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Staff Spotlight: Emily Owen

Meet Emily Owen, Assistant Director of Programs for Centralia’s Residential and Group Homes at OHU!

What is your job title & how long have you been an employee at OHU?

I am the Assistant Director of Programs for Centralia Residential and Group Home. This year I will celebrate my 12 year anniversary at OHU.

What sparked your interest in this career field?

I graduated from SIUC in 2006 with a Bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice. I graduated college and moved back home for the summer while trying to find a “career.” I saw an ad for One Hope United, which I already had some exposure to while I was interning at Marion County Probation that semester. I applied and was offered the job. At the time, I thought I was just going to stick out the summer at the children’s home as a “job”.  I didn’t know at the time that I had found my life’s work and career.

Why are your programs so important?

Residential treatment is one of the most unique jobs on the planet. We take care of the most traumatized youth in the State of Illinois , 24 hours a day, for a minimum of a year. The population we serve have often bounced from one home to another, from one school to another and were often told that they were “too hard to manage” in a home setting. More importantly, we are working with teenagers ages 13-18 who are in their most impressionable years to determine the person that they want to be for the rest of their lives. In our program, they are offered a clean and homey environment where they are usually provided with more consistency and stability than they have ever known in their lives.

I often tell my staff that residential is one of the most unconventional jobs on the planet. You work with kids in their “home” and get paid to hang out with kids and go on activities on the good days. The bad days, well, they are emotionally and physically challenging. But I ALWAYS say, there are more good days than bad.

Can you share a success story or something you are most proud of doing in your role?

I really could talk on this topic for DAYS.  I have had kids reach out to me to share their experience while living at the children’s home. I have watched some of the most challenging youth make tremendous progress day by day. I have watched youth care workers who often come to OHU as their first job become great leaders and grow personally and professionally.

I often joke and say that I “grew up at the children’s home”, but that statement is so true. I have worked with children who have taught me values and life lessons that I will carry with me forever. I have defined the woman that I am today because of the work I have done with OHU and for that, I am humbled and thankful every day.

What are you most excited about as far as the future of your role?

I was recently promoted to Assistant Director of Programs and will likely be in this role for as long as OHU will have me. I have been presented with amazing opportunities since my mentors trusted me with this job, and I have been challenged to grow and pushed in ways that I could not have imagined. At this time in my career, I am now focusing on how to balance all of the great demands of the job and making sure that the kids and staff I serve are safe and supported.