Rhonda Seltz: A professor working to make a difference
Born and raised in the New River Valley
, Rhonda Seltz
is not just an ordinary professor at Radford University
"As a child, I always had a desire to make significant changes at a higher level," Seltz
"I wanted life to be different."
grew up in a less than apathetic family.
own shortcomings, she
preferred to attend to the needs of others.
"I wanted to get out and do something," she
"I'm not happy unless I help other people."
At age 16, Seltz
wanted to go to college.
She worked her way into Virginia Tech, where she received her bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in sociology.
later returned to school for her
master's degree at California State University
During this time, she
worked with the chronically, mentally ill and the homeless at a communal clinical psychiatric facility.
Seltz received her degree in March of 1988.
packed up her
things and moved to Washington, a state then notorious for drugs, crime trafficking and racial wars.
saw the need for social change and started a monthly community organization with neighborhood meetings.
The organization expanded, and in 1994 won the "All American City" award by the National Civic League
This award saluted the strength of her
community in Yakima for its ability to remain whole and connected in the worst of situations.
In 1999, Seltz
moved back to Virginia.
She became the head director of Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS).
According to the Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey, close to "70 percent of uninsured children live in low-income families, compared to just over 60 percent of uninsured adults.
Nearly half of uninsured children live in families with income at or below 100 percent (or the state average)."
made it her
mission to give these people an equal opportunity for life insurance.
Dental care was also a significant impact," Seltz
"I think really being able to see changes in child care programs over the years is the biggest reward.
It is phenomenal.
You can see that the policy being created has a direct impact on kids in your backyard."
Aside from being the head director of FAMIS and a professor at RU, Seltz is currently involved in a path committee for access to health care, Head Start Advisory Committee in the New River Valley, Virginia Health Care Foundation, Work Force Development Partner Group and CHIP Advisory Committee.
participates in various community hearings at private voting citizen town hall meetings and church and community events.
latest plans are to bring services to the Amish community, as well as build improvement into the Roanoke area.
Even so, her
dedication can come at a cost.
"I don't have much of a personal life," Seltz
"I have to ask myself, 'What can I realistically do?' I really need a lot of flexibility and permission to say what I need to say, and I have to be politically correct," Seltz
"Just paperwork in general creates a lot of delays."
The biggest barrier that Seltz faces is depression, which she
has fought since she
was a child.
"Some days I just can barely make myself get up.
Once I'm up and going, it keeps me from being depressed," she
own personal battles, Seltz
continues to fight for social justice.
has plans to work in another country one day, maybe Italy or the Netherlands.
has also thought about a federal job, but feels as though she
may be too vocal.
Even so, Seltz feels satisfied with the direction of her
Interns continue to return to Radford University
to share how she
has impacted them.
"Just being able to teach and motivate students as well as the community is the coolest feeling," Seltz
"Tons of students come through.
I like to create 'little Rhondas' out there who get out and fight for social justice," Seltz
"The most frustrating part is that some people want to do as little as they can get by doing.
There are so many types of social injustices out there, but there aren't adequate resources to fight it.
Some people just don't understand the concept of empowerment."
is a strong believer that her
own affirmative action will inspire others to become leaders.
words, "No doesn't really mean no."
Tags: Children • CHIP • FAMIS • New RIver Valley • poverty • Rhonda Seltz • uninsured