Jessica first served as a young adult liaison to the Kadima Board and was newly appointed to the board this year. She focuses her efforts on building connections with young adults to start conversations about mental health needs sooner.
Written By: Jessica Katz
Like many young adults of this generation, I’ve always had a desire to make a real difference in my community, especially for other young adults. I started my career as a program director at Michigan State Hillel, the Jewish student center on campus. Following this work, I earned my master’s degree in higher education and continued to work with programs for young adults. Currently, I work in HR for Moosejaw Mountaineering, and while I work with people of all ages, I often find myself working with young adults in the workforce in various capacities. One might say, I’ve “earned my stripes” in understanding the needs of the young adult demographic.
I admit, I didn’t know very much about Kadima when I was connected by The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and their NextGen program, which places young adults on local nonprofit boards. I knew I wanted to be involved in something in a meaningful way, where I could bring my voice to the table. The more I have dug in, and continued to learn, the more my desire to serve Kadima grew. Though I was not connected to Kadima in a more personal way, it becomes very easy to see how directly Kadima makes an enormous impact on individual people’s lives and how that work goes on to make a direct impact on, and can only strengthen, our community.
Once you understand the work Kadima does, you realize everybody knows someone who has been connected to a mental health issue. As I’ve been involved with Kadima, I have recognized more and more that these are issues that impact our daily lives, whether or not we live with a mental health issue. I also recognized the importance of educating our community so we can support one another and especially encourage young people to join the conversation earlier about mental health and overcoming stigma. As a young adult myself, I saw an opportunity in the community to make a difference.
I’ve been able to apply my degree in higher education and other community involvement to my board participation and establish new connections. Remembering my days working on a college campus and leading various trips reminded me of the prevalence of mental health issues on campus and with young adults. I was able to reflect on my own work with college students and connect its relevance to Kadima’s work. I saw an opportunity to bring more resources to young adults and provide Kadima with access to populations they hadn’t always reached before. Knowing my experiences, Kadima was able to make a connection with Hillel to introduce Mental Health First Aid to train staff to better support students who need mental health help.
Being able to continue bringing my skills and knowledge to Kadima, while understanding more about mental health, is a tremendous opportunity. Watching Kadima grow and seeing the diverse number of opportunities to be involved in the community, I’m eager to help Kadima continue to increase its recognition within the community and find new partnerships and ways to help more people understand what they do. Mental health needs are so prevalent, and Kadima is a first-stop resource to providing support, programs and education.