By Rob Thompson
Patricia Beier is the Executive Director at WAGES, a community action agency in Wayne County that provides support services for children, families, and seniors. WAGES is a part of NC Child’s Child Advocacy Network, a coalition of child and family agencies across the state speaking up on behalf of children.
Patricia Beier has been at WAGES for nearly twenty years, but her involvement with the agency started much earlier than that. As a preschooler, Patricia was enrolled in the HeadStart program that WAGES has administered for over fifty years. When she graduated college with a degree in public policy, taking a job with WAGES as a family social worker came very naturally. Today WAGES is one of the largest HeadStart agencies in the state, serving over 700 children birth to age five every year.
NCC: What makes a great leader?
PB: A good leader is one that has a vision, but also is able to tap into all the skills and talents that are around them, to develop the people around them. That’s my main thing as a leader, I like to help develop the capacity of those folk who are around me. To be able to help them to see some things that they may not have seen in themselves, but also giving them room to grow, room to think, to have different experiences. I think a great leader gives the people around them opportunity.
PB: My door is always open to parents and to anybody who comes in in need of services. I try to be really honest with parents, encouraging them and letting them know that they can do it. A lot of times when you have these barriers and you have such great need, sometimes you can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re here to make sure that we link them to the community resources, but also giving them hope and letting them know that it can happen for them. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to. It gets so difficult with all of the things they’re going through in just trying to make ends meet.
NCC: Do you see working parents who are able to step out of the grind to be advocates for their children’s futures?
PB: I do. Many times if parents knew about the opportunity to participate, they would make the time to do it. We always have to make sure that when we’re having meetings or having those conversations, we do it at times that are conducive for working parents to be a part of it. Everybody has their set of things going on, it doesn’t matter what socioeconomic status you’re in. I believe that parents, given the opportunity, will advocate. There’s nothing more important to a parent than their child. Given the opportunity, they do participate, they are advocates.
NCC. What do you hope will change for children in Wayne County as a result of being involved with the Child Advocacy Network?
PB: Our vision at WAGES is that everyone has the opportunity to achieve their optimal potential. We want every child to have the opportunity to be the best that they can be, and to have their optimal potential without any artificial barriers, without disparities, without lack of equality.
In our community we’re certainly not the only ones who face this, but there are a lot of economic and educational disparities, health disparities, and lack of access to health care. Those are artificial barriers, they don’t have to be there. I always say that a community is only the best that we can be if everyone has the opportunity to thrive.
You can learn more about WAGES and support their work at wagesnc.org.
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