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President of YWCA draws from past experience with racism to keep MLK Jr.'s dream alive

As a student council member at her local high school in the 1960s, Nancy said she experienced real-life examples that would reveal her purpose.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, people are often reminded that it is not a day "off," but a day "on," where work still needs to be done so that everyone is seen, heard and respected.

Nancy Wesson-Dodd, president and CEO of the YWCA of Corpus Christi, has been acting on principles that the YWCA valued since before starting her position there. 

"I got involved with the YWCA through a blind ad in the newspaper for a small nonprofit-- no idea what nonprofit that was going to be," Nancy said. "And so I was very excited then, when it was the YWCA."

As a student council member at her local high school in the 1960s, Nancy said she experienced real-life examples that would reveal her purpose before arriving at the Y.  Nancy said she was approached by a fellow student while planning their organization's banquet.

"As we were leaving our meeting that day, one of the other student council members said to me, 'Don't worry about me going to the banquet.' And I said, 'Why don't you want to go to the banquet?' And she said 'black people aren't allowed to eat in any cafeterias or restaurants in town.' "

Nancy was determined and refused to have anyone feel or be left out, so she tried to find a place in town that would host them. However, Nancy learned that the student was correct. She wouldn't let that stop her from being inclusive, though. 

"We had our banquet in the school cafeteria," Nancy said. "And we thought we made such a statement. Years later when I came to the YWCA, looking at the history, I found that at that same time in the 60s, women of the YWCA were handing out business cards all over town saying I am one among many who encourage you to open your business establishment to people of all color." 

YWCA's mantra is "We are strong alone. We are fearless together." And that is exactly what Nancy and her classmates were... fearless.

"The YWCA's mission is eliminating racism empowering women and bringing peace, justice, freedom, and dignity to all. And I think that really is part of what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for," Nancy said. 

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