Could we get some brief biographical info from you? Hometown, previous experience, education, etc.?
I’m from the Swamplands of Central Florida: Gainesville. Growing up in a college town, academia and the collegiate spirit were as present as the humidity or the mosquitoes. My dad was an administrator at the University of Florida, my mom went to graduate school there when I was a child, and my brother completed undergrad there when I was in high school. The culture and availability of academia to me were great privileges.
I spent the first 27 years of my life in Gainesville, and completed my undergraduate education in spurts at Santa Fe College and subsequently the University of Florida, studying Religion and English Literature with a focus on queer theory. After struggling in school as a teen, I ended up graduating summa cum laude from UF. However, like so many other liberal arts majors before me, I followed the legacy of working in the service industry after college as a cook and server.
I dabbled in teaching here and there. I had some volunteer gigs, but mostly, I was stagnating. It was during this time that I had my own experience with problematic substance use and subsequently found a recovery path. Confidence bolstered, I moved up to North Carolina to pursue my MSW at UNC-Chapel Hill and had my first internship at Green Hill. And now I’m back.
When I entered graduate school, I didn’t anticipate working in the substance use treatment field, but as our Clinical Director Matt O’Connor once told me, sometimes we don’t get to choose what we’re great at. Looking back, I can see how my experiences prepared me for just this role.
What do you believe makes Green Hill stand out in its field, and why?
What constantly impresses me about Green Hill is the way compassion and humanity permeate every level of the organization. There is never a point where care for our clients and staff are not at the center of decision making, especially when those decisions are hard. For example, I have seen our directors spend countless hours supporting client families even after their official time in our program. At the end of the day, everyone here shows up as a full person.
What keeps you coming back day after day?
This job is fun! There is truly no better feeling than watching someone get in touch with themself and start the process of growth. That and playing basketball with the clients…and our Program Coordinator, Jay Bylund. There are too many things to name.
What was your dream job as a kid, and why?
I wanted to be an architect, which, in retrospect, is madness. I would have cried everyday in architect school. I’m crying right now even thinking about being in architect school. Not to mention I can’t read a map or put together IKEA furniture correctly. I’m glad I’m a therapist.
What’s one memory you’ll always take with you from your time here in Green Hill?
This is less a single memory, but my favorite moments are from group therapy sessions. This is where the work that clients are doing truly shines. It’s amazing to see our guys support each other and show up as their true selves.
What’s one thing your hometown could be known for, and why?
There is this kind of underground artist named Tom Petty who grew up in Gainesville and started his career there. He had some modest hits, such as “Free Fallin’”, “Last Dance with Mary Jane,” and “American Girl.” You may have heard of him.
What does your ideal day look like?
I wake up and eat some carrot cake with cream cheese icing for breakfast. Full pot of coffee already made for me by my friendly robot assistant. I go for a walk with a french bulldog. We’ve never met before. We become fast friends. His name is Pierre. He introduces me to his other friends, which include a lion and a bear who are nice. Solid friends. I return home and find that someone has installed a sparkling water tap in my house. How delightful and refreshing. I play some basketball with my friends, tend to my beautiful garden, and relax with my partner by a mossy rocky river. Returning to the rustic farmhouse that I own with no mortgage, my friends are there and we have a dance party. Today was a good day.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? How has that advice affected your day-to-day?
To go to community college! I had some serious growing to do after high school and I had to re-learn why I liked learning in the first place. Having the freedom to work and go to school at my own pace prepared me to crave knowledge and skill in a way that I could not have achieved otherwise.
What’s one message you wish our residents at Green Hill would always take with them?
It’s okay to not be okay. In fact, what we think of as “okay” is all relative and kind of made up anyways. Feel what you feel. It’s okay if it sucks or if it rocks. It’s all okay.
Quick facts about Casey
Undergraduate school: Santa Fe College & University of Florida
Graduate school: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Favorite book: The Watchmen
Favorite album: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel
Favorite podcast: On Being with Krista Tippett
Dream Vacation: China
Top Karaoke Song Choice: Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind
Favorite spot to visit in Raleigh: Durham
Favorite meal: Medium rare burger with American cheese
Favorite house activity: Reading