For caring adults, it’s a familiar pattern in the nonprofit world. You start out as a event volunteer, become involved in a big project, get asked to join the board of directors and before you know it, you’ve stepped into a leadership role.
Samantha Jordan recognizes the process because it happened to her in service to Portland Workforce Alliance.
As a top manager at Emerick Construction Co., a general contracting firm based in Tualatin, Jordan was already well established in the industry when a colleague at another construction company asked Jordan to help her with the 2014 NW Youth Careers Expo.
For the next two years, Jordan became an understudy of sorts to Rhonnda Parsons Edmiston, then with Howard S. Wright, as the two women worked on PWA’s annual career-exploration event for Oregon and SW Washington high school students.
Then, one spring day, Edmiston, a PWA board member, and Kevin Jeans Gail, PWA’s founding executive director, “accosted me at lunch, as they do,” Jordan recalled with a smile. “We had a great lunch and they were talking and I said, ‘Wait a minute, this conversation seems a little slanted.’ Her friend Rhonnda was retiring “and Kevin said, ‘Well, you need to be on the board.’ ”
And that was that.
Jordan joined PWA in 2016 as a committee member, and in 2017 became a board member.
At PWA’s April board meeting, Jordan talked about her commitment to the group’s mission
Personal: Jordan moved to Oregon about 22 years ago from Buffalo, N.Y. She and her husband, Brogan, have two children, 7-year-old Calvin and 11-year-old Sophia, enrolled in Portland Public Schools. She majored in graphic design and fine arts in college.
Hobbies: Volunteering in the community, drawing and painting.
Professional: Jordan is director of marketing and business development at Emerick, where she has worked for 10-plus years. “While I was doing freelance design, one of my clients was Emerick Construction. From there, I started working fulltime for them. We’ve been around 75 years, so I’m hoping we continue for another75 years.”
Involvement with PWA: Jordan takes her cue from Edmiston and Jeans Gail.
“Their passion for PWA and what it stands for and how it gets the community and the kids involved is part of my passion as well, and part of what I do in my spare time, so it fit right in there.”
As part of her role with Emerick, she often speaks to high school students on career choices in construction. She also teams up with the still-active Edmiston on presentations at Portland State University for Minority, Women and Emerging Small Business (MWESB) firms in the construction industry.
On the PWA board, she now works with fellow board member Bob Calwhite to plan the ever-popular Construction Zone at the Expo.
How I want to strengthen the organization and help PWA grow: “It’s mainly just getting the word out to different corporations and talking to people and saying, Hey, PWA has this great Expo and if you’re interested in job shadowing, PWA also has a lot of people and students who can come out to your workplace and see what you do.”
Helping students: “Specifically in the construction realm, I’m trying to be an advocate to get kids to realize that maybe a college degree isn’t an end-all, be-all for everybody. I’m really advocating that piece in the construction industry because there are so many amazing things you can do. And right out of the gate, you can be making $60,000.
“I just want to open it up for as many kids to understand where you can go and what you can do, and just not leave any stone unturned as to your expectations. I always go back to a really great analogy from ‘Death of a Salesman.’ You feel like you should go in one direction, but really your passion is over here and you kind of regret and waste your life because you didn’t do that. So it’s about exposing as many kids to as many pieces as you possibly can.”