Jodi Glass Chosen for Leadership Mahoning Valley Program
by Dom Fonce
September 19, 2023
MCCTC Adult Career Center Marketing & Recruiting Coordinator, Jodi Glass, tells me she hesitates to call herself a leader. She is simply motivated by helping people and making a positive change in her community. However, Jodi’s leadership has been recognized by Leadership Mahoning Valley (LMV), as she has been selected to participate in LMV’s 10-month leadership training program. LMV was founded in 1994 and is housed in the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber. Candidates are chosen based on their leadership talent and community commitment.
Whether or not Jodi thinks the title “leader” fits her, she is one. Talking with her about her achievements as a worker, volunteer, and mother makes her leadership qualities clear. Jodi’s 13-year-old son was diagnosed with autism as a child. Her son, Liam, spent his early years growing up in the Philadelphia area—there, Jodi utilized Pennsylvania social services, like Early Intervention, to help her son grow appropriately with his age group. When Jodi and her family moved back to Mahoning Valley, she noticed the social services for children, teens, and adults with autism was lacking in the area. This motivated Jodi to reach out and join Autism Society of Mahoning Valley (ASMV), which is a local branch of Autism Society of America, and serves Mahoning, Trumbull, and Columbiana Counties.
Currently, Jodi is the Vice President of ASMV’s Board of Directors. During one of her first meetings with the board, she says, “One of our main goals was expansion.” Since she’s been on the Board, ASMV has expanded to create Mahoning Valley Warrior, which is ASMV’s flagship fundraiser. She also mentions the creation of family support groups, Moms Night Out, Special Bunny/Special Santa, and Social Connections group, which places tweens through young adults into peer groups to help them build likeminded social relationships. Jodi’s son is part of the 12-to-17-year-old Social Connections group, and has met many of his friends through events like virtual golf, hayrides, and dinners. The adult Social Connections group combines ages 18 to 35, but Jodi would like to expand further to create a 35+ group. She says, “Once people with autism reach a certain age, they understand their needs, and many still want to be around likeminded peers and feel supported, just like we all do.”
I ask Jodi if she wants to instill a sense of leadership and volunteerism in her son. She says social norms often push people with autism to act like everyone around them, but she encourages her son to be an individual when fitting in feels forced. She also tells me she’s incorporating young adult responsibilities into Liam’s life. As a family, Jodi, her husband, and Liam volunteer for Special Bunny and Special Santa. Liam still wants to participate in the event like the younger children, but she reminds him, “You’re here to make sure the little kids have as much fun as you did when you were little.” Liam understands this and works hard to ensure he becomes a supportive peer and volunteer, just like his mom. As a good parent does, Jodi is using her leadership skills to guide her son into becoming the best young man he can be.
In addition to considering her social service roles in the Valley, Jodi will be tasked with bringing new leadership knowledge to MCCTC’s Adult Career Center. Jodi says working at MCCTC requires knowledge of hands-on, shop worker culture. Before working at MCCTC, Jodi sold electrical supplies and tools. The knowledge she gained through that job helped her when she started at MCCTC. She thinks being exposed to more careers will help her contribute to MCCTC’s culture even further. Jodi states, “I’m excited to see what kinds of jobs people have in the Valley and how they display leadership in the workplace.” To her, seeing the careers of others builds perspective—from mortuary assistants to construction workers to manufacturers, Jodi wants to observe and learn from their workplace habits.
On a day-to-day basis, Jodi is one of the first contacts adult students will make when applying to MCCTC. As the Recruiting Coordinator, Jodi must listen to students’ goals and needs, then help them find a program that they are best suited for. Also, Jodi spearheaded dozens of marketing initiatives for MCCTC’s Adult Career Center that did not exist before she was hired. Some of these initiatives include a social media presence on multiple platforms, creating a website blog, and publishing monthly newsletters.
Additionally, Jodi is looking for ways to further workplace training for adults with disabilities. As her son gets older, Jodi is noticing the workplace support for adults with disabilities is an afterthought across the country. She says adults with disabilities are afraid to apply for jobs because support and understanding is lacking. For Jodi, MCCTC is a mecca of workforce training and career placement—hopefully, as part of a long-term plan, MCCTC can build programs and services for adults with disabilities.
Overall, Jodi thinks leaders should be self-sufficient in the workplace. She says, “Leaders definitely don’t want to be micromanaged, but they also must be open to accepting constructive criticism.” This was something Jodi struggled with when she first started at MCCTC, but then realized that much of the early criticism was valuable and made her improve. She says a leader must sit in a room with others, listen to their ideas, and, even if they have ideas you’ve already had, “treat them with grace and refrain from shutting them down.”
We end our conversation talking about the Mahoning Valley and its specific needs. Jodi grew up in Campbell, Ohio. She has a unique perspective on the area because she moved away and came back. Jodi says, “I’m constantly thinking about how people can come up with new ideas and infuse them in the economy.” She also says she thinks a lot of people have great ideas, but are afraid to share them, or are afraid of getting turned down. Jodi thinks the area may not necessarily return to being a manufacturing hub, but will adapt in some way to become a hub of industry. She also says it is imperative that older leaders prepare to pass the torch to young people, as they are the ones who will be transforming the area. Likewise, young people must be willing to learn from older, wiser professionals. Youngstown was once called the City of Homes and, for the Valley to see growth, we need to teach, encourage, and support fellow professionals as if they were family members.
Fundamentally, Jodi’s motivations as a leader stem from her desire to be a supportive mother, which I find to be extremely admirable. She says, “Having a great job at MCCTC allows me to volunteer and have roles in other organizations.” As I finish talking with Jodi, it becomes clear to me that she would do anything for her son and people with autism. Perhaps we don’t think of “mother” and “leader” as being synonymous, but Jodi shows me they are. With that, Jodi’s story also is one of “See problem. Fix problem.” Jodi’s drive to impact her community, filling holes that, perhaps, she can only see and in roles that she can only do, given her life experience, is inspirational to me. I look forward to seeing how she continues to benefit the community after she graduates from the LMV program.
Donate to Autism Society of Mahoning Valley HERE
Donate to Autism Warrior Mahoning Valley HERE
Principle of MCCTC’s Valley STEM, Andrew Hampton, has also been chosen to participate in LMV’s 2024 class. Read his story HERE.
Dom Fonce is a Marketing Content Writer for Mahoning County Career and Technical Center Adult Career Center. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Youngstown State University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the NEOMFA. He has published two books of poetry. His work can be found at domfoncepoetry.com.