Diversity is important to my club, and that’s a big reason why I am a member and past president. My club is a second family to me, one that began investing in me all the way back in 2006.

As a senior in high school, I received a Rotary Scholarship as part of my club’s annual scholarship competition. The program is just one way my club embraces and seeks diversity. We invite a graduating senior from every high school, public and private, from all neighborhoods and walks of life, to share their leadership and service skills with us. Every senior who is chosen receives a scholarship.

I was a recipient of that program. And I knew that Selma’s business and community leaders believed in my vision and were willing to invest in my future. That’s what created in me a desire to be a Rotarian. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that the first organization I’d be joining after returning home from Princeton would be our local Rotary club.

How to achieve diversity

You must be intentional to achieve diversity. Our club takes pride in welcoming new and prospective members from every background. I think the trick is to not make things “weird” but to give every member the respect, support, and love they desire regardless of where they are from. Things will naturally progress and succeed from there. This was my experience, as a 26-year-old African American woman, elected club president at the age of 29, and chosen as an Emerging Leader by our Rotary district this year. I am proud to be part of the Rotary family.

Our club’s Youth Serve & Shadow project which I help oversee is another way we deliberately seek and embrace diversity. The project educates, empowers, and uplifts young men and women throughout the at-risk communities in Selma and Dallas Counties by providing 15-20 public high school students who face adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported, one-to-one mentoring relationships with respected veteran Rotarians. These mentors work strategically for a year to have a positive impact on the student’s life.

Students join us for service projects and shadow us on our jobs. Through our time spent with our young leaders, we as Rotarians become more informed on what we can do to better serve all of our communities, impacting positive change in the areas that need it most. Every fundraiser and service project we’ve had this year has reflected this conviction.

Supporting future generations

I am a proud product of Selma schools. I had the wonderful opportunity to connect and learn with our city’s leaders, especially during an opportunity to shadow one of our state representatives. I also served as student body president and got to know and served alongside our school board members. Because of these experiences, I have made it my primary focus to empower Selma’s youth and give them opportunities I had growing up. I want them to know that Rotary cares.

Not only is this an approach that will help your club grow and thrive, but this is something that we can feel proud about giving to the future generations.

Learn more about Rotary’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement

Originally written by Jerria Martin and published by Rotary Voices.