Rev. Jia Starr Brown's experience in community education, engagement, and outreach encompass more than 20 years. Her passion to increase accessibility of affordable academic and enrichment opportunities for youth and families led her to create REACH Education Solutions, a community education business network, operating in eight different school districts. Through REACH, Pastor Jia designed and facilitated more than 160 programs for youth and parent education in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas. She has served on several committees and advisory councils, working to improve the quality of early childhood and education in Minnesota and taught child care professionals as Adjunct Faculty at Rasmussen College.
Trilingual, Pastor Jia is a renowned educator, advocating for underrepresented and marginalized communities. During the financial economic crisis, when families experienced hardship and indicated that “affordable was too expensive” for programming, Pastor Jia closed the chapter of REACH, and co-founded Reaching Up Ministries, a 501(c)3 non-profit with a mission to “create hope, help, and opportunities by bringing community members together to respond to the local needs of youth and families”. Jia received a United States Congressional Award for her service in the community, serving more than 500 youth and families in programming in 2016.
Receiving the Call to ordained ministry, Jia closed her chapter as Co-Founder and Executive Director of Reaching Up Ministries in 2016, and attended Seminary. She was the recipient of the “Fund for Leaders Mission Developers/Redevelopers” Scholarship and the “Richard Wallace” Scholarship in 2016 and 2017, completing her Masters of Divinity at Luther Seminary. She is currently a PhD student, with her heart at the intersection of religion and education – studying those within marginalized populations who resist systemic and cultural forces to participate in their own oppression, particularly within faith communities.
Pastor Jia’s achievements and recognitions include (but are not limited to) Early Childhood Educational Modules (Child Development) in 1995, Bachelor’s in Liberal Studies from National University in 2000, and an Eager-to-Learn Online Training Credential in 2002. She was a featured speaker at the MNAEYC Conference in 2004, at the Midwest AEYC Convention in 2005, and at the Super Conference in 2006 and 2007. Pastor Jia received the Dakota County United Educators Apple Appreciation Award (2014), a United States Congressional Award (2015), the MN African American Heritage Calendar Award (2019), and the Frederick Buechner Preaching Award (2019).
Pastor Jia is married to her incredible counterpart, Jennifer Starr Dodd (newlyweds!), and is the mother of five inspiring children, ranging in age from 12-23. Her life scripture is “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Peace to you,
Jia Starr Brown