What it’s Like to Find ‘Home Sweet Hopebridge’ with Autism Therapy Provider
May 10, 2023
May 10, 2023
For those of us in caring professions, our work is more than a job. The work and the people become part of us. And when we are lucky enough to find a role, organization and culture that lends itself to our values, strengths and development, that work can feel like home.
Within our organization and a field that is still considered “new” to many, we feel equally lucky – and grateful – to have so many brilliant, compassionate and inspiring people call this “Home Sweet Hopebridge.”
We had the opportunity to connect with a few of these dedicated team members about how their beginnings at Hopebridge blossomed into leadership opportunities.
After working several years as a full-time mom and part time in schools helping families gain access to additional educational resources and support, Shannon White decided to go back to school herself. She previously studied psychology and had experience working in group homes, Veteran’s Affairs and a women’s shelter, and the role of a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) was appealing to her.
“Since I was a child, I always felt a lot of joy when spending time with individuals with special needs,” said Shannon. “My heart gravitated towards people who needed someone to help have their voices heard.”
While in graduate school, she got her clinical hours with a provider in Muncie, IN, but did not want to continue to commute due to her two sons at home. She heard about Hopebridge and called the Marion clinic.
“I’m a loyal person, so I had a hard time leaving where I was. When I met the director, Kim Strunk, I purposely wore jeans to make it clear it was to learn more and not an interview,” said Shannon. “Though I wasn’t expecting it, what we talked about that day helped me take the leap to Hopebridge.”
Needless to say, it worked out! This is Shannon’s 12th year with Hopebridge, now a clinical director who has helped it grow from two small clinics in Marion and Kokomo to more than 100 centers across 12 states. Since then, she directly supported the openings of centers across Indiana by conducting evaluations and interviewing and training new BCBAs. She worked with Dr. Michael Cameron on research projects and helped launch grand rounds. Shannon was part of a team responsible for organizing and introducing Hopebridge’s original Fellowship Program.
“I began as a baby BCBA without a lot of experience. Hopebridge has always been supportive when it comes to learning new skills and building new experiences,” said Shannon. “Hopebridge is all about feedback, encouragement and progress, and through it, I have grown tremendously.”
Shannon’s passion and commitment to her people and her craft is evident in the way she talks about this work and why she chooses to do it.
“This is a very intimate job. We get to know families, their burdens and the things that keep them up at night. I do this for them,” said Shannon. “I live for that special moment with the families. When a child I work with eats an apple today after never eating anything but chips and milk, you know it’s going to be a party in the parking lot tonight when grandpa comes to pick him up! That’s real joy.”
While it’s no surprise Shannon is in this work for the children and families, she never expected to become so close with the people working alongside her.
“I didn’t realize how valuable the relationships with the people I work with would be. I love that I have been able to encourage people who thought they couldn’t do it, and when someone learns something here they can take into their own home or future work,” said Shannon. “The whole team loves these kids and rejoices in all the little victories, but we can also cry together in the tough times. It feels like home to me.”
Though Bri Sebastian says her introduction to applied behavior analysis (ABA) was somewhat of an accident, there is no mistaking that her commitment it is not. Working as a special education teacher, she first came across ABA while looking for OTs to work with her students. It piqued her interest, and she decided to become a BCBA, getting experience in a variety of environments in Chicago, from schools and daycares to homes and clinics.
“When I came back to Ohio, I was looking for a clinic-based environment because I love being able to collaborate with other clinicians,” said Bri. “I’m the first person to tell you I don’t have all the answers, even with all these credentials and time under my belt. That’s what brought me to Hopebridge—the clinic setting and community it offered.”
Bri started as the first BCBA in the Milford therapy center in 2018. She and her team of Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT) got things up and running, built relationships and had fun at the same time. While working at Hopebridge, Bri was promoted to a regional BCBA position in Kentucky. She loved it because it gave her the opportunity to expand her skillset and impact.
“Through my regional role at Hopebridge, I was able to broaden my knowledge operationally and clinically, thanks to my connections with so many different people and perspectives,” said Bri. “At some points, I believe the people I supervised probably taught me more than I taught them. That’s when I started to become more well-rounded.”
From there, Bri moved on to a clinical trainer role, which gave her the opportunity to blend her teaching and clinical backgrounds. She told us this role helped her find and develop her niche in clinical mentorship.
Eventually, Bri took a short break from Hopebridge to pursue other opportunities, as her role incorporated traveling – and though she enjoyed the travel – she was instead looking to be closer to home with her young son. She initially thought moving back to a clinic near her house would be a good fit.
“There were a lot of things that brought me back, but in the end, it was the community. I have so many friends and people I can turn to, not just from the leadership team, but all across the company. More than anything, it’s the fact that I can call our founder, Kim, on her personal cell and say, ‘Can I talk to you?’” said Bri. “It’s community from top to bottom. That’s something I had a tough time losing when I left.”
Now, as a regional BCBA back at Hopebridge, job fulfillment comes from a variety of directions.
“Of course, the kids get me moving in the morning. It’s so cool when I come back to a center six months later and they are playing with friends and talking in full sentences,” said Bri. “But the regional meetings are where I really start to feel fulfilled. I appreciate getting to spend time learning with the people I care about; these people who care about the same things and follow the same mission.”
From the start, Heather was driven by a personal mission to empower others with the tools and resources they need to reach their full potential. Her enthusiasm for the mission was first ignited in 2005 while working in the public school system, followed by a role within a nonprofit organization that provides intervention services to children from kindergarten through high school.
Like so many of Hopebridge’s leaders, Heather Dilworth then began her journey with our organization as an RBT. In 2019, she joined Hopebridge’s center in Maumee, OH, where her dedication to helping others and servant leadership skills took her down a new path in operations.
“Heather is a prime example of following your heart and going where the need is the greatest. It has been inspiring to watch her career path flourish and she sets such a good example for other Hopebridge employees who aspire to become leaders,” said Hopebridge CEO David McIntosh.
As assistant center manager, center manager, regional manager, director of operations south and most recently, her promotion to vice president of operations, Heather has continued to change lives and empower even more Hopebridge clinicians to reach their highest potential. She took her skills to new states – finding “Home Sweet Hopebridge” in many places – having opened four centers in Arizona and overseeing the Kentucky region, before leading success throughout the entire southern region for Hopebridge.
“My passion and leadership style is built on a strong foundation of building teams and leaders full of trust and collaboration,” said Heather. “Through Hopebridge, I’ve found the most fulfillment – and a sense of home – in working together for our children and families to develop areas that have the greatest need.”
These three individuals motivate us in their own unique ways and can’t wait to watch the new ways they will put their ideas and leadership skills to work for the good of their people and our patients. If their stories inspired you to make an impact, please check out our open positions to develop your skills and create your own career path at Hopebridge.
*Informed consent was obtained from the participants in this article. This information should not be captured and reused without express permission from Hopebridge, LLC.
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