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National Juneteenth Museum CEO on Community Growth and the Influential Museum’s Future

A.J. Dronkers | October 9, 2023

Curiosity can be an employee’s best friend. It sparks empathy, conjures creativity, improves decision-making and reduces group conflict. An overwhelming 92% of employees agree curious people make them happier and bring new ideas to work, according to Harvard Business Review.

At Paycom, curiosity fuels our diversity, equity and inclusion strategy. That’s why we invite thought leaders like Jarred Howard, CEO and visionary of the National Juneteenth Museum™, to speak with our employees.

How does the National Juneteenth Museum educate and empower our communities?

Juneteenth is a federal holiday celebrating and honoring the liberation of enslaved people in America. Over the summer, Howard shared his thoughts on:

  • the first-of-its-kind museum
  • ways to invigorate the Fort Worth area with the project
  • the importance of working together to foster inclusion

He also highlighted Paycom’s ground-floor involvement with the influential project. Here’s how the National Juneteenth Museum protects the holiday’s legacy and champions Black culture all year long.

Fort Worth: The epicenter of influence

The national museum will open in Fort Worth’s historic Southside, once known as the “Black Wall Street of the South,” according to Howard.

The site is rife with Black history and figures, like Dr. Opal Lee, the “grandmother of Juneteenth.” Lee dedicated her life to preserving the history of Juneteenth. In 2016, the 89-year-old made national headlines when she walked more than 1,400 miles from Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington D.C. Her mission was to convince lawmakers to commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth as a federal holiday — which ultimately happened in 2021.

Howard paid homage to Lee’s vision, diligence and influence on the museum’s direction through her active role as a founding board member.

Fort Worth also produced other impactful leaders like banker, politician and businessman William Madison McDonald, the first Black millionaire in Texas.

“During Mr. Howard’s talk, I learned a lot about the purpose of the build, the people involved and that Paycom is sponsoring the project,” said Alonzo, a talent acquisition strategy partner at Paycom. “I also learned that there was a lot of thought put into this project that aligns with the struggles, sacrifices and successes of the Black community in Fort Worth. I love that the project will benefit the community it serves on all fronts.”

More than a museum

Every detail of the museum’s handcrafted design reinforces the purpose of preservation, education and inspiration.

The 50,000-square-foot center will sit on land previously occupied by the first Juneteenth Museum, which was tragically destroyed by a fire in January 2023. The new museum’s roof will pay homage to the classic houses in the neighborhood and feature 12 points to reflect the bursting star in the Juneteenth flag.

Beyond the educational opportunities available to community members, the project also includes a:

  • hub of affordable housing called “The Opal” (in honor of Opal Lee)
  • business incubator for resources, emerging businesses and coworking spaces
  • food hall featuring local chefs and culturally diverse cuisine

“The museum will be a physical example of how implementing a culturally engaging learning center can transform minds and transform communities,” said Howard.

Howard encouraged Paycom employees to dive into the history of Juneteenth and visit the museum when it’s expected to open on June 19, 2025.

A commitment to inclusion

Hosting speakers like Howard isn’t Paycom’s only connection to the national museum. In 2022, Paycom and its employees donated $50,000 to support the museum’s development and first exhibition.

“Paycom’s support spans employee and corporate donations and continued education from compelling visionaries like Mr. Howard,” said Tara Steffens, team leader of corporate philanthropy programs at Paycom. “Team members were deeply moved after hearing Mr. Howard’s vision for creating a museum that will serve as an epicenter for awareness and preservation of Juneteenth’s history. We look forward to the opening of the museum!”

Dr. Gleniece Robinson, board chair for the National Juneteenth Museum, explained how Paycom’s contribution kick-started the museum’s inaugural exhibit during a check presentation.

“My fellow board members and I are thankful to Paycom as a major benefactor of our Sneak Preview Tour on the curation of the first exhibition,” said Robinson.

The check presentation took place at the historic Evans Avenue Plaza in Fort Worth. It included five museum board members in the festivities.

Championing curiosity

Paycom continues to create opportunities for employees’ curiosity to flourish. Through programs like Better Conversations, the organization encourages team members to explore important topics such as:

And through Paycom’s employee resource groups (ERGs), many workers find authentic communities for learning and connecting. Recently, Paycom’s Black ERG organized a visit to Greenwood Rising History Center in Tulsa and the African American Museum of Dallas.

No matter an employee’s role, background or history, curiosity triggers growth. It spurs positive change within individuals and throughout their organizations and communities.

Visit the National Juneteenth Museum’s website for more details about the historic center. And if you want to join a team that thrives on curiosity and inclusion, apply to Paycom today!

About the author
Author picture, A.J. Dronkers
A.J. Dronkers
A.J. Dronkers heads Paycom’s culture; diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); and engagement program. In this role, he and his team maintain a DEI strategy and overall engagement for Paycom’s 6,000+ employees. This includes DEI governance, growing and maturing employee resource groups (ERGs), leading listening sessions and DEI training, strategizing process improvements to talent management, maintaining compliance, managing benefits and policies, and overseeing employee engagement. He previously worked on a DEI team that supported over 30,000 global employees and is most proud of launching an award-winning digital magazine and podcast. He has extensive experience in designing and delivering multiyear change management and strategic communications campaigns. Major influences in his personal journey are hearing stories from his father and grandparents who immigrated from Indonesia, as well as his own experience being queer. When he’s not at work, you’ll find him leafing through his collection of cookbooks, antiquing, perusing a nearby farmers market or eatery, and cycling.