She's impacting young lives every day, and she's about to be a bride.
First off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your family, education, background/previous stops, career, etc.?
I was born in Carrington, ND where both of my parents are from and then grew up in Grand Forks, ND. I attended UND for both my undergraduate and graduate degree in Social Work. I interned at the Northwestern Mental Health Center during my master’s program and have stayed ever since. My parents live in Grand Forks as well as my brother and his wife. I’m engaged to Carlos Rodriguez and live in downtown Grand Forks.
Everyone loves you and thinks you’re amazing. What is that all about?
Ha, I can think of a few that might beg to differ. I enjoy building relationships with people and always try to see people as doing the best they can in the moment. Hopefully that helps when I make human errors, like we all do. I feel really fortunate to have such strong relationships.
You’re getting married this spring. How are you doing?
May 10th is quickly approaching. I’m excited to celebrate. Planning a wedding was more work than I thought so I’m also ready to move forward without worrying about silly things like if my shades of gold match.
Tell me a little about Carlos? Is he Mr. Perfect, or merely Mr. Right?
Carlos is wonderful. He is so supportive of everything I do. I think social work and working in a school also becomes are part of who you are and he is onboard for delivering Christmas gifts, packing backpacks of school supplies and doing extra things like that. He is a great balance for me as he is very laid back and go with the flow where I tend to have a list and schedule for everything.
Did I read a recent Facebook post of yours correctly? Are you and Carlos taking marriage classes? Can you tell me the background on that and how it’s going?
Oh yes. It has been an adventure. I wanted to get married in the church and part of that is attending group marriage classes, five of them to be exact. There have been some great things like opening up discussions to talk about financial expectations, goals for the future and conflict resolution. There is also some awkward times that have included holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes while a song about marriage plays in the background. That isn’t really our style!
You have a job that from my perspective seems like one that from day to day can be incredibly rewarding or incredibly gut-wrenching. Is that a safe assessment? Please explain…
That seems to be fairly accurate. I consider it a real privilege when people allow me into the dark places of their life. I try to remember that I can be a calm in the storm and not allow myself to ride the waves of highs and lows. That said there are days I’m elated and want to cartwheel through Crookston at a student or family’s success while other days I want to cry privately.
I find myself on many occasions trying to explain to people that Crookston is not only home to people from many different cultures, but that the community is also home to people who aren’t just low-income, but they barely keep a roof over their head. Kids in those families are supposed to go to school each day and succeed, despite all the stress they face, both in school and outside of school. What kinds of things do you see each day? How tough is it on some of these kids?
There are so many factors affecting poverty and I think we are seeing that across our nation as the divide between making it (financially) and not making it grows. Families living at the shelter or with other family or friends is growing.
Poverty is so complex that it is hard to pinpoint the answer that launches someone out of the poverty. Transportation, a working phone, struggles with mental, physical and chemical help all contribute. The generosity of school staff and Crookston community members amazes me. We are able to offer backpack food, lunch fund assistance, school supplies and bus passes. There are families that have their water shut off or heat shut off for example and that keeps someone in a state of crisis and stress which makes it hard to think and plan for the future.
I withhold any judgement on families in those situations as I think of how I feel when I have an unexpected bill and am waiting for the next payday. I can feel anxious and I know I have the next paycheck coming and have family support if it were to not. I have mental, physical and chemical health that allows me to go to work and do a good job every day, a reliable car, a working phone and we are all one or two life experiences away from not having those things.
You live in Grand Forks but work in Crookston. Have you ever considered living here? What keeps you from living here? What would it take, if anything, to convince you to live in Crookston?
I lived in Crookston for a couple years during the beginning of my career and enjoyed that. I know that we will be looking to move into a home after our wedding and our search for homes will be broad and are open to living in lots of communities between Grand Forks and Crookston. Wherever we can find the best bang for our buck.
Let’s say you’re stranded on a deserted island. You have an endless supply of food and water and you have shelter, but you don’t know if you’re ever going to be rescued. Somehow, you have a TV and stereo that work. For all of your time there, you can only listen to three songs and watch three movies. What three songs and three movies would you have with you on the island?
I’d be listening to Rich Girl by Hall & Oates, Just Like Jesse James by Cher and Fancy by Reba so it is good it would be deserted because I might be the only one enjoying that mix. For movies I’d have to go with Dirty Dancing, Family Stone and Bridesmaids.
People tend to overuse the word “hero” these days, so I’m not asking you to list any of your personal heroes. But could you mention three people that you look up to or particularly admire, and explain why?
I really look up my former boss, Brenda Mack. She was so supportive and such a great coach as I was a young social worker sure I was messing everything up. She has an ability to make everyone she interacts with feel special and important. I want to be like that.
I admire the youth leaders I had growing up. I attended a church with a very large youth group and those leaders made it so fun that kids from all over wanted to come even that weren’t a part of the church. Although my current work doesn’t usually have a religious tone, I want to build youth programs like that. That kids have fun and feel so valued that they jump at the chance to participate.
I admire the silent heroes in Crookston. I have people who do extremely kind and generous things for kids and families all the time. They want and often demand no recognition. It is so humbling. I see first hand the need and impact, but that there are people that just hear about it second hand and want to make that kind of difference amazes me.
Please describe yourself in ten words or less…
I have been described as empathetic, hard working, filterless, and humorous.