A native from Michigan, I moved to New York City eight years ago to pursue my degree in social work, with a goal of working directly with children. Through my internship experiences I found myself working with the parents more than the children, as their histories of sexual assault and domestic violence were having significant impact on their parenting and other aspects of their life. Upon graduation, I continued to work with parents through foster care and adoption, and eventually began managing a citywide program that provided free therapeutic services to parents. Through these programs I learned about the sexual violence that my clients had experienced, how it had impacted their lives, and how many were unable to seek support and healing from these experiences due to inaccessibility of services. It was only once they enrolled into this program, that they were able to access the services they needed to heal, recover, and create the life they wanted for themselves and their families.
The men and women I met through this program changed my life. For many of them, they had been constantly told that they were bad parents; that their experiences didn’t mean anything, that they were less-than, or that there was no hope. With an understandable distrust of social service agencies, many were resistant to services upon their initial enrollment into the program; however, once they were able to relate to, and find support from others going through similar situations, they started to realize that they were not at fault for their experiences. They were told that their feelings were valid. They were listened to and understood by others, sometimes for the first time ever. It was extraordinary how dedicated they were in supporting one another and improving their lives. Being able to bring together these people, help them find common ground and support in one another, and challenge them to start a journey of healing, meant a great deal to me and reaffirmed why these services were so badly needed. For the duration of my time at the program, I put my energy into building relationships with local schools, hospitals, shelters, and community organizations to bring awareness to our program and enroll as many clients as I could. It was incredibly rewarding and brought great joy to be able to provide a service to the community that so many shared they had needed and wanted for years.
Sadly I had to leave this position, as family life took me from NYC here to Chicago. I moved to Chicago a little over one year ago, and truthfully, the move brought forth many challenges both professionally and personally. I wanted to continue bringing positive change to others, but didn’t know where to start. With financial obligations mounting, I took a management position within a retail brand focused on empowering women and girls. I spent time learning about business, learning more about Chicago, and building friendships in my new city. But as the months wore on, there was a feeling growing inside me of wanting to do more. On September 27th as I walked to work, I listened to the testimony of Dr. Christina Blasey Ford and began to sob. As I listened to her share the sexual assault that she experienced, the pain and anguish she was feeling resonated throughout my entire body. I sobbed because her pain was so real. I sobbed because she was forced to put her trauma on display, as her experiences were constantly being questioned. I sobbed because I knew thousands of other young women have experienced a very similar situation.
From that moment, I knew that I had to get back out there. Every day I was seeing the atrocities committed against women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, and immigrants, and I could no longer sit on the sidelines. I needed to get back into my social work practice and strive to once more make a difference in somebody’s life. When I came across Porchlight Counseling Services and the position of Program Coordinator, it was a no-brainer. The program and position tapped into my desire to work for a program that brings healing to sexual assault survivors, and to bring these services to as many people as I could. Joining the CLSW team and spearheading the Porchlight program has been a tremendous gift. I’m incredibly grateful for the CLSW team who I work with. They are supportive, encouraging, and are strong advocates for the clients they serve. Every day I wake up excited to come to CLSW and am happy to know that as I continue to learn grow, and navigate my professional career, I’ll have the CLSW team by my side. I’m eager to continue meeting new people, build new partnerships, and work tirelessly to meet students and tell them that they are seen, that they are heard, that they are believed, and that they deserve to live a life free from the restraints that this trauma can bring upon a person. I truly believe in the Porchlight program, and the positive impact that it can make in students’ lives across Chicago.