The YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City, rooted in the principles of youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, is an organization committed to uniting and strengthening our community. At its core, the YMCA strives to provide every individual, regardless of age, income, or background, with the means to flourish.
These four extraordinary leaders within the YMCA embody these principles and values, and through their dedication, drive and commitment, ensure the YMCA’s mission thrives in central Oklahoma’s diverse and vibrant community.
Geri Valdez started at the YMCA more than 20 years ago and has been growing and expanding her skills and leadership ever since. As she began her work at the Y, the mission and the people around her inspired her to finish her college degree so that, when the opportunity to be promoted to a director position arose, she was ready.
Valdez is intentional about serving others, providing leadership by example and helping prepare the next generation of leaders to be the best versions of themselves.
Valdez also experiences the power of diversity and inclusion in her leadership position at the Y. As she puts it, “When teams and community members of different backgrounds come together, regardless of ethnicity, culture or socioeconomic differences, it fosters the sense of belonging. There is power in diversity and I leverage it every day.”
“We are all different and unique and I am intentional with modeling respect to all, even with our differences,” adds Valdez.
Associate Executive Director for Youth Development
Throughout her roles at the YMCA, Rose Jackson has learned to embrace change, acknowledging the needs to keep current projects flourishing in addition to taking on new projects, and to nurture those around her to help them identify and reach their goals. Further, Jackson recognizes that she must adapt to her constituents.
“Leadership in my role at the Y embodies my ability to adjust to the ever-changing needs of our community and the children and families we serve,” says Jackson. “My ability to look at change through a different lens has allowed me to grow in my role and be able to help those around me grow, too.”
Meeting community needs is found in embracing diversity, whether that be the religious and cultural beliefs of the families served at the Y or the varying family structures represented, such as single parent homes, foster parents, grandparents as parents, dual mom or dual dad homes.
“Families come in a variety of shapes, sizes and backgrounds,” adds Jackson. “In my interactions with members and staff at the Y, it is important to listen first to ensure I have all pertinent information before making any decisions.”
Downtown District Associate Executive Director of Youth Development
DaMone Redd has been passionate about working in sports with the YMCA his entire career. Starting in Texas and then moving back home in November 2021 to become sports coordinator for the Edmond YMCA and now as the sports director, he is excited to model the sports programs after his vision for what young people need in conjunction with the principles of the YMCA and its partners.
As part of his leadership role at the Y, Redd starts any project by asking questions: What do I want the next generation of our communities to look like? What problems will they face in the future? What do they need to learn today that will equip them to achieve tomorrow?
“Once those questions have been answered, we need to pick up one brick at a time and get busy!” declares Redd.
One mantra Redd ascribes to that further defines his leadership style: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together!
“My experience is that it takes a team to get things done,” adds Redd.
Issues surrounding diversity and inclusion are critical to who he is as a person and leader.
“As a Black man, I carry the pride and history of Black Americans with me in every room I step foot in and every table I sit at,” states Redd. “We all come from different places. Everyone has a different upbringing. Diversity on a team is critical to achieving heights unseen.”
DaMone Redd, Sr.
Ten years ago, Yesica Gonzalez began volunteering with one of the Y’s local food programs. In 2018 she stepped into the role of site coordinator and, since 2020, has held the position of the Y Clubhouse program director.
Developing her leadership skills has been important to Gonzalez. She takes to heart the idea that leadership must inspire and motivate others toward achieving their goals. By setting a good example and working to mentor and guide team members toward their best performance, she knows that future generations can strive for excellence and persevere through challenges.
“My time at the YMCA has been instrumental in helping me grow both personally and professionally,” says Gonzalez. “By actively seeking out opportunities to learn and develop my abilities as a leader, I’ve been able to make significant strides. Ultimately, it’s through hands-on experience that we can truly build and refine our leadership skills. Seeing my professional growth and being able to inspire and guide others have been incredibly fulfilling.”
Another aspect of her leadership style is to make sure diversity is appreciated and celebrated and that everyone can bring their perspectives to any project or program.
“I believe in creating an environment where every person feels valued and included,” adds Gonzalez. “Together, my colleagues and I at the Y are working toward creating a safe and welcoming space for all members of our community.”
Y Clubhouse Program Director
YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City
Over 14 locations in central Oklahoma