Tay Walker takes over the leadership of the YWCA Princeton during the pandemic (updated)

Tay Walker
Tay Walker

Tay Walker’s first two months as executive director at YWCA Princeton have been unusual, to say the least. When Walker began her new role on June 1, she was immediately thrown into a pandemonium of virtual meetings, program shutdowns, and layoffs.

Despite global pandemic-induced chaos, Walker has made the most of her initial time at the YWCA, she said. Daily video calls with senior staff have allowed her to get the lay of the land and to develop remote work and reopening plans.

“Zoom has become my best friend,” Walker said.

About a week after the pandemic hit the region, English language classes and breast cancer support groups were moved online. Group meetings were important to continue because they provide essential mental health support for breast cancer patients and survivors, she said. English as a second language courses are an integral part of racial and immigrant justice, she said, because English literacy empowers non-native speakers to advocate for themselves.

Anti-racism events have continued remotely. The YWCA will be hosting a Stand Against Racism Run/Walk fundraiser from July 27 to August 10, as well as a discussion of Angela Davis’ “Are Prisons Obsolete?” on July 29 at 7 p.m., facilitated by two recent Princeton University graduates.

The child care center had to be rethought to conform with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. The summer child care program, which opened on July 6, has been able to take up to forty children. Walker said she is also working on an early childhood center that is slated to open on Sept. 8. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held on Sept. 26. Registration for fall child care is now open.

Consistently offering affordable child care while keeping staff and clients safe is a top priority for Walker. Accessible child care is an important part of empowering women in the workplace, she said.

“We want to be able to hit the ground running in September, but also be prepared to stay open in the case of a second wave [of COVID-19],” Walker said. Many other child care centers across the nation will not have the resources necessary to remain open if faced with a second wave of COVID-19, she said.

Walker, a resident of Berlin in Camden County, brings 23 years of experience in public health leadership to her new role leading the YWCA. Most recently she was the director of education for Famcare, Inc., a nonprofit family planning agency based in Bridgeton. From 2016 to 2019, she worked for the New Jersey Department of Health, first as an STD program manager working to reduce negative health outcomes for high-risk and difficult-to-reach populations in low-income neighborhoods, then as the deputy registrar in the state’s office of vital statistics. From 2002 to 2019 she also ran her own public health consulting business. She was the executive director at Golden Cradle Adoption Services from 2014 to 2016 and previously was the president and CEO of the Family Planning Center of Lakewood. She has also held positions at Booz Allen Hamilton, Camden County Headstart, the Newark Community Health Center, the AIDS Coalition of Southern New Jersey, Hahnemann University Hospital, and Planned Parenthood.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in community health education from Temple University and a master’s degree in public health from St. Joseph’s University with a concentration in maternal and child health, and is currently working on earning a doctorate degree. She succeeds Judy Hutton, who retired after fourteen years as executive director.

Walker said she was drawn to the executive director position because the Princeton YWCA’s many programs and its mission statement — to empower women and eliminate racism — resonated deeply with her. She intends to strengthen community collaboration and build partnerships in her new role. Her plans also include expanding the Breast Cancer Resource Center, remaining a top affordable child care provider in the community, and providing culturally sensitive activities for children.