SRJC CalWORKS Director Jamey Ransford says goodbye to SRJC

Jerome Janairo, Features Editor

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After working for the SRJC’s CalWORKS for 17 years, program director Jamey Ransford has announced that she is retiring.


“It’s just a personal decision,” Ransford said. “My husband is retired and I’m just ready to do some other things in my life. I feel like I’m ready for that new phase.”


Her decision to retire marks the end of a long career with student services at SRJC, and one she described as something she will miss.


Ransford’s experience with SRJC started when she studied here after graduating from high school in 1969. She went on to Sonoma State, where she graduated with a degree in Multicultural Education.


Ransford had worked with non-profit organizations for years before she was accepted for a position in SRJC as coordinator for GAIN, CalWORKS’s predecessor. It was years later during her career that CalWORKS was created under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, part of President Bill Clinton’s welfare initiatives.


“I like to work in ways that make a difference to individual people,” Ransford said.


As CalWORKS Director for SRJC, her responsibilities were not only to oversee the program, manage the budget and supervise the staff, but also to stay informed of federal, state and county policy on welfare reform. She said that it is a collaborative effort with the county, SRJC and community-based organizations that serve the welfare population of the county.


Ransford’s staff and colleagues described her as “an outstanding human being,” and said that her work, “definitely is a reflection of her caring for people.”


“She’s built a team here of people that enjoy working together, and she’s created a mood that’s very supportive of our students and very supportive of the staff,” said Ed Graham, who has worked with Ransford for 10 years.


But Ransford’s job at CalWORKS has not been without challenges.


“I think the biggest challenge is the constant threats to the program in terms of wanting to cut, at a state or federal level, the funding for these families,” Ransford said. “The Governor right now has threatened to wipe out the whole CalWORKS program at community colleges, and although I don’t think that would ever really happen, it still is hard everyday to face the biases that people have about families that are poor.”


CalWORKS has suffered from decreased funding due to severe budget cuts, but Ransford still feels that the program enjoys strong support from SRJC as part of student services.


“We serve a pretty large number,” Ransford said. “We had about 650 students last year so it’s not a small program, and I feel very supported by the college.”


For her, dealing with students and her staff are some of her favorite aspects of working as program director of CalWORKS.


“I really, really like the students,” Ransford said as she described the students that are involved with program, many of whom are single mothers. “They’re all wanting to make a change, improve themselves, and many of them are doing it because they love their children so much. I’m amazed by what they accomplish every single day.”


With the dismal state of the economy, the demographic of students that she serves has also changed. More single fathers and two-parent families who have been affected by unemployment are becoming part of the CalWORKS. To her, this emphasizes the importance of the program.


“CalWORKS is a program that supports families in transitioning off of welfare into work and obviously education is a key component of that,” Ransford said. She also stated that aside from the benefits to individual families, the program is also beneficial to taxpayers in the long run too, because it enables students to “move off aid and become self-supporting citizens of our community.”


Her fondest memories of work involve greeting and talking to the students, welcoming their children into the office and making them feel welcome.


Working with her staff is also part of her best memories.


“I have a fabulous staff,” Ransford said. “We have a lot of fun together. We work really hard but we also laugh a lot. Those are the things I’m going to miss and that I love the best.”


For her staff, the feelings are mutual.


“She’s the best supervisor that I’ve ever had in my whole career,” said Graham. “It’s been really great to work with her and we’re going to miss her.”


Ransford is looking forward to her retirement. She plans to travel, garden, learn to play the flute and maybe learn another language. Of course, she said that sitting on her porch isn’t bad either.


“I’m not leaving tired of being here. I’m just leaving because I’m ready to spend time doing those other things,” she said. “It’s nice to leave a job that you still love.”