"Make it happen!" This was the attitude of Jacqueline Dodds toward everything in life. This powerful statement not only inspired individuals around her, but also motivated her. She remained devoted to her own dreams as well as the dreams of others. Throughout her 15 years at PCC, she touched and changed the lives of many. Dodds believed her calling was to develop strong future leaders. Her verve for life was young people and "her passion was to educate them," said Donna Mungen, close friend and colleague.
At a young age, Dodds was passionate about helping those in need. Counselor Ana Ogaz admired Dodds because she was a "person of principle. If she really believed in something she would always stand her ground." Dodds found strength in her devotion to God and was actively involved in her church.
"Her faith was deeply rooted in religion and kindness," said Mungen. Her work ethic was complemented by her faith, and she believed her calling was to be involved with those in need. Michael McClellan, her close friend, said, "She was committed to help, anything to help."
Dodds thirsted for knowledge and remained studious all her life. After graduating from Hamilton High, she received her bachelor's degree from USC and her master's from Loyola Marymount University. Dodds was the academic star, the first in her family to attend college. Her insight made her particularly sensitive to the many obstacles students face.
Former PCC Student (now Ujima Coordinator) Gena Lopez says of Dodds "She was the reason I wanted to be a counselor. She changed my life because I knew she cared about me enough to guide me in the right direction.
Former PCC student (now adjunct counselor) Chelena Fisher believes Dodds’ "stubbornness gave her the ability and strength to push forward regardless of the situation." Dodds was nearing her completion of a doctorate's degree in education at Pepperdine. One of her goals was to move up as a dean of administration and possibly a college president.
Throughout her years at PCC, she noticed a decline in the enrollment of African American youth. "She had a vision to get students to come to campus and transfer," McClellan said. Her growing concern prompted her to develop, write and promote an innovative program, focusing on African American studies and culture. Dodds wanted these students to have role models and to be enthused by school, said counselor Dr. Yang Chang. The Ujima Program, from the Swahilli word meaning responsibility or collective work, was born with the help of a grant in 1999. The challenging one-year transfer program consists of English, math, counseling, and a GE course. Dodds' mission was to find students with the potential to excel in college despite not performing well in high school. Dodds' refusal to give up on students was demonstrated by her dedication and determination to help change their lives."We had successful students because of her," Chang said. Dodds remained the coordinating director for three and a half years before becoming ill and passing the title to McClellan. Now after several years, the program continues to prosper, welcoming new students and new improvements.
During her battle with breast cancer, Dodds remained optimistic. She was a positive individual who always looked at the glass half full, remembers counselor Regenia Cooper. Unfortunately, she was forced to take a year off for treatment, but she continued to remain close to her students. "She was always smiling and beautiful until the end," Chang said. Looking back, "We thought she had it under control," McClellan said. Jackie Dodds passed away in the summer of 2004. She was honored during her memorial service by both past and current students, colleagues, friends and family.
The Association of Black Employees has established a scholarship fund in Dodds' honor.
Dodds touched everyone she knew with her open heart. Her humanity shined through all her hard work. She was a mother, a mentor and a role model for students. "She planted the seed," McClellan said, and the rest grew from collective effort. Her legacy lives on in the programs she developed, the love she spread and her endless generosity. Jackie Dodds, you will truly be missed.
Ujima continues in honor of Mama Dodds!
Counselor and Ujima
Pasadena City College