Katie McLeese Stephenson – CEDARS Youth Services

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A volunteer mentor to a youth while in high school and inspired by her Social Worker sister-in-law, Katie McLeese Stephenson began a 30 plus year career in the child welfare and juvenile justice fields, which has led her to her current position as Chief Operating Officer at CEDARS.  CEDARS, a 64-year-old non-profit organization employs over 200 talented staff members based in the Lincoln community and serves over 3,000 youth and their families annually.  CEDARS provides out-of-home care including foster care, emergency shelter, group homes, transitional living apartments, early childhood and school age programs, out-patient therapy, and family support and prevention services. Katie has also recently announced her candidacy for the Lincoln Public Schools School Board in the sixth district.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?
– Working to balance  the many needs of the children and their families with the resources that are available to meet them.

What has been your most important achievement professionally?
– Learning to achieve a work/life balance and modeling that for my colleagues, although this remains a challenge at times.

Tell us a little about your family.
– I am married to Rhett, my high school sweetheart, and we will celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary in June. We are the proud parents of two sons, Mick age 14 and David age 12, who attend Lux Middle School. Our third “son” is Mac. He has four legs and is a Lab/Shepard mix. Rhett and I both come from large families and enjoy sharing time with our extended families.

What do you see as one of the biggest turning points in your life?
– I was greatly affected by my father’s death when he was  49.  I was 16 at the time,  and this influenced my outlook on the value that each and every day holds and gave me a new perspective when I recently turned 50.

What is the most unique or interesting thing about you that most people probably don’t know?
– That I have four older brothers and I married a man that also has four brothers.

What are you the most proud of?
– I am most proud of my husband and my children.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
– “No matter where you go, there you are.”

What is the one goal you would most like to accomplish?
– I hope that Rhett and I can successfully raise our children to be responsible and compassionate adults.

How would your friends describe you?
– I believe as kind, considerate, organized, and a good listener.

What is your greatest talent that you don’t utilize in your daily work life?
– I enjoy entertaining.

Which talent would you most like to have?
– I would love to be more artistic (painting, singing, instruments etc.)

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
– I’d like to be taller.

What is your favorite movie?
– Shawshank Redemption

What is your favorite TV show?
– What Not To Wear with Clinton and Stacey on the TLC Channel.

What is your favorite Lincoln restaurant?
– The Venue is my current favorite. We miss JaBrisCo’s.

If you could have dinner with one famous person from the past or present, who would it be?
–  Abraham Lincoln, because of the courage that he had and all he did to help those who were oppressed through slavery. He also had interesting views on leadership and endured a lot in his life regarding loss and interpersonal struggles that he overcame.

What is the best way to reach you?
– Call CEDARS at 402-434-KIDS (5437) or visit us online at http://www.cedars-kids.org/

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