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Meet Mitch Johnson of International Rescue Committee San Diego

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mitch Johnson.

Mitch, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
In 2009, I started volunteering with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) as part of a service-learning component of an Intercultural Communications Class at California State University, San Marcos. My role was to support after-school programming at Crawford High School. Throughout the semester, I was given the opportunity to meet a diverse student population – many of whom were refugees. The refugee youth I was privileged to engage with genuinely impressed me with their strength, resiliency, and work ethic. Although I had originally planned a career in the business world, my volunteer experience with IRC was so profound that I decided to change course and seek job opportunities in the field of refugee-focused social services.

The following year, I interned with the IRC, helping to implement supplemental academic, acculturation, and enrichment activities at the school. Following graduation, I served as an AmeriCorps Member with the IRC San Diego and was later hired as a Youth Program Coordinator in 2012. The IRC has provided me ample opportunities for professional development and growth in the last six years as I have moved up to my current position – Senior Program Manager.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Most of my struggles were trying to find my place in this world and occurred years before I started working at the IRC. I won’t go into detail, however, it’s worth pointing out that I have benefitted from the privilege inherent to being a straight white male and had I been born into a different demographic, my situation would likely be very different today.

Struggles in non-profit programming are ongoing and are closely tied to the ebbs and flows of funding. Despite the value and success of a program, funding will usually dictate its sustainability and funders, both private and public, have ever-changing priorities. It is painful to see staff have to be let go and clients seeking help from a program that no longer exists. Given these circumstances, IRC San Diego has done a good job of creating an array of core services through a diverse funding portfolio that assists refugee families in achieving self-sufficiency.

Please tell us about the International Rescue Committee San Diego.
The IRC helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future. Since 1975, IRC San Diego has provided services to some of San Diego’s most marginalized families and youth. In 2017, the IRC in San Diego served more than 9,000 people through programs that included youth services, workforce and job training, financial education and counseling, microenterprise, access to loans and asset-building products, tax preparation services, immigration and civic engagement programming, refugee resettlement, community health services, prenatal and parenting programs, and much more.

In my role as Senior Program Manager, I oversee IRC’s Youth, Asset Building, and Career Programs departments in City Heights and El Cajon. Some may think that seems like a disjointed grouping of departments, but I have a different view. Whether we are helping youth graduate from high school, get a summer job, or develop their social and emotional toolkit in our REACH (Refugee Education, Acculturation, Civic Engagement, and Health) program, or we are helping adults build credit, create a budget, start a business, or connect them to their career, everything we do helps families on their path to self-sufficiency.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
I would like to mention the values of IRC as an organization since these values have been instilled in me and have allowed me to find success in this field.

Integrity: We are open, honest and trustworthy in dealing with clients, partners, co-workers, donors, funders and the communities we affect.

Accountability: We are accountable—individually and collectively—for our behaviors, actions and results.

Service: We are responsible to the people we serve and the donors who enable our service.

These values foster a deep connection and commitment to communities we serve and allow us to consistently develop and provide successful client-centered programming.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jessica Wawryyniak; Laural Dalstead; Abdulrahman Ibrahim

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