Kathleen’s personal experience has led her on a path to realize that sharing her voice and her experience is critical, and it can impact change when needed. She describes her leadership as “collaborative,” and works with families who have loved ones in need of developmental services; in 2016, Kathleen was appointed by Governor Baker as a citizen member of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council (MDDC). She’s also active in local government and serves on the Town of Dartmouth School Committee.
What do you do professionally?
Professionally, my work involves supporting families through service navigation, information sharing and family leadership development. I work for the greater New Bedford DDS Family Support Center, a project of the Nemasket Group Inc. The families I assist have a loved one who is eligible for services through the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), which means they have intellectual or other eligible disabilities. I also co-coordinate a Southeast Family Leadership Series, developed by Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change (MFOFC).
Within my work I assist families in navigating services for their loved one with a disability and I strive to connect them to meaningful information that aligns with their personal vision and cultural traditions. Some of the most common assistance and referral topics are in the areas of health care, guardianship, financial, educational, and vocational and community engagement. I also facilitate support groups, informational speakers, and networking opportunities for families and professional partners. As a family member myself, I know first-hand the emotional toll that a family experiences, in raising a child with developmental or medial needs, so I am ever mindful to walk beside them and offer the tools necessary throughout their journey, as needed. I recognize families are the expert when it comes to understanding their loved one the best, and that guides my work. Believe me; I know what it feels to be “stuck in the mud” and unable to get out of my own way at times. I strive to be of help, and not an added burden to a family in my work with them.
How are you involved in the community and what motivates you to engage?
I enjoy working with others, toward making a positive impact within the community. I’m a Town meeting member and member of our local Disability and Accessibility Commission. I also help out with our local Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) and I am a member of our School Committee. Statewide, I serve on a couple non-profit boards and in 2016, I was appointed by Governor Baker as a citizen member of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council (MDDC). My personal experience has led me on a path to realize that sharing my voice and my experience is critical, and it can impact change when needed. My favorite quote is by Margaret Meade, which reads, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” That quote guides my actions and motivates me to work with folks to make a positive impact on my community.
What did you find most valuable about the LSC experience and how did it contribute to your community leadership?
I really enjoyed the class and the emphasis on how it takes folks from all sectors, to truly effect systematic change. It was such a powerful experience as a whole, especially having the opportunity to delve into the critical issues that face our South Coast community, through the expertise of the panelists and the dialogue between the exert panelists and fellow classmates. I feel that the most valuable take-away, if I have to choose, was learning about effective board service, which is critical toward guiding non-profits toward doing their best work possible as well as learning the nuances of my own personal leadership style. Having identified my personal strengths, allows me to better serve a group or cause.
Describe your leadership in one word.