Jenny Pool Radway has spent most of her career working to make communities more inclusive for immigrants and refugees.
As the new executive director of the Lower Columbia Hispanic Council, she hopes to expand off the work the organization is doing to integrate Latinos into the greater community.
“But I also think it’s a really great organization for what I call receiving community members,” she said. “So people who have lived here all their lives or who have lived here a lot longer ... to be more welcoming and understand better another community and culture, and figure out a way to incorporate it and make it a part of your own.”
Pool Radway replaces Jorge Gutierrez, who resigned in July. Maritza Romero, the council’s family engagement specialist, served as the interim director.
Pool Radway was born and raised in Costa Rica in a bilingual and bicultural household. Her mother was Costa Rican and her father was from the United States.
When she was 17 years old, she decided to move to the United States and live with her great aunt in Florida, where she finished high school.
She said one of the first things she learned upon moving to the United States was that “immigrant” was often a dirty word. She said there are often misconceptions and stereotypes of what it means to be an immigrant.
“For me, it was very important to take back that word, especially because oftentimes people don’t fit me into the mold of what an immigrant is,” Pool Radway said. “So, reminding people that immigrants are from all places and they contribute and they have a lot to give and they do it so willingly. And there are very good reasons why they’ve immigrated to the country.”
Pool Radway spent about 13 years living in Denver, Colorado, where she consulted with agencies on how to build what she calls “cultural competency.”
She said cultural competency is helping people build the skills to work with and accept anyone regardless of their background.
“And using that as a bridge to then allow for more equity within our organizations, within our communities, more representation, more voices at the table — all those pieces,” she said.
Many of her contracts were with agencies in Spain that were working with immigrants and refugees but didn’t have the skills they needed to work with them.
She and her family moved to Spain for about a year to be closer to the agencies. During that time, she started a master’s program in Latin American economics and politics at the Universidad de Salamanca.
Rocio Simmons, the co-president of the Lower Columbia Hispanic Council’s board, said Pool Radway stood out not only because of her experience, “but also because she is bilingual and bicultural and possesses the necessary skills to manage a nonprofit dedicated to help the Latinx community.”
Pool Radway said she looks forward to getting to know the community.
“In a way that is supportive,” she said. “And allows for everyone to be who they are without judgment and to work cooperatively and really move forward.”