A Social Worker Talks Creating Legacies and Running For Office
Pia Raymond is creating legacies through encouraging public discourse and new leadership delivering results for her community.
Entrepreneurship and public service were always in her blood. Her mother and uncle owned and operated an awards and sporting goods store that they opened in 1963 during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. African-Americans were being accepted in major league sports and the store located a few minutes away from the Brooklyn Dodgers Stadium where Jackie Robinson played; was a means of economic empowerment in the community. Pia’s family wanted to encourage and supply athletes with uniforms and supplies, while celebrating their accomplishments. And, she had a front row seat to that. Pia learned to count and tell time at a very young age, so she could with the business. She recalls how she used to stand on milk crates to reach the counters edge to assist customers. Now, Pia is six feet tall with a passion for entrepreneurship and economic development that continues to reach new heights. Pia eventually owned the business after the passing of her mother and uncle, catapulting her into a lifetime of entrepreneurship and public service.
Name: Pia J. Raymond
Location: Brooklyn, New York
What is your current gig?
I am a licensed social worker, entrepreneur, artist and author; but my current gig is Candidate for NYC Council 40th District (Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Ditmas Park, Kensington; Parts of Flatbush, East Flatbush & Crown Heights).
What is your educational background?
I have a Bachelor of Arts in psychology cum laude from Boston University, a Masters of Social Work cum laude from New York University, and a graduate of Neighborhood Leadership Institute from the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
What was your first job post college and how did you land it?
My first job after I finished graduate school was at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services (JBFCS) as a licensed social worker. I sent my resume several times through the job search websites and to HR to no avail. I later saw a flyer in the NYU School of Social Work that one of the program directors from JBFCS was giving a talk, “Engaging Men of Color in Social Work Practice.” I attended the lecture with my resume and cover letter in my bag. At the end of the talk, I approached the speaker and asked if he had any openings at his site. He said he did but you had to be a graduate. I responded, “I graduate in May.” Then he told me that he needed a Spanish speaker. I told him, “I am fluent in Spanish.” He further explained that the job was all the way in Coney Island, Brooklyn. I said, “I live in Brooklyn and went to junior high school in Coney Island.” Then he told me that he would need a resume and cover letter. I went in by bag and handed him both. He laughed and said, “You are a determined young lady, come in for an interview.” I got the job. I had a full social work case load of Spanish speaking families from Mexico. I published in both a book and academic journal about my work with Mexican Immigrants and participated in a specialized trauma training all during my time at JBFCS. That program director has since retired but remains one of my mentors today.
How did you get started? Tell us about the journey?
After my husband and I had our first child, we decided that I would stay home and care for and teach him. After connecting with other families, it became apparent that a social community and interaction was needed that would not only cultivate the young minds of our children, but stimulate, encourage, and empower the parents and adults. One of my friends said to me, “You have always hosted the after-work networking events. We still need you to do that, but we just have to bring the kids.” That is when Creating Legacies was born. It is an organization dedicated to, “Bringing families FUN, while bringing families TOGETHER, all with an urban chic vibe.” We host exciting, fun and educational intergenerational events and workshops.
My growing relationships with community families and my experience with residents and merchants has given me a birds-eye view of the needs of the community. My combined experience has inspired me to run for public office. I am committed to facilitating an open dialogue and working collaboratively with residents and businesses to create solutions and address the needs of our district.
One challenge you face/faced as a woman entering politics?
The biggest challenge that I faced as a woman entering politics is simply taking the step to run for office. I have been involved in local politics since my youth. I have said that I wanted to run for office over the years, but seizing the moment and making the decision to step into the role was the most challenging and most empowering.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by the growth represented by people in our community. I am inspired by the myriad of stories that we share that make us unique but also connect us and our experiences.
What is a typical workday like for you, and how do you balance your career with being a wife and mom of two?
I wake up and I spend the first part of my morning in prayer. It gives me an opportunity to appreciate waking up and reflect on my life and those around me and the state of our world. My husband and son head out together in the morning which leaves me some early morning moments to read and play with our daughter before everything else begins. Then the day takes off with a constant series of connecting - phone calls, emails, meetings, events and everything in between. I spend time in the neighborhood everyday just feeling the pulse of the residents, business owners, and service providers in the community. After dinner with the family and bedtime, I do some work and then get some rest before the morning. I balance career with being a wife and mom of two by making sure that I dedicate quality time to my family. No matter what happens in my career, my family is present throughout. I have to make sure that they know how much I love and appreciate them.
Your biggest lesson learned?
Some experiences in life that may seem disappointing are necessary because they are a part of the journey for where you are yet to go.
Your best networking tip?
Always have a firm handshake, make eye contact and smile.
What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
I would advise my 23 year old self to utilize any and every opportunity you get to travel both internationally and domestically. I would also advise my 23 year old self to buy real estate.
What advice do you have for women who are not sure how to marry their talents and passion to start a business?
I would advise women who are not sure how to marry their talents and passion to start a business to first spend some time in prayer, meditation, careful thought, or a peaceful place to get themselves in a state of mind to get in touch with what makes them unique. Then write a list of all the things that they love to do and are willing to do without being paid. Pair the unique qualities with the action item and therein lies the seed for the business endeavor.
Tell us what projects you're currently working on?
I am working on continuing to connect the community to NYC resources and be an interface to city government.
***Fun facts about Pia
Your favorite quote? “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” -Psalm 139:14
Your theme song? “Let’s Go”, Calvin Harris feat. Ne-Yo
Favorite tech must have? Google Home
Power style accessory or staple?: Earrings
Beauty must have: Fragrance
Who is your style icon? Carrie – Sara Jessica Parker’s character on “Sex in the City”