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Blue Star Families Announces Inaugural Class of DEPLOY Fellows to Diversify Leadership in Military Communities as Part of Cutting Edge $1.5 Million Racial Equity and Inclusion Initiative

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Today Blue Star Families (BSF), the nation's largest non-profit dedicated to supporting military families and strengthening communities across the United States, welcomed the inaugural class of military-connected community leaders and spouses as part of their "Diversify and Expand the Pipeline of Leaders of Your military communities" (DEPLOY) Fellowship program. The DEPLOY Fellowship is a key element of the Racial Equity and Inclusion Initiative (REI), a $1.5 million effort that conducts research and takes action to improve the experiences of servicemembers, veterans, and military families of all races and ethnicities.

The REI Initiative will be spearheaded by the new DEPLOY fellows with the guidance of the Racial Equity and Inclusion Committee, a group of high-ranking military leaders, wounded warriors, caregivers, and spouses. The announcement coincides with the addition of four new committee members: Major General Juan Ayala (Retired); Brigadier General Dr. Irene Zoppi Rodriguez (Retired); Major General Suzanne Vares-Lum (Retired); and Vice Admiral Mary J. Jackson (Retired).

"We are proud to welcome this unmatched group of leaders to Blue Star Families' Racial Equity and Inclusion Initiative, the largest private funding raised to support our military families of color," said Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families. "Through our years of research and our network of military families, we recognized the experiences of these families differ from those of white families. With our first class of DEPLOY fellows and the invaluable insights of the Racial Equity and Inclusion Committee, we can take steps to improve military families' of color sense of belonging to their local communities, as well as within the military and veteran support sector writ large."

The new DEPLOY Fellows cohort and their areas of focus include:

The DEPLOY Fellowship program includes training the new class of racially diverse leaders for leadership positions in MSOs and VSOs, a sector that significantly lags in diverse representation. Fellows will serve for one year in chapter-based and national roles at BSF while they work with key defense and philanthropic sector leaders to develop subject matter expertise.

"Our data ? and the stories we've heard ? have been loud and clear: as a community we have work to do to ensure all of our families feel seen, understood, and embraced. This first class of DEPLOY fellows is yet another important milestone for our Racial Equity and Inclusion Initiative," said Ret. Army First Sergeant Carlandra "CT" Moss, Director of Blue Star Families' Racial Equity and Inclusion Initiative. "We have made a commitment to equip this emerging group of leaders with necessary tools and experience so they can better represent and serve our diverse military community. In turn, this enhances the readiness of our armed forces for generations to come."

The REI Initiative and DEPLOY Fellowship program are largely the result of Blue Star Families research that found military families of color often face disproportionate challenges compared to their white peers. Blue Star Families data shows that military families of color often choose to live apart out of concern for their safety in the location of their service member's duty station, face racial discrimination and microaggressions within both their civilian and military communities, and often lack access to the programs and services available to support them due to a lack of representation and reach.

Announced in December 2020, BSF's $1.5 million Racial Equity and Inclusion Initiative (REI) is a multi-dimensional, cross-sector effort to support and improve these service experiences. Other pillars of this groundbreaking initiative include research, collaborative work across the sector, and impact evaluation. Funding for the initiative is made in part by USAA, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, CSX, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Lockheed Martin, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Salesforce, Starbucks, BAE Systems, REI Co-op, and OptumServe, a UnitedHealth Group company.

About Blue Star Families

Blue Star Families is the nation's largest grass-roots military family support organization, with a mission to support military families to improve military readiness. Its distinctive approach builds stronger communities around military families through knowledge and programs that address the unique needs of those who serve. Blue Star Families' nationally recognized surveys and analysis give military families an important voice that informs policymakers and its military family programs. It uses the power of its collective resources and cross-sector collaborations to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of members of military families to strengthen the troops, their families, and our nation as a whole. For more information, visit bluestarfam.org.


SOURCE Blue Star Families

News published on 20 october 2021 at 08:00 and distributed by: