Looking for a Connection: “Differences are cool…”
A native of Louisville, Katrina began her exploration of diverse people and cultures after graduating from Transylvania University in Lexington, where she played soccer for four years and earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and Spanish. Katrina spent a semester in Spain and traveled to Costa Rica during college. During graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she received her master’s degree in Latin American Studies with an emphasis on education, she traveled to Portugal to learn the language and did field research in Brazil. After college, she backpacked for a few months with a friend, visiting Ecuador, Perú, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. Katrina, who speaks fluent Spanish and conversational Portuguese, says that the YMCA position was right up her alley.
“They were looking for someone to create an afterschool program specifically serving refugee and immigrant children at the Newcomer Academy, and to me that’s not a job. It’s what I grew up wanting to do – practicing and learning new languages and cultures. I get to meet so many different people. The job also had a big sports component, and soccer is a world sport, and one I really knew.”
Katrina says her work is a nice mix of office time and hands-on time, not only with students and their families but also other partner organizations such as Kentucky Refugee Ministries, La Casita, and Catholic Charities. “I love that our mayor and many local organizations are so supportive of this diversity and are continually and successfully striving to make Louisville a welcoming city,” she says.
But another challenge is putting the puzzle pieces together across a framework of disparate community resources. “Collaboration, working together, getting people on board, can be frustrating at times,” Katrina says. “I think resources are out there, but you can get bogged down in the day-to-day. I need two ‘me’s’ – one to do day-to-day and one out there creating connections.”
The Newcomer Academy, in its seventh school year, is a source of pride for Katrina. “I still get messages or emails from kids in the program six years ago who want to share their successes,” she says. “I’m proud of the fact that I started and brought the program to where it is. But what pleases me most is just having those connections with the students, hearing those stories, and knowing that the program was impactful for them.”
“It doesn’t matter in what neighborhood you grow up, or if someone doesn’t look like you, or play like you, or like the same things as you. You can still get along. I want to start young and teach her that differences are cool.”
Top 5 things Katrina is passionate about
- Social justice – for women, children, people of color, immigrants and refugees
- Animal welfare – following the Kentucky Humane Society on social media is a dangerous game. Adopt all the dogs!
- Sports – I love watching and playing soccer. The World Cup was great this year. Allez les Bleus!
- Putting family and friends at the top of the list of my priorities.
- Making a happy home for my husband Josh, our two pups Maddy and Sunny, and our daughter due in December.