Board Member since: 2020
One of our newer Board members, Katie shares her admiration for north Idaho’s vibrant nonprofit community and highlights the importance of stepping back to reconnect in times of division. Read on to take a peek at her vision of a thriving north Idaho, one where our youth and adults are emotionally intelligent and supported by the community and our schools. We’re proud that Katie chooses to #LiveUnited.
[*The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.]
What makes you proud to be living in north Idaho?
This is an absolutely beautiful region. We arrived here probably for a different reason than most: we had job opportunities here.
I do think there are a lot of challenges to living in north Idaho. It feels as though there’s a greater division here than in any of the other five states and cities where I’ve lived. But I also think that’s part of why I’m so excited to be part of the United Way. At its core, United Way is about letting everybody live the best human experience possible, together. To me, that means giving individuals the opportunity to excel and to live a happy, fulfilled life, and making sure we look out for each other. With opportunity comes the responsibility to make our community – our neighbors, friends and strangers – better along the way.
We're living in a time where the world is so divided. The things we say and what we choose to connect ourselves to make it seem more divided than it needs to be. I think technology, as much as it unites us in a time like COVID where we can’t always be face-to-face, makes our differences seem far greater than they are. When there are big things on the line—when it comes to financial stability, jobs, and health; when we’re scared and we’re living fearful—it's hard to find common ground. But I think if we can take a step back, we see that at the root of who we are as humans, what we all want is so in line with each other. When we’re willing to understand that, we can respect each other's differences and Live United in a way that helps us all be our best selves.
How did you come to connect with our local United Way?
Since we moved here 5 years ago, I’ve been following United Way through the Luncheons and community events, but my colleague, Wanda Quinn, pulled me in. Wanda cares deeply about helping her community. When she saw how much I get invested in the wellbeing of others, she was quick to connect me with people and causes that are working to shape a positive future for our rapidly changing region.
I’ve lived in 5 states, and consistently see United Way as a steady and very impactful force in communities. While there have been different focus areas at each United Way I’ve encountered, and while I’ve never been directly involved in one before, I believe in advancing the common good, which is the heart of our mission here. I think there’s a real opportunity to help everybody reach their higher potential through the mission and focus areas of our United Way.
Who inspires you in our community? Who are the hand-raisers and game-changers in your life?
Mark Tucker, our director here at UWNI, and Jeanette Laster from the Human Rights Education Institute, both inspire me with the ways they lean in, lift others and unite people. I was first connected to Jeanette and Mark through the nonprofit courses we use to offer at the University of Idaho. That was the first time I was exposed to how big and impactful the nonprofit community is here. Everyone who showed up for those classes has a heart for the greater good. It’s encouraging to be in community with those who see the best in people, who see that the basics of life –whether it’s health, financial stability, education or a steady home– are not a given. They show up because they want to make sure that people, animals, our world and our environment, are cared for. So I would say my hand-raisers and game-changers are the people at our community’s nonprofits. Specifically, Mark and Jeanette stand out to me because through the noise of division that often can be harmful in our community, from all sides, they consistently bring it back to good. I’m really inspired by people who can do that, who can unite others from all sectors and beliefs.
Wanda Quinn is very high up there too. One of the things I love about Wanda is how she sees the best in people and pulls it out of them to help their talents serve the community. I’ve seen her do this time and time again with so many people, and I think that’s a talent our world really needs right now as we live more and more in our silos.
Success can mean different things to different people. Through your eyes, what would it look like when every youth in north Idaho “succeeds”?
I think first and foremost, every youth needs a steady support system at home. You can’t talk about youth success without talking about parent-guardian success and their stability. I think that is absolutely core. Still to this day, on the days when I struggle at work or get off-track, sitting down to dinner, for me, is a centerpiece. It helps realign everything that seems out of balance. The thought of every child sitting down and being able to enjoy dinner on a regular basis seems like a really simple, but incredibly profound measure of success if we could have something like that. We all need the basics of food, clean water, shelter that is comfortable and safe, and education. I see a dynamic and well-supported education system as the cornerstone of America. It's the great equalizer. No matter what your background is or if other elements are not set up and you don’t have the emotional support and love that you need, a lot of that can come through education. One mentor, one person who believes in you, who sees you and helps encourage you in your journey, that can be what sets you up for success.
As youth, we’re developmentally disinclined to empathize with the complexities of adult backstories. Tell us about a challenge you faced as a youth that influenced your adult life. What’s something you are proud of in your life now that a younger you would not have expected?
All of the pieces that I mentioned in setting up our youth for success were very much in place for me. I was very lucky, and I don’t take that for granted. The challenges I faced seem so small compared to what most people I know experienced as youth. Most of the challenges I’ve experienced have been later on in life, though I still consider myself incredibly fortunate all around.
That said, I wouldn’t say I was a very resilient kid. I didn’t know how to overcome failure. It seems relatively small, but when I wasn’t good at something, when I didn’t make a team, I didn’t know how to bounce back or put myself back in the arena to try again. I pivoted and I’d try other things, but I wouldn’t chase after that one thing that escaped me. I think I would be proud now—in fact, I am proud now—of the fact that I’ve really grown in that regard and am able to face failure and take it on. The things that I really want, the things I think my community and family really need, I’m willing to give everything I’ve got to make them succeed no matter how many times I get knocked down.
Which youth success projects and partnerships are you most proud of at UWNI? Where do you see a need in our community that has not yet been filled?
I'm proud of our Ready! For Kindergarten program. Making sure both parents and kiddos are prepared for that step is giant! A lot of people underestimate how those early years inform and create so much of what your life is about. When I look at our world, much of what I feel is missing and we all need to practice is emotional intelligence, and that starts from before we’re walking. If we’re emotionally prepared for learning and for working and playing alongside those who are different than us –and our families are prepared for that, too– then I think we can be much more successful collectively.
I’m also proud to be part of an organization that prioritizes our ALICE population and early childcare needs. Support for parents means we’re taking steps to support happier, healthier kids. As a new mom myself, I’m often overwhelmed with the complexities and challenges of parenthood, yet I have an incredible support system and fantastic resources. We need to set parents up for success if we’re going to give kids a fighting chance to be positive, contributing, active members of our community. I consider these projects and partnerships successful, but our community needs them to grow as the need for support is great and always growing.
What does it mean to you to Live United?
To Live United means to care for others no matter how different they are from you. It means to do what it takes to ensure others have the basic things they need to be happy, to be safe, to be fulfilled, to have a chance to have personal pride. Living United means quieting the noise and conducting ourselves as we did when the greatest connections we had were our next-door neighbors and the people right in front of us.