Melissa Jackson-Schmidt: The Journey to Chief Program Officer at Campaign for Working Families
Mrs. Jackson-Schmidt is Chief Program Officer at Campaign for Working Families.
In this role, she supervises and manages Tax Operations, Benefit Access/Workforce Development, Volunteer Engagement and Partnerships Directors and Mangers. Melissa assists with grant management, onboarding and making sure CWF is compliant with all city, state, federal funding entities. She also ensures all activities are aligned with the organization’s mission and goals at Campaign for Working Families (CWF).
In an interview with FunTimes Magazine, she narrated her human caring experiences and shared her “humble-root” journey.
A working wife and mom, she talked about her education and previous roles, which led her professional path to this point.
”For me, it was during college when I experienced some of the most rewarding positions. My educational background is a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Chestnut Hill College, a Secondary Education Teaching Certification from Drexel University, and a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management from Pierce College,” she stated.
In addition, she holds memberships and leadership positions in various professional and human-caring organizations.
Jackson-Schmidt mentioned that during and after college, she worked in the mental health field for ten years.
In particular, her experience as a social service worker at a group home for abused children is where she found her true love and passion, working with young people and families.
In 1999, she began her teaching career at Cook Middle School, Gillespie Middle school, and Lincoln High School and then spent 18 years at YouthBuild Charter High school as a mathematics teacher, Information Technology teacher, Business Administration Scholars Manager then the Director of Workforce Development. During this tenure in 2012, she was awarded the distinguished “Teacher of the Year” by the House of Representatives and recognized “Women in Leadership” of 2018.
Asked what her most rewarding and impacting position before CWF was, Jackson-Schmidt talked about her final leg of the journey before CWF, especially working for 18 years with Youth Build.
According to her, she loved seeing the program she worked for transform students who were once high school dropouts to go on and continue their college education and have careers and families.
The gift of creativity in her experiences as an educator and leader is exemplified in her career with Youth Build where she wrote the curriculum and training program for the tech education component, which refurbished computers for non-profits.
She spearheaded its development into a business program, eventually opening an actual student-run business café. Over time, the concept was elevated to expand and operate a West Philly version called “Stomping Grounds Café.”
She noted that what helped her impact those programs was “knowing how to work well with people.”
On the advice she would give people trying to take on a career in a management role, she said: “I would say have emotional intelligence. In order to work well with people, you must know that everyone does not work the same way. You must learn what works well for them.
“Furthermore, be willing to help and care about their growth and not just the bottom line. If you do not care about the cause of the people you manage, then managing people is not the best option for you.
“I learned that sometimes you might have to give grace when grace is needed, and you must help build up the people you manage.
“If you do not care to pause and think about what is in the best interest of the people you manage as well as have it alongside your deliverables, then managing people isn’t for you.
“You have to juggle to assist and manage people and always with a smile. You must work to understand all”.
“The point is to build on your skills, character, and communication. If you want a management role, you must establish a clear communication style with other employees.”
Jackson-Schmidt’s successes include the ability to be strategic by pulling from her educational and work background and the seasonings of her life journey.
She further pointed out that when seeking careers in management positions, individuals must act respectfully and stay open-minded, be empowered by caring, and be team players.
Jackson-Schmidt shared that since joining CWF, she has built upon her previous experience in developing partnerships with the school district, adding that she has generated a larger, more expansive partnership for CWF with the school district by training student volunteers.
She concluded excitedly: “Started in October and been rocking and rolling ever since!!!”
If you want to learn more about Campaign for Working Families, log on to cwfphilly.org.
Interview by Nina Indigo, FunTimes Magazine