Barbara Blount Kairson

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Administrator, Education Fund, District Council 37, AFSCME, AFL-CIO • New York, N.Y.

In 1998, Barbara Blount Kairson became the first Black woman to fill the position of administrator of the District Council 37 Education Fund since its creation in 1971, handling the administration of education benefits for New York City’s largest municipal workers union. Kairson, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York, a master’s from the New School University and a Labor 2000 Certificate from Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, developed adult education and vocational education training programs in both the public and private sectors for more than 20 years. On several occasions she has lectured in Britain to adult literacy practitioners. In 1997, New York Gov. George Pataki appointed her to the Structure and Governance Design team of the state’s Workforce Development Task Force and in 1999 Sen. Thomas Daschle appointed her to be a labor representative to the national Skills Standards Board.

“My greatest cheerleader,” says Kairson of Francis Kairson Jr., her husband of more than 30 years. A departed friend also gave her much needed support. “My best friend, Evelyn Gaskin, saw abilities in me that I had not seen in myself,” she explains. Her parents also gave her a solid foundation from which to grow. “Since I am now a parent, I fully appreciate the sacrifices made by my parents and the extent of their love and support. They worked to enable me to become the first person in my family to obtain a college degree,” she says.

Inspired by Booker T. Washington’s words, “A sure way for one to lift himself up is by helping to lift someone else,” she dreams of earning a Ph.D. in educational leadership and using this knowledge to develop educational enrichment and career development programs for academically “average” and “underachieving” students in high school and in college. For now, she mentors teenagers and adult women pursuing an education.

—A.B.

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