-a-kind resident-developed and led diversity and inclusion workshop

Sep 11, 2023
The workshop has ‘graduated’ almost 100 residents and employees and created demand for future sessions.

What began as a calling to educate her fellow church parishioners on a topic near to her heart, evolved into a two-day resident workshop on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) led by Friendship Village Tempe resident, Rosemary James. Last week, James used her personal experiences and skills as an educator to share this same diversity training with nearly 50 LCS employee leaders during the company’s August Leadership Conference held at the corporate headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa.

“I’m an educator who wrote content, developed and conducted workshops for much of my career,” James said. “So, I put all of those skills to work again, but in the area of racism, racial justice, and equality.”

Growing up in the South during the 40s and 50s, the topic of diversity is much more than a workshop for James.

“I grew up in Louisiana in Jim Crow South. Just the word ‘Jim Crow’ probably paints a picture for people,” James said. “So, all my life I have been dealing with trying to bring about equality for myself and for other people.”

James moved to Arizona with her husband in 1965 where they both pursued degrees at Arizona State University and raised two sons. James had a successful career developing educational content and facilitating workshops for educators to learn the curriculum. Following her husband’s death nine years ago, James felt compelled to dust off her skills to help fellow parishioners, residents, and now LCS employees tackle difficult diversity, equality, and inclusion topics.

“Through my church, I wrote content and designed workshops dedicated to diversity and inclusion, and it was successful,” James said. “It began to change the culture of our congregation, so I thought I would bring that to Friendship Village Tempe.”

James completed two resident workshops for the community and has a waiting list for a third workshop. She’s even working with the community’s leadership team to adapt the training for employees.

“People here have been willing to put themselves in an uncomfortable position, and to experience and learn how they can be more proactive at interrupting racism when they experience it in their lives,” James said.

In June, James was one of 12 residents featured in an LCS short film, which was created to commemorate more than 50 years of serving seniors by showing senior living through the eyes of residents. Her passion for diversity education shared in the film caught the eye of Annette Jorden, the director of talent development for LCS.

In preparation for the LCS August Leadership Conference, Jorden reached out to James to collaborate on a one-of-a-kind workshop for this event. Titled ‘DEI: Addressing the Uncomfortable,’ the workshop asked attendees to consider 14 real-life scenarios with two goals in mind: First, get comfortable with the uncomfortable, and second, help attendees understand that responses needed to be authentic to work.

“We wanted to encourage people to consider changing how they think and what they choose to say,” Jorden said. “It takes an extra special effort to say something in these difficult situations, so whatever you say needs to come from you even if it’s as simple as stating ‘what you just said made me feel uncomfortable.’”

“Rosemary James is a true delight and treasure to work with,” Jorden said. “Facilitating the diversity, equality, and inclusion session during the leadership conference offered additional insights on this very timely topic and also fostered the opportunity for a life-long friendship with Rosemary. I look forward to working with her on future projects.”

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