First lecture in series to feature community organizer

Melanie Zuercher
Special to the Kansan
Je T’aime Taylor, a Bethel social work graduate and the new executive director of the Front Porch Alliance in Kansas City, Mo., will be the speaker for Bethel’s first-ever Ada Schmidt-Tieszen Social Work Lecture.

Bethel College’s Department of Social Work kicks off Social Work Month with the first lecture in a new series.

Je T’aime Taylor, a Bethel social work graduate and the new executive director of the Front Porch Alliance in Kansas City, Mo., will be the speaker for Bethel’s March 1 convocation, which also serves as the first-ever Ada Schmidt-Tieszen Social Work Lecture.

Schmidt-Tieszen, also a Bethel social work graduate, taught in the department for 35 years, until her retirement at the end of the last school year.

The lectureship was established by colleagues, family and former students to honor Schmidt-Tieszen on her retirement.

In addition to personal gifts, two other memorial funds, honoring Professor of Social Work Larry Friesen, who taught in the department for 28 years and died in August 2020, and pastor and artist John Gaeddert, who died in November 2020, have contributed to the lectureship.

A committee of Schmidt-Tieszen’s daughters, Tina Graber and Alison Schmidt-Tieszen (who are both Bethel social work graduates), current Bethel social work senior Amondre Street and Bethel social work professor Jennifer Chappell-Deckert chose Taylor as the first speaker.

The selected lecturer, a scholar or community practitioner, will speak in a Bethel convocation in March – Social Work Month – each year on a topic related to one or more core values of social work (service, social justice, dignity, integrity, competence, human relationships).

These speakers are invited to Bethel “to remind our community of the significance of social work and the ways in which social workers join with others to change the world,” according to the Schmidt-Tieszen Lectureship description.

“Je T’aime was chosen by the committee for her community organization work in Kansas City, which exhibits the social work core values,” said Chappell-Deckert.

In addition to their commitment to social work values, speakers also must be connected to the social work profession and choose a lecture topic that promotes social change.

Taylor has chosen to speak on “I AM: Showing Up in a Changing World.”

In her capacity as executive director of Front Porch Alliance, Taylor works to build relationships between clients, partners and funders on behalf of the most vulnerable population: children.   

Members of Village Presbyterian Church founded FPA in 1999 to provide programs in early childhood development and youth education in the Ivanhoe neighborhood, on Kansas City’s east side.

Taylor, a native of Kansas City, is a 2008 graduate of Bethel College. After graduation, she worked for Mennonite Central Committee-Central States, and came to FPA after serving as program director for Rosedale Development Associates in another Kansas City, Kan., neighborhood.

Taylor also serves on the boards of Habitat for Humanity Kansas City, Vibrant Health and KC Food Policy.