Making WAVES For Black History Month: Faye Washington

Author: Pat Prescott

As President & CEO of the YWCA Greater Los Angeles, Faye Washington is a rainmaker in the world of non-profit. Her 32-year government record of management, personnel administration, legislative and budget policy development, strategic planning and implementing budgets of over $3 billion created the landscape for her groundbreaking tenure of leading the YWCA GLA in its mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.

In an economy where development is scarce, Washington has successfully orchestrated multi-million dollar facilities that will yield triple net bottom line results year after year for the Los Angeles community. Among these development projects is the state of the art, fully funded Union Pacific Empowerment Center in East Los Angeles. The center offers child development, senior programs, career transitional programs and California High School Exit Exam Preparation courses.

Washington masterminded the landmark Los Angeles Job Corps Urban Campus. The Urban Campus is a state of the art, seven story building with health facilities, library, dining accommodations, vocational training classrooms, campus-wide green spaces, dormitory rooms and offices for YWCA staff. The project, completed in April 2012, required $70 million in total project development. The groundbreaking Urban Campus serves as a home to 400 at risk youth and offers the blueprint to replicate this vision in other urban centers around the country.

Washington is in top demand as a guest lecturer, panelist and keynote speaker across the country. She is associated with several high profile community groups including the National Job Corps Association, United Way, The Links; Downtown Breakfast Club; the International Women Leadership Organization and the Affirmative Action Association for Women.

She sits on the Boards of: City of Los Angeles Work Force Development; Los Angeles City South Park Business Improvement District; Municipal Improvement Corporation of Los Angeles and City Club Board of Governors.

Washington’s contributions to the community have earned her numerous recognitions and awards, one of which was the honor bestowed by The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) for her significant contributions to the community and entrepreneurial excellence.

Faye Washington is a native Angeleno who grew up in church and still today she credits that upbringing as the foundation for her success. Her mother encouraged her to nurture her gifts and to use those gifts in service to others.  She was the 12th of 13 children so she says she learned to fight for her share and to stand up for herself.  She also learned teamwork.

Faye was an exceptional student who was on the honor roll in high school and was class valedictorian at graduation.  She was a jazz and blues singer while at school and a state debate champ who spoke at events across California. She took a memory course and she says that skill still serves her well today.  Her Dad was a Bishop in the Church of God and Christ. He taught her that if you have a dream you can make it happen.  Her Mom was a stay at home Mom whose resourcefulness and creativity had a profound impact on Faye.

After high school she attended Cal State LA.  She worked nights booking prisoners in the men’s central jail to pay for her tuition and went to school in the day time.  After graduation, she got married and started a family and following 32 years of service to the city and county, she retired at the age of 50. Faye says retirement is a state of mind, not a condition.  That explains why she continues to work harder than ever as President and CEO of the YWCA of Greater Los Angeles. It’s more of a mission than a job. She credits Mayor Tom Bradley and Mayor Richard Riordan as mentors.

Faye Washington was part of the group that helped start the Affirmative Action Association for women seeking to empower other women to be the best that they can be. For Faye, it’s all about empowerment, a recurring theme in her life. One of her proudest achievements is the construction of the Los Angeles Job Corps Urban Campus.

Faye is most proud of the fact that she inherited an organization that already had incredible roots and wonderful programs and she has been able to expand on that legacy. Their sexual assault program is on four college campuses and they are seeking to expand to more campuses in the district.  In partnership with Xerox, they have expanded their employment training to train in areas of graphic communication, digital print, 3D digital print and coding in two languages. She is excited about the establishment of a social enterprise, a print center that supports their other educational programs and more.

Faye’s secret weapon is her husband, who she met when a mutual friend set them up.  She loves his personality and his energy and today they remain a team.  He was an invaluable support to Faye during a recent serious health scare. She has recovered from that, revitalized and more determined than ever to make a difference.  Finally, Faye shared with us one of her favorite poems, “Mother To Son” by Langston Hughes. She reads it to her grandsons every chance she gets.

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