Jim Morgan was back in the sandbox. That’s what he calls those moments of career exploration where he tries to figure out his next thing. For a self-described “jim all trades,” there are always options, always new paths to consider.
What Jim jumped into this time seems like the perfect intersection between where he’s been and where he wants to go. He’s the new Richmond Field Manager with One Small Step, a position that lets him celebrate the hometown that he loves while helping the community discover its more perfect self.
Just how did he get here?
“When I was seven, I wanted to be a teacher, and I’ve served in childcare, at camps, at the YMCA, and eventually, I spent 18 years teaching grades 2 through 10 across a variety of content areas,” Jim says. “And I love a certificate: hair, massage, yoga, personal training and more; if it has a certificate next to it, I’m probably doing that next.”
As a teacher, Jim was not immune to the political winds that have been blowing through America’s classrooms. That was especially true for him, given the fact that one of the subjects he taught was sex education, often a hot topic of debate in America.
“With every year came a more elevated concern among parents, but I got to a place where I started to realize that I had a powerful voice, and I was really proud of the work I had done with kids on their social and emotional development,” he recalls. “I got to see their story arc – watching some grow-up in front of me, from 2nd grade to senior year. I think I helped some of the hardest years of personal growth and I was able to them graduate.”
Despite that feeling of accomplishment, Jim began to wonder whether a younger, fresher voice could have a resonating impact on the students, and while he’s not sure he’s done with teaching, he decided he’d hit the pause button. And so, when he saw the job posting for the Richmond position, his heart skipped a beat.
“I’d been a StoryCorps fan for so long, and when I read about the position, I thought ‘This is perfect,” he remembers. “I wake each morning with the question, ‘How can I serve?’ It’s in my heart to create connections. I believe when we step into vulnerability and embrace our humanity with each other, it creates hope and a way forward. So, when I saw that job posting, it felt like an immediate match.”
For Jim, One Small Step is part of the continuum of how he had been teaching students to communicate with one another.
“One of the centerpieces of what I believe is that ‘safe spaces’ are great, but ‘brave spaces’ are better,” he says. “We can begin in that safe space, but we shouldn’t stay there. If we stay in our bubbles, our labels, our self-identified communities, we lose ourselves and just become part of an echo chamber. We’ve got to step out of our safe space and into brave space.”
While Jim is relatively new to the position, he already is optimistic about how far One Small Step can go in Richmond.
“I think the beautiful thing about this program is it’s still in its infancy, and we are trying to find the paths that create the most meaning,” he says. “It’s kind of like an orchestra, and we’re in the process of learning a piece. And sometimes we have to give attention to this group over here, and then, ‘Oh wait, let’s fix this section over here.’ I think we are about to hear this symphony come together in 2024. It’s going to be some beautiful music.”