Optimist Business Solutions and the Indianapolis Recorder are co-sponsors of the virtual town hall, “Don’t Go It Alone: Leveraging Community School Partnerships for Equity,” at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 22.
What is Optimist Business Solutions and why would it be involved in a town hall about school partnerships for equity?
The answer is Joy E. Mason, moderator for the town hall. She has always had a “desire and passion to pull together stakeholders to make things better,” she emphasizes. This desire comes from her family. She explains that her mother, Carole Craig, was one of the pioneers in establishing community schools in Indianapolis Public Schools, and her father, Jay M. Smith, was the NAACP president during the turbulent 1960s Civil Rights Movement in Indianapolis. From both parents, she says she “gained the attributes of intentionality and persistence in the pursuit of making things better.”
As president and senior strategist of Optimist Business Solutions, Mason provides training and consulting on problem solving, process improvement and partnership building for nonprofit and for-profit organizations.
“Every problem can be solved and every process can be improved,” she said. “Continuous improvement using reliable methodologies is her business and her lifestyle,” she added.
When Mason discovered the community school model six years ago while still working as a global quality consultant and project manager at Eli Lilly and Co., she believed this model and the nationwide evidence-based Communities In Schools (CIS) were perfectly aligned with her values and desire to “make things better at a systems level.” Community schools use intentional strategies and integrated supports to ensure equitable resources for student success.
She subsequently co-founded, with the Office of Community Engagement at IUPUI, the Indianapolis Coalition for Community School Partnerships which advocates for a systematic approach to integrated support services for school-aged youth and their families, the topic of the town hall.
“The community has a story to tell, processes have a story to tell and data have a story tell,” she added. “The community school model pulls these stories together to improve equity for educational success for all students.”
Mason has a track record of helping clients develop the infrastructure for success. She has worked with some of the largest nonprofit entities in the state, including Ivy Tech Community College and the Central Indiana Community Foundation. Advocating for the community school model, however, is more passion than work, she said.
Since retiring from a 30-year career at Lilly, Mason literally wrote the book on problem solving and sustainable solutions, “5 Steps to Sustainable Solutions for Women in Business,” published in 2019. In 2018, she published another book, “Purpose, A Shift from Driving It to Embracing It,” that describes her “deeply personal journey of re-finding life’s purpose and getting joy back while also managing the reality of a recently discovered brain tumor (at the time),” she said. Mason says she spends her “extra time mentoring women who are navigating life and career.”
Based on her books, Mason recently launched two leadership programs, “Purposeful Woman” and “Empowered Leader,” that “apply an inspiring and evidence-based approach to boosting the confidence and happiness of female leaders,” she said.
Mason has been recognized with the Center for Leadership Development Distinguished Alumni Award and the United Way of Central Indiana Diversity Volunteer of the Year Award. She’s a member of the Butler University Alumni Board, Miami University College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Board and American Society of Quality Indianapolis Chapter Executive Committee. She and her husband, Tony, are members of Eastern Star Church, and she said they enjoy time with their two sons and traveling.
For more information about Optimist Business Solutions, go to: www.optimistindy.com.
Jim Grim, co-founder of the Indianapolis Coalition for Community School Partnerships and director of University/Community School Partnerships, Office of Community Engagement at IUPUI.