When Jim Walker was hired at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa during the first year of a small federally funded project known as the Juvenile Personnel Training Program, it looked like one of those don't-bother-to-put-the-photos-on-the-wall jobs.
Now 26 years later, Walker is finally packing it in as director of the National Resource Center for Youth Services (NRCYS). He leaves behind one of the nation's largest and most prominent providers of in-service training to public and nonprofit youth-serving agencies, with an annual budget of $6.5 million. During his 26 years managing what became the National Resource Center Walker, his deputy, Peter Correia, and a staff of 75 have trained an estimated 23,000 people engaged in youth services, child protection work, foster care and independent living, and juvenile corrections. One of the NRCYS areas of specialization is working with programs that serve Native American youth. In 1985, the NRCYS won a Children's Bureau contract to become a national technical assistance provider for youth-serving agencies, firmly establishing itself as a national player. Despite some very lean years, Walker takes great satisfaction in that at NRCYS, "I never had to lay anyone off."
Walker recalls that as director of the rural Tillman County Youth Service Bureau in Fredrick, Okla., early in his career, funding desperation took him to a women's club who held a "shower" for the agency's emergency shelter, complete with the just- unwrapped gifts passed around the living room. How the field has changed since then is illustrated by Walker's next assignment as executive director of Youth Services of Tulsa. The 32-year-old agency, with a $2.5 million operating budget, is in the midst of building a $7.5 million shelter and program offices. The effort is funded by the Las Vegas, Nev.-based Donald W. Reynolds Foundation (assets: $1.2 billion). Among Walker's job responsibilities will be dealing with the professional interior decorator required by the fastidious foundation. What ever happened to Goodwill Industries and thrift shops?
While proud of his accomplishments, Walker sadly observes that "society has become afraid of their children." That, says Walker, "just changes all the rules." But there is "a good piece," he adds, in that "more and more agencies are finding the community and youth development [philosophy] useful and workable."
Replacing Walker will be associate director Correia. He's a former caseworker at the Massachusetts welfare department, a youth worker with the Judge Baker Children's Services and an associate director of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts. In 1986 he moved from Boston to Tulsa to become Walker's Deputy. Contact: (918) 660-3700, www.nrcys.ou.edu.