Category Archives: Jackson Legacy

2017 Jackson Fellows Go to Washington, D.C.

I’ve just had the privilege to spend three days with our cohort of Jackson Leadership Fellows as they attended meetings in Washington, DC, as part of the culmination of their program.  What an experience!  As Board President John Hempelmann and Board member Susan Wickwire, who accompanied the group, agreed, this was a much-needed antidote to the political blues and skepticism that have infected many of us in this gridlocked and polarized time. The optimism, engagement, and commitment of this extraordinary cadre of young leaders – from 26 – 40 years old – provide a reason to embrace the future of our communities and our nation with a degree of hope.

Roger-Mark De Souza of the Wilson Center introducing Jackson Fellows Connor Birkeland, Radha Friedman, and Amarpreet Sethi

The Fellows, who have been meeting monthly and receiving professional guidance and leadership training from an array of experts here in the Northwest, went to Washington to showcase their talents, introduce the program to other young people – in this case a packed room full of Washington DC interns – and meet the Washington Congressional Delegation, among other meetings.

The Fellows, with Board members John Hempelmann, far left, and Susan Wickwire, (3rd from right) meeting with Senator Patty Murray
The Fellows meeting with Senator Maria Cantwell

The jam-packed agenda included a private discussion with four Members of the House of Representatives from Washington State, who candidly shared their thoughts of current political developments with the Fellows and took their questions, and both of Washington’s powerful senators, who took the time to get to know our Fellows and the work they are doing back here in Puget Sound.

Congressmen Denny Heck and Derek Kilmer with Fellow Hans Zeiger, center
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene talks with Jackson Fellows Kiana Scott and Alyssa Patrick

The Fellows were also exposed to two panels featuring long-time public servants discussing their work in Washington, DC, their ability to work across changing political administrations, and their reasons for choosing public service as a career.

Jackson Fellows Kiana Scott (speaking), Hans Zeiger (l)  and Nora Ferm Nickum (r)  were featured on a panel about public service

Along the lines of discussing public service, one of the highlights of the trip was a half-day at the Wilson Center which featured two different dialogues about the challenge of careers in government and public service that shone a spotlight on the Fellows and the insights that they shared.

A full house of Washington, D.C. interns with questions for the panel

Overall the trip was a substantive way to bring the 2017 Fellows Program to a close — and a wonderful way for us to bond with our extraordinary young ambassadors for the Jackson legacy.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Farewell to Jelena

Life in a nonprofit can be challenging. Resources are usually stretched thin and the work is generally more than people can handle in a normal working day. People who devote themselves to the nonprofit sector have to believe that the work they are doing matters – to themselves, their colleagues, the community, and to the other nonprofits with whom they work.

Such is the case at our Foundation with its small staff. And no one has exemplified that dedication to the greater good more than our office and finance manager, Jelena Jurkovic, who retires this month after 18 years of service to the Jackson legacy. Jelena is one of those unsung heroes who make organizations work well. When sifting through photos in advance of honoring her, I couldn’t help but be struck by how few photos there were of her – instead, others are at the podium, giving the talks, leading the crowd. Yet Jelena’s quiet and critical role resulted in full lecture halls; well-prepped and organized board meetings; and thoughtful, accurate briefing materials. While this does not always make for headlines or glory, in the nearly two decades that I have worked with Jelena, her spirit, warmth, dedication to mission, commitment to her colleagues, and professionalism have meant the world to all of us. When I sent out emails to former colleagues about Jelena’s decision to retire, responses were quick and heartfelt. Board members have been equally effusive about Jelena and the role that she has played here at the Foundation. While we will hire other staff, her shoes will be hard to fill.

Jelena’s first week at the Foundation celebrating Scoop’s Troops at Helen Jackson’s home in Everett
Jelena and Anna Marie Laurence at the party in Jelena’s honor

At a farewell event for Jelena last night, Anna Marie Laurence, Board member and daughter of Senator Jackson, praised Jelena and said, “My father liked to say, ‘Whatever you do in life, always do it with excellence.’ This is what Jelena did.” Board member Joel Merkel expressed that he was honored to call Jelena a friend and emphasized, as did other speakers, the genuine and heartfelt nature of Jelena’s relationships with others. He concluded, “Thank you, Jelena, for your friendship and your service to the Jackson Foundation. We will miss your daily presence but we will never forget you and we all hope to maintain the relationship.”

Jelena and Joel Merkel

When you work together, day after day, you come to be a family. Such it has been, to our great good fortune, to work together with Jelena at the Jackson Foundation. With Jelena’s retirement to sunnier climes and the pull of her loved ones, we lose an essential part of our extended Jackson Foundation family. As Foundation President John Hempelmann said last night, “while we will miss her, whenever we think of Jelena, we will smile.”

Jelena and John Hempelmann

We wish Jelena the best of luck in her retirement and we will retain fond memories of our many laughs and shared concerns over the years together.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director