JNCS Welcomes Director Nita Davis
Jay Nolan Community Services welcomes Nita Davis as our new Director of Community Facilitator and ILS. We sat down with Nita to get her perspective on her new role and how she envisions her department in the coming years.
Welcome Nita! Can you tell us a bit about your background before you started working at Jay Nolan?
I graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and from California State University Los Angeles (CSULA) with a master’s degree in public administration with a specialty in nonprofit management. I have worked over the last 20 years in the field of individuals with disabilities, from running adult day programs, doing independent living skills (ILS) training, and then vocational preparation and employment services for adults with disabilities.
I started working in the field during graduate school and I found that to be my passion. I went on to work with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist. And then I went back into the nonprofit industry working for the last 15 years as a Program Director at the Institute for the Redesign of Learning (IRL) in Transition and Adult Services. There, our focus was on serving all individuals with disabilities from transition age youth (TAY) ages 14 and over, and up to age 69 years of age in the areas of adaptive skills, independent living skills (ILS), and employment services (including pre-employment skills training and job placement).
What is your proudest accomplishment in your career? Does anything stand out to you?
I feel like it’s not me alone. I mean, I feel like I was able to build a strong team and when I started working at IRL, it was very small. We had one Job Developer, and we were serving just 100 clients. When I left this year, we were serving over 300 clients with five Job Developers.
We were doing paid internships and student and adult work experience. We were serving individuals that were not just Regional Center (RC) clients, but also came from the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) with other disabilities like mental health issues or back injuries. We were helping get them to work and get out into the community and build relationships.
My accomplishment was building relationships and building a network and community for people. We started a Kiwanis Aktion club for individuals with disabilities, which is part of Kiwanis International. We also networked with the really large San Gabriel Valley Chamber of Commerce and we got a lot of employers to come alongside us to hire our clients. That was a really great accomplishment, I think. I’d like to, as I come to Jay Nolan, see individuals go to work in my program. That’s kind of my passion.
“That was a really great accomplishment, I think. I’d like to, as I come to Jay Nolan, see individuals go to work in my program. That’s kind of my passion.” – Nita
What made you accept the position as a Director with Jay Nolan?
One thing I liked about Jay Nolan was there was a very unified mission where everyone seems to be working to achieve the mission. I wanted an opportunity to be part of this mission and serve each and everyone based on their wants and needs with an individual one person at a time. When I began my career in this field, this was what my foundation and focus was. I like the fact that Jay Nolan has so many different locations and is expanding into new areas and lines of business which is exciting!
I think I wanted a different challenge and a new opportunity. I reached out to Edward because I used to work with Edward for four years at IRL. And I guess the universe was in my favor because there happened to be this wonderful opportunity.
What do you see as your biggest challenge as you move into this role?
I think the biggest challenge is probably going to be staffing. I think there’s a tremendous need in the community for services. And I see that just by visiting the Ridgecrest area, how they have grown over the last few years. Now there’s four supervisors out of that office. I really don’t see that slowing down. I think the challenge is going to be finding the right staff to work with our clients.
But I think we have a great start because we have all the pieces in place: the supervisors and managers are really passionate about what they do. For example, I was learning about a new referral and the Director of the program was willing to start working with the individual because we didn’t have a staff available right away. And it was like “whatever it takes!” Which is unbelievable, you know? You don’t see that in a lot of places.
I think we have an awesome team. The low turnover at Jay Nolan is really amazing. I never heard of the turnover being as low as 12% anywhere else. I think we’re already starting at the gate with high level individuals, and that starts at the top. I think the strong leadership that Jay Nolan has is reflected in the team that is here. It’s not just people talking about it, its people doing it.
“I think the strong leadership that Jay Nolan has is reflected in the team that is here. It’s not just people talking about it, its people doing it.” – Nita
Where do you see the future of your department in five years?
I see it growing. I don’t doubt that within five years, my department could potentially be double in size. A lot of providers are not providing services since Covid. There’s been programs that have closed; people want individualized services, and they want to get away from the day programs and workshops.
There’s always going to be a tremendous need in California. There is a huge waiting list of folks waiting to be served and a growth in the population in California. We are the only state in the entire country that has an entitlement, meaning that anyone born with a developmental disability is entitled to those services. People move to California just for these services, so the need is only going to increase.
Also, I see my department working alongside Employment Services to help our clients go back to work, The transition age youth in Community Facilitator services are not as involved in employment. My goal would be to work more closely with employment services so that those in Community Services can have Jay Nolan help them gain work skills and become employed if they desire. I definitely see that growing too.
Is there anything that you would like to add, or anything you want people to know about you?
I want staff to know that I am open to new ideas and that I have an open-door policy. I welcome people reaching out and to discuss their challenges or ideas. I really like that collaboration and I am open to collaborating with staff that have been here a long time and maybe know more than I do. Together everyone can achieve more. Teamwork makes the dream work!
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