As National Federation of Press Women and Nebraska Press Women leaders have gone through strategic planning in the past year, one truth has been obvious.

The diversity of the professional communications careers chosen by our members is both a huge benefit and a challenge. We are a rare, if not unique, organization to cover such a broad scope in our membership and our professional communications contest.

That means we have a large pool of potential members from which to draw and an existing set of mentors for NFPW members who change careers along the way.

However, the challenge is to make everyone feel welcome, especially if someone’s niche and/or skill set is a little different from the rest of us. We need to focus on making sure everyone feels a sense of belonging because it is vital to recruiting and keeping members.

I had an emotional sense of belonging moment last Sunday in North Platte where my twin sister and brother-in-law, Jim and Lisa Parish, live and raised their four boys. It also is where Mom has lived in an assisted living community since we moved her closer to Lisa last July.

After eating Sunday dinner with Mom, I went to the First United Methodist Church in North Platte which hosts the Boy Scout Troop through which all four of my nephews, Philip, 27; twins Andrew and Zachary, 19; and Mitchell, 18, have earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Jim is the troop leader.

That’s quite an accomplishment for any young man, let alone four in one family.

 

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Some NFPW members have met some or all of those boys. Philip was 12 years old when he accompanied me to the 2000 NFPW Conference in Alaska. He’s a U.S. Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and now lives in Colorado where he works for a private security firm contracted by the Denver metro transportation system.

Andrew had his Eagle Scout ceremony in 2014. He has three semesters nearly completed at the local community college and plans to head to U.S. Marine Corps boot camp in February.

Mitchell is a high school senior who just interviewed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for an ROTC scholarship and is interested in a career in health care.

NFPW members on the 2011 conference pre-tour in Nebraska will remember that Andrew and Mitchell played fiddles and mandolins as entertainment for our Labor Day picnic lunch in the gazebo at the Lincoln County Museum where members learned about the North Platte Canteen during WWII.

Jim, Lisa and Zachary were our servers.

Zachary, who has Down Syndrome, officially became an Eagle Scout Sunday during his Court of Honor at the Methodist Church. His three Eagle Scout brothers were his escorts.

The only time all afternoon that Zach stopped smiling was when he delivered the speech he wrote with help from his dad. Jim asked him what he wanted to say and helped with the writing, but the thoughts are Zachary’s and he signed off on the final version.

 

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He has a message for all of us “normal” yet imperfect people about what it is like to feel different in many aspects of life. That may be more true for Zachary because he has a twin brother and a 16-months-younger brother who have had opportunities to do things – drive, go to college, go on high-adventure wilderness camping weeks – that are not possible for him.

Those same brothers, fellow Boy Scouts and leaders have been around to help him safely complete merit badge requirements and his Eagle Scout project to build table-high, wheelchair accessible flower boxes for veterans homes in Scottsbluff and Norfolk.

So, here is some wisdom from Zachary Dean Parish, Eagle Scout, on the value of providing everyone with a sense of belonging. Please substitute any organization, workplace or activity for the word Scouts.

“At Scouts, I am like everyone else. We are all different from each other, but in Scouts we are all the same. In Scouts, we all do the same thing to earn our ranks and merit badges. We all wear the same uniform.

“I am just like everyone else. When we are outdoors we all sleep in tents. We swim, canoe, hike, cook over a fire and learn about leadership.

“In Scouts, you don’t have to be perfect, just do your best.”

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