Today's blog post comes from 2012 IGNITE Change Winner, Zacorah Jackman. We challenged Zacorah to write about the dynamic women in Boston and these were the incredible results! Seems directly connected to Wednesday's Spitfire!
To continue our blog series focusing on dynamic women, it is important that we highlight women like Leslie Moore in our communities; Dynamic women who dedicate their lives to the betterment of the lives of others. Leslie Moore, a loving person passionate about social service and youth work, is an active community member, Ivy League graduate, and founder of Traction House: Home for young adults. Instead of working in an office cubicle somewhere, you can find Leslie side by side with the students’ classrooms in her position as Director of adolescent education. Check out some of Leslie and her associates work at Tractionhouse.wordpress.com and collegebounddorchester.org
There is a joyful disposition about Leslie Moore that seems irremovable. Even as she is bombarded with phone calls from students requesting favors or her advice, she remains collected and keeps a soothing smile about her face. Leslie Moore comes from a big family in small town Blythe, California. There her mother played a large role in encouraging her to focus on academic excellence that would provide for her a better quality of life. Leslie’s mother’s advice stuck with her all the way to Yale University where she took on the first triple major Yale had ever seen completing the study requirements of Political science, Economics, and Psychology.
While at Yale, Leslie spent a lot of time studying the bible in a Christian fellowship student group through which she gained a new perspective on life. “[Life] is about loving your neighbor. You’re forgiven so you’re free to just love people because God is going to take care of you” she says. Leslie found that her peers felt similarly about the purpose of life, so they derived an action plan for post-graduation; they would all return to Leslie’s home town and start a community initiative they’d call “Project Blythe”. Leslie and her friends committed to a summer of community organizing in Blythe. They occupied some space at a local middle school and began their services with enrichment classes as well as coordinating the volunteer center where people could come and be linked to civic engagement opportunities in town.
Many people in her community had much to say about how she was using her Ivy League degrees; saying she should do work that offered a better income. “There was this disconnection, and I get it. I don’t think people were crazy, I think the world and what we value are crazy! I would help people’s kids and even [parents] would ask why I was doing this [and not something more profitable].” After trial running service jobs with decent pay such as high school substitute teacher and coordinator of family relations for the school district, Leslie realized that although she loved working with youth, she would much rather work a career that would allow her to develop relationships with people on a personal level. That’s when she and one of her colleagues from Yale decided to make a move to a city where their beliefs would better connect with the community while receiving support from like-minded people. Acknowledging Boston for its many religious and community based organizations; they concluded that Massachusetts would be a great place for their move.
Shortly after arriving to Boston, Leslie was hired as an outreach and neighborhood worker at College Bound Dorchester. At the time, most of their work focused on settlement houses, Leslie recalls “I really liked the idea of building a house in a community where people are welcomed, because then you really get to know everyone.” With the relationships that Leslie made, she began to form opinions about how College Bound Dorchester could better serve its population. Leslie comments “There was this part of me that wanted to make decisions. I felt it was more important that we’re doing the right work even if that means I don’t get to do the fun stuff. I know I have strength in [decision making], even though I enjoy the [outreach work]”. These notions landed her a promotion to her current role as Director of Adolescent Education. Leslie directs the alternative middle school program, an adult education program, and a GED to college program where she gets to make decisions and still connect with the youth participants.
In her spare time, Leslie found herself involved with volunteering at homeless shelters. She took great interest in helping homeless people and wanted to aid them as best she could. This was one of the ideas that spawned the Traction House. She wanted to give homeless teens as well as teens who lack support in their homes a chance to turn their lives around before their issues got too severe. In January of 2010 the first traction house was established in Dorchester, MA. ”It was a challenge for myself of loving people the way I love myself, so the house I could afford already I wanted to set up so others could enjoy the same living situation. It’s just living life and sharing.” She explains. Due to major success of the first members, a second Traction House was opened a few blocks away from the original. Each house is set up with support systems that focus on catering to the specific needs of either young men or young women and teen moms in transition. Today the two houses serve as separate housing opportunities for young adults who are enrolled in school, seeking employment, and focused on the betterment of their lives.
Leslie comments “On the question of how to build relationships that really matter; when you welcome people into your home and family, although they may already have their own families but they also have these other people that are there for them and want good things for them” Leslie serves as a picture of what community activism looks like. She is an inspiration to those of us who wish to make a difference in their neighborhoods. By being consistent, passionate and innovative Leslie shows us being that being the difference you want to see can actually be accomplished.