When she was 11 years old, Jocelyn Horner and a friend petitioned the city of Pittsburgh to take down the “No Ice Skating” sign at the pond in her neighborhood. They walked door to door gathering signatures, went with their parents to the Pittsburgh City-County Building, and delivered the petition to the Mayor’s Office.
It worked.
More than two decades later, people can still ice skate freely on that pond. Perhaps more importantly, Jocelyn learned an important lesson: Change starts small. Sometimes, the reasons you believe people will ignore you (such as being a child or being a girl) are the very ways you can differentiate yourself, stand up for what you believe in, and be heard.
Jocelyn has always believed that empowering youth is essential to building strong communities. It is this, along with the influential mentors in her own life, that led her to a career of mentoring.
jHShe’s served as a big sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters; a mentor and coach with First Row, a rowing and character-building organization; an in-school mentor to a high schooler through Duquesne University’s Career Literacy for African American Youth program; and an instructor at two girls’ summer camps. She also founded a mentoring program for women and girls called HerStory NOLA in New Orleans, an experience that gave her ample hands-on time in the mentoring space.
“I’m drawn to mentorship because I was fortunate enough to have people who championed me when I was younger. Even when others saw the worst in me, even when I made mistakes, my mentors encouraged me to push ahead and rise to the challenge,” Jocelyn said. “It’s important for everyone to have an advocate and an ally.”
With values and goals so aligned with Strong Women, Strong Girls, Jocelyn’s return to Pittsburgh after spending five years in New Orleans was perfectly timed. SWSG Pittsburgh was searching for an Executive Director at the same moment Jocelyn was planning her move home to the Northside, where she grew up.
Jocelyn brings a wealth of useful knowledge to her role at SWSG, both from her mentoring experiences and her education. As a young adult, she earned two bachelor’s degrees, a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies and Sociology and a Bachelor of Philosophy honors degree from the University of Pittsburgh. She also holds a Master’s degree in Geography and Environment from the London School of Economics, and received her doctorate in Social Work from Tulane University’s City, Culture and Community program last summer.
In her role, Jocelyn sees that the need and desire for SWSG programming in Pittsburgh is greater than the organization’s capacity. Her goal now is to build up SWSG to expand into more communities and serve more girls and women in the region.
“The challenge is how to give the best quality programming to the greatest number of participants,” she said.
Serving as SWSG Executive Director is comprised of myriad challenges, large and small. As she entered the role, Jocelyn felt a bit like the work ahead of her was Mount Everest, and she needed to climb it as quickly as possible. But she soon realized there is no peak to reach. The work will never end, because there will always be girls and women to serve – which is a great thing, especially because Jocelyn never gets tired of working with young people. She knows challenges are just part of the process.
“I’ve been through every mistake, every struggle, every positive experience a mentor can have,” said Jocelyn. “I’ve learned that even when mistakes make you feel like you’re lacking as a mentor, you’re still making a great impact in the lives of your mentees.”
As Jocelyn moves SWSG Pittsburgh toward a broader future and chases her own leadership goals, she hopes mentorship can impact the lives of more and more women and girls in the Pittsburgh area.
“Mentorship is a way that we can all give something and get something,” she said. “It doesn’t create big, systemic change in the short-term, but it plants seeds and can create a personal connection that makes all the difference.”