1. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a nurse. During my first semester in college, I volunteered at a health fair at a homeless outreach luncheon where my job was taking blood pressure. Midway through, my Iine of people was the longest which caught the supervisor’s attention and she asked why it was taking me so long. While taking their blood pressure, I found myself trying to help connect people to services that could assist with meeting their needs. It was on that day that she suggested I pursue social work – and I never looked back.
2. What movie can you practically quote from start to finish?
As a huge sports fan, the movie “Rudy” has always been a favorite – the real-life story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, who dreams of playing football at Notre Dame. “Rudy” convinces people that if you are willing to work hard for your dreams, you can accomplish anything. The story inspires you to continue pursuing your dreams even when you’re confronted with obstacles. We could all use a little “Rudy” in our lives.
3. What is your favorite family recipe?
My dad’s chicken noodle soup is hands down the best ever! I have so many memories of him making it when I was a child. Over the years, when we are not feeling well or if he knows we’re having an extra busy week he has made it for all of us – my sister, brother, aunts and uncles, our friends … it’s a whole thing! I consider myself a pretty great cook, but I have never been able to exactly replicate it.
4. What life achievement are you most proud of?
By far, raising my son has been my greatest achievement. He lost his father at a very young age, resulting in me being a young, single parent. With no script or parenting manual, there were so many times when I worried and hoped I was giving him the support and guidance he needed. And, as so many parents do, I often worried if I was making the right choices as a parent. I am so proud of the young man he has become and cherish our special relationship more than anything on Earth.
5. What are you most excited about in your life right now?
I’m taking some time to focus on myself. I’ve been in social work for nearly 20 years and it wasn’t until recently that I bought into the importance of self-care. Sometimes, we work so hard to care for others, we put off doing things for ourselves. With my son now pursuing his dreams and serving in the U.S. Army, I know that now is the time for me to focus not only on my self-care, but also to try some new things and perhaps start some new hobbies. I’m excited about what this chapter in my life will bring!
6. What is one work-related thing you want to accomplish in the next year?
I want to expand our Independent Living Program. Being a young adult is hard enough when you have the support of a family and social network; but being a young adult aging out of foster care can be absolutely overwhelming. The statistics give a grim outlook for most of these kids, and I am hopeful we can provide the missing support system that truly helps them get the foundation they need to successfully transition to adulthood. I am so excited to see the outcomes I know these young adults can achieve if only given the tools and support needed.
7. What makes you feel at peace?
For me, it’s a sound. At the end of a busy day that may include anything from budget meetings, event planning, contract negotiations, addressing employee concerns and any other number of required tasks – to step out of my office and hear the sound of my Whaley kids laughing outside at the Center brings me such joy and peace. In that moment, I know we are accomplishing our primary goal and that our kids are truly getting to just be kids again.