After years as an advocate, case manager and volunteer on behalf of many different communities, Sean Patterson is ready to help the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities embrace and improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
Patterson, a service coordinator at FCBDD for the past 14 years, got started as the new DEI coordinator in January. “It’s a step toward trying to make our agency better, and that’s exciting,” he said. “The beginning is really about having conversations.”
Building on the work of the FCBDD equity committee with new trainings, meetings and recruiting initiatives will be a significant part of Patterson’s job. “This is a real priority for our agency, and I’m pleased that Sean will be able to continue this important work,” said FCBDD Superintendent/CEO Jed Morison.
Patterson will engage with employees, families and the broader community on matters of race, disability, gender and sexual orientation, as well as religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and age.
“His door is open to hear concerns, answer questions and to listen,” said FCBDD legal counsel Gwynn Kinsel, Patterson’s supervisor. “I think he’ll do great. One of the things that stood out so much about Sean is his experiences with so many different groups.”
Patterson previously worked at other social services agencies, including the Buckeye Ranch and Franklin County Children Services. He also coaches his son’s soccer team at Liberty Christian Academy and heads a nonprofit called the 411 Foundation in honor of his late father. His dad stood just 4-foot-11, Patterson says, but had a huge impact giving back to his community.
A native of Steubenville in eastern Ohio, Patterson saw “the ugly side of racism” at a young age. “Our house was spray-painted with KKK symbols and a cross was lit and leaned against our house,” he said. “It was a great time to be living in a brick home.”
His family stayed put and stayed firm. “From that experience, my parents had the opportunity to teach my sister and me that this was ignorance. And that we couldn’t blame all white people.”
Although he has had tough times, especially after losing his father at age 12, Patterson is an optimist. He enjoys telling a story about being stuck in a long line during a Disney vacation several years ago, when young boy with Down syndrome grew antsy and seemed to want Patterson to pick him up.
“I asked Dad — a white guy from the South — if it’s okay. It was. I must have held him the last 20 minutes,” Patterson said, smiling. “It was so organic how it happened; I still think about that a lot. We were all comfortable with each other.”