María says “farewell” and embarks on a new journey

María says “farewell” and embarks on a new journey

February 28, 2024
Category: Anytown
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In March, our team will say a bittersweet farewell to María Perdomo (Anytown 2010 and NCCJ’s assistant program director since 2019) as her time on staff at NCCJ comes to a close and she embarks on a new journey. We will miss her terribly and we are deeply grateful for the many gifts María has brought to this organization and our community over the years.

Under her leadership, Anytown and all of NCCJ’s youth programs have grown tremendously. From playing a key role in developing and piloting STARR: Students Talking About Race + Racism to working with NCCJ’s Youth Ambassadors to create and launch The Reset, María has shaped and grown NCCJ’s youth programs in ways that will continue to uplift and benefit young people in our community for many years to come.

A letter to you, from María:

Dearest friends, it’s not long ago you received an NCCJ message that started with “I’m writing to share some bittersweet news.”  

That last announcement included Ivan’s parting and now here I am announcing mine.  

Susan Cain talks a lot about bittersweetness, in fact Bittersweet is the title of one of her books. She speaks of holding joy and sorrow in one and how this ability to hold both the bitter and the sweet comes with a heightened awareness of impermanence in all things and the “piercing joy of the beauty of the world.”  

When I announced my parting to the NCCJ team a few months ago, I became attuned to the beauty that has inundated the last 14 years of my life in relation to this organization.  

María with her mom in 2010, about to board the bus to Anytown

I first attended Anytown as a 16-year-old in the summer of 2010. I was a junior in high school and had arrived in the United States just a few years prior and still learning the ropes. At Anytown, I spoke about my native country of Colombia proudly in front of a group of people for the first time since I’d arrived. I learned that it takes courage to be yourself and I began to form life-long friendships – the kind that will pick up the phone in the middle of the night (even on weekdays.)  

For the first time since I’d moved, I was home.  

When I was walking toward the bus on the last day of that first Anytown session. Jody Clayton (who held my position at NCCJ at the time), walked up to me and said: “you should apply to be a counselor.” I looked at him quite honestly like he’d made a mistake. “Me? An Anytown counselor?”  

Jody’s words would then inform the next decade of my life. Sometimes when we don’t believe in ourselves, we need someone to do it for us. As time went on, I became a counselor, advisor, intern and eventually, a staff member. It’s been an honor to learn new things each step of the way. NCCJ helped me find my footing and place in this country as an immigrant, it taught me that women always have a place at the table and that I don’t have to agree with everything I’m told. I learned that my body will always be the body it needs to be and that a conversation can truly, truly, change a life.  

Throwback to 2012, when Ivan (then an NCCJ board member) gave a shout-out to María (the in high school and serving as an NCCJ Youth Ambassador) for speaking on behalf of NCCJ about the importance of marriage equality.

Making the decision to leave has not been easy. It’s hard to imagine a summer without Anytown but I look forward to the shifts that are coming. In the coming months, I plan to do some traveling and focus on my writing. My social justice journey does not end here but for us to show up for work that is in constant service of others, we too, must serve and honor ourselves.  

The last few months, our team has been going through a hiring process for the new Assistant Program Director and I can’t wait for you all to meet the new addition to the NCCJ team! I have no doubt that they will continue to represent our organization in the best light and are committed to making a difference in the lives of young people. 

A fresh perspective for our NCCJ team and youth programs will be exciting and refreshing for our work. As they say, “change is the only constant” and this organization has become what it is because of it.  

Thank you all for your support over the years. I’m so proud of all that we’ve created together and will carry all the lessons with me on my new journey. 

I leave you with the bittersweet but, life feels a little more precious this way.  

With love,