- Associated Press - Sunday, April 10, 2016

FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) - Priscilla Steed has been the College of Liberal Arts Department of Behavior Science administrative secretary at Fairmont State University for 27 years, since 1989.

She was born and raised in Fairmont and graduated from Fairmont Senior High School.

She got her degree in secretarial science from West Virginia Career College when it was in downtown Fairmont before it changed its name to West Virginia Junior College, Steed said.

“I liked secretarial work. It just seemed to fit,” Steed said.

After school, Steed and her husband Joe moved to Louisville, Kentucky. While in Louisville, Steed did not have a job as an administrative secretary, but actually worked in two different fields, she said.

She was a wife and mother to three children, Robert, LeVar and Nila, while she was in Louisville, and she also worked for a catering company and worked in preschool at Headstart, Steed said.

She moved back to Fairmont with her family after 15 years and did not have a job, Steed said. She saw a television advertisement for the Human Resource Development Foundation. It provided on-the-job training, and through that training she ended up at FSU in 1989 as an administrative secretary.

She decided to get involved in her community when she moved back to Fairmont in 1988, Steed said. She was concerned with the traffic where she lived on Spence Street in Fairmont.

Cars would speed up the street, and she was concerned for the seniors who lived in the neighborhood who were trying to cross the street, Steed said.

“I went to the city council and I asked them, ‘Can we not put bumper guards up - something to slow them down?’ They couldn’t give me bumper guards, but they did give me a sign, 25 mph. That’s how it started, because I had a concern,” Steed said.

Some years later, around 2007, the Rev. Ted Buckner and a group of people, including Steed, decided to restart the Marion County NAACP.

“There had always been an NAACP here in Fairmont. In fact, it was one of the largest ones and then it deteriorated and changed. It was a group of us that met to start it back up again,” Steed said.

The main reason the Marion County NAACP?was restarted was people were concerned about their community, Steed said.

“(The black community in Fairmont) seemed to be divided - with the city and with regards to the community - and so our goal was hopefully to connect that to bridge that gap,” Steed said. “We wanted fair jobs. We wanted better lives for our community. We had overall concerns about the direction of our community. And so a group of us got together thinking that we could start (the NAACP)?back up and help it grow and unify not only our community, but the city as a whole, for betterment for everyone.”

She served as vice president of the Marion County NAACP?while Buckner was president. Buckner left about four years ago and she became president, Steed explained.

She believes that being president is just a title if you don’t have the support of the board and the members.

She has been in leadership roles before the NAACP in choir and in her church, Steed said.

“So I’ve been exposed to leadership roles. But each role of leadership is a little different and requires a little bit more. I’m not hung up on titles. They felt that I could do a good job, and that’s what I try to do. They make the NAACP, not me as the president,” Steed said.

The membership of the Marion County NAACP?has been slowly growing since it restarted, and currently there are about 35 members, Steed said. The more members they have, the more they can do, so they are working on getting more members.

The Marion County NAACP?has also been focusing on getting people registered to vote. It’s important for people to vote and to really know who they are voting for, Steed said.

People who would like to join the Marion County NAACP?can do so by coming to the meetings, which are held at 6:30 p.m. the third Tuesday of every month at the Dunbar School Foundation Building at 101 High St. in Fairmont, according to Steed.

Another reason she decided to get involved in her community and in the NAACP is because she feels a need to help.

“We want our children to reach high,” Steed said. “We want them to be successful, but we don’t want to leave anyone behind. If we leave one person behind, then our community is not complete.

“I’m supposed to grab your hand. You’re supposed to reach over and grab someone else. That’s what got me really involved, because I have that need.”

Steed also got involved because of her family.

She and her husband Joe adopted their grandson Robert, who has autism, and they were told he would never talk, Steed said. She and her husband could have just accepted that, taught Robert sign language and not tried to change the situation, but they didn’t.

“You have to believe that first of all, when you look at yourself in the mirror that you can make a difference in someone’s life,” Steed said. “So when they said he couldn’t talk, I looked at them and smiled and said, ‘OK, I’ll do sign language, but he is going to talk.’ So we worked with him, and now he talks.

“We deal too much with what you can’t do instead of the things that you can do. You can make a difference. You can reach out to someone. I believe that. That’s why I do what I do. That’s why I’m involved, because I do want to make a difference.”

People who want to get involved in their community and make a change just need to have love, Steed said.

“You don’t have to be a brilliant scientist. You just have to have a love for your community,” Steed said. “You have to have a love to want things to change. You have to speak out. If there’s someone out there that has that genuine concern, go to the neighbors. Talk to your neighbors. They may be feeling the same way you do. Go to the city council. They give you a little time to speak.

“Voice your concerns. This is the way things are changed.”


Information from: Times West Virginian, https://www.timeswv.com

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