Early in the spring of 1997 in La Guaira Venezuela as librarian for Semester at Sea, I saw a family of unhoused people for the first time. Their clothes were tidy and their belongings were arranged neatly under the bridge as they prepared a meal. Two things happened to me—I never forgot the weariness in the adult’s faces and my passion for social justice began. Upon returning from the voyage I focused the remainder of my master’s degree coursework towards a specialization in non-profit agency management and graduated in 2000 with a Master’s degree in Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh. I immediately came to Harrisburg Pennsylvania from Pittsburgh to begin a career as a proud civil servant within the Commonwealth of PA.
Work that improves individual’s lives and their communities has resonated consistently with me from the beginning of my career until now. The department most engaged in facilitating better lives across a wide spectrum of individuals was the Department of Human Services. I initially managed the Human Service Development Fund there which provided resources to “knit-together” County-based social services across Pennsylvania. Communication skills taught first by my mother and later honed while a project officer for the Pennsylvania Developmental Disability Council and training lead at the Office of Developmental Programs, helped me learn to value diverse people and their stories. My work with people with disabilities taught me that no one can tell your story like you can; nor should they. When I became a manager for the Adult Community Autism Program, a holistic program of supports and services for individuals living with Autism spectrum disorders, I learned to listen and value stories expressed sometimes in ways I would not choose. But it is not easy for an individual, a service provider or a governmental entity to be held accountable. To me, only when one starts with accountability can systems be changed to create good.
I have grown to love the life I have built in Harrisburg. Important to me here are my leadership of the Anti-racism Committee at my church Market Square Presbyterian, my work to dismantle structural racism in Harrisburg with a group of like-minded advocates and clergy, and my role as a volunteer Commissioner for the Harrisburg Human Relations Commission. When I am not otherwise engaged, I delight in time with friends and family eating great food, hiking the Appalachian Trail or baking.