What’s something about yourself that most people don’t know?
I come from a large family— I am one of eight children. I grew up on the south side of Chicago. My parents worked extremely hard for everything that we had and they taught us the value of a dollar. I learned how to budget money at an early age.
Where’s the most interesting place you’ve ever lived?
I lived in countries in both Africa and Asia for long periods of time. In both places I learned to truly value life and the people you surround yourself with. I learned to love living on less (i.e., materialistic items) and rely more on just spending time talking to people and telling stories, doing activities together. I lived in rural areas and we had so little, yet I felt so rich, and I was the happiest I had ever been in my life.
I have been on every continent except for Antarctica, which I am planning on visiting. I even went white water rafting in Zimbabwe!
What’s your favorite music?
I love R & B, Pop, and Rap from the 90’s! I also love musicals. I’ve seen The Lion King three times (in London, Chicago and New York), Aladdin twice (in Australia and Chicago), and Hamilton twice (both in Chicago, but the first time opening night)!
Why did you choose to work with teen-agers?
I have been working with teens since I was a teen. I became a director of a girls grant-making program called Sisters Empowering Sisters when I was 18. After getting my Masters in Management, I went back to school and took all of the premed prerequisites so I could attend medical school and be a deaf-friendly OB-GYN. But I fell in love with the youth I was working with at Mercy [Hospital or what?], and I just couldn’t leave them.
What are some of the things you’ve learned so far from the teens you’ve worked with?
You learn to have the patience of a saint! You learn to be incredibly forgiving and apologetic to your parents at the same time for everything your teenage self may have put them through. You learn so much about yourself as a person.
A lot to building relationships with teens is just being consistent and letting them know that you are there, showing up. Every day is a fresh start regardless of what happened yesterday.
I allow them to talk about everything as long as they’re being respectful. I am always honest with them. Always. Also I have learned to have a great poker face— teens say the wildest things sometimes and they need to know that there is no judgment here and they are welcomed. I know they know that I genuinely care about them and this makes a big difference in the aura/vibes of the Loft.
What’s your idea of a relaxing day?
When you work with teens, there is no such thing as a relaxing day!