Jarrod Schwartz founding Executive Director of Just Communities Central Coast (Jan. 15, 2016)
Paul Wellman

Jarrod Schwartz is a mensch. I’ve known him for 13 years, and he’s always working long hours, ever devoted to social justice and community building. Even more endearing is seeing him around town on the weekends enjoying quality time with his young twin daughters.

Jarrod is the founding executive director of Just Communities Central Coast, a nonprofit that offers cultural competency training to organizational leaders, educational seminars for the general public, leadership training institutes for students and teachers, and customized consultation to agencies for diversity and organizational change initiatives.

Here, Jarrod answers the Proust Questionnaire.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I try to do what is right and try to live out what I believe in. My grandfather always said that the best thing a person can be is a “mensch,” a “good person.” This is what I strive to be.

Who do you most admire?

The people who come through our programs at Just Communities and then work to create change in their lives, their schools, and their communities. Their willingness to engage in difficult discussions, to work for positive social change, and to keep trying in the face of resistance. They inspire me and help me live with a constant feeling of hope and a genuine belief that, despite the real and significant challenges we face as a society and the headlines we read every day, change is not only possible, but undeniable.

What do you like most about your job?

I love the fact that I work with brilliant and creative people who are passionate about making our community and our world a better, more just place. I love the fact that our work is having a real and measurable positive impact in our community and beyond. I love the fact that after 24 years in the same field, I’m still learning and growing and having the opportunity to be creative.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Right now, seeing my daughters smile and hearing them laugh. And someday, going on an annual vacation with my then adult daughters, watching them interact with their own partners and kids and just savoring the journey that led us to this place.

What is your greatest fear?

That I won’t live long enough to see my daughters’ grow to be adults and see the amazing people I know they are growing into.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Going out for a 30-40 minute lunch break every work day, sometimes on my own, sometimes with others. Just the fact that I don’t have to plan out the night before what I’m going to eat the next day and won’t have to wash Tupperware each night is incredibly liberating and feels like a daily victory against the forces of practicality and planning ahead.

What is your current state of mind?

Racing, always racing.

What is the quality you most like in people?

Kindness and honesty.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

Hypocrisy and lack of integrity

What do you most value in friends?

Being there to laugh when times are good; being there for support when times are difficult.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Cool.” “Nice.” “Why is that?”

Which talent would you most like to have?

Music. I’d love to be able to pick up any instrument and just play. I’m a decent campfire guitarist, but to be able to really play in a way that transports people to another place — that would be incredible.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d love to have the kind of discipline necessary to focus in on something long enough to master it. Playing an instrument, learning a new language, writing a book. I get distracted and bored very quickly and it’s hard to not just move on to something else.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

First, contributing to the development of two caring, creative, happy, kind, and brilliant little girls. Second, contributing to the development of Just Communities as an organization that is doing vital work in ways that help people and organizations achieve their full potential.

Where would you most like to live?

Santa Barbara is a wonderful place. I wish it was closer to family so that my daughters could be near grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. So, if we could just pick Santa Barbara up and move it to the East Coast while preserving the weather, that would be pretty ideal. Oh, and a house on the beach would also be great if we’re doing all this moving around anyway.

What is your most treasured possession?

Memories of time spent with family and friends and of times travelling outside the U.S.

Who makes you laugh the most?

My daughters. Their laughter, their silliness, their way of thinking about the world and they way they articulate those thoughts is just hysterical. Woody Allen and Road Runner cartoons are up there too.

What is your motto?

Embrace complexity.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Mark Twain. He held up a mirror to society and did it with humor and humility. I try to do the same.

On what occasion do you lie?

Telling my daughters that the iPad is broken when they won’t take no for an answer when I tell them no more screen time. “Hmmm, I don’t know. It just stopped working. I’m not sure what’s wrong with it.” Or telling them that I’ll ask the person at the store to put the toy or piece of clothing they want to buy “on hold” knowing that they’ll forget about it later that day and we’ll never have to come back and buy it. It saves me from having to say “no” too often. Of course someday, we may have to travel all over the world to pick up all the items that are supposedly on hold for them.


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