LPP alumna Noël Mayhood, 33, always knew she wanted to be a social worker. And it’s an ambition she’s followed all the way to a master’s degree and license in social work.
“I’ve never one time questioned what I want to do with my life. I feel very fortunate in that way. I’ve always wanted to be a social worker in some capacity,” she said.
That’s exactly what Noël is currently doing in her new role as Team Lead and Director of the youth ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) program at the Children’s Home in Binghamton. The program serves the holistic needs of youth with mental illness diagnoses, as well as the needs of their families.
After Noël got her associate’s degree in human services, she decided to get her bachelor’s degree in social work from Keuka College. Noël then got her master’s degree in social work from the University at Buffalo.
Liberty Partnerships Program has been a part of her path ever since middle school. The relationships she made along the way, especially the bond she made with her former academic counselor, are still going strong almost two decades later.
Noël was first introduced to LPP as an eighth grader at Susquehanna Valley Middle School in 2005, when an academic counselor who worked there at the time – Sasha – invited her to have lunch. At first, Noël wasn’t too sure LPP could offer her much.
She already had a firm sense of independence and did really well in school, but Sasha showed her that LPP provides more than just academic support. Years later, Noël recalled that Sasha was the first adult at her school who recognized that she could use a supportive and positive community.
“I had been through a lot, but I got really good grades, so nobody really paid attention to all the stuff that was going on at home,” Noël explained.
An academic counselor named Tracy Parker joined LPP at Susquehanna Valley School District after Sasha left that role a few months later. Although Noël remembers giving the young counselor a “run for her money” at first, she and Tracy formed a close bond.
“I think it was a really unique experience,” Noël said. “She was in her early 20s. I was in my teens, but I was always very mature for my age. So she was like an older sister to me in many ways.”
Tracy’s classroom at the school became a safe space for Noël to go, whether she was having a hard time or not. It was also a positive environment and safe space for several students – all of whom Tracy had a unique relationship with. “She wanted to see every single one of us succeed in different ways,” Noël said.
Noël also participated in several LPP outings throughout high school. Her favorite field trips included the Empire Promise Youth Summit, where she was able to network with other students, as well as the Wilderness Adventure Program ropes course and cultural events like the Renaissance Festival.
She notes that the Wilderness Adventure Program stands out as a special memory, especially because Tracy invited Noël’s younger siblings to come as well. “They were just opportunities my family didn’t have,” she said.
Two years ago, shortly after Noël’s father passed away, Tracy sent Noël pictures of her with her younger sister and younger brother at the Wilderness Adventure Program. “It was some of the only pictures I have from my childhood, so that’s just a memory that can’t really be replicated,” Noël said.
She said the support from Tracy and everyone at LPP helped her open up and share more than she had ever shared before. That bond was also the reason that Noël, at 16 years old, called Tracy right after finding out that her mother passed away.
“She came right over to our apartment and just sat with me while I cried,” Noël said. “I know for a fact that she continues to make those connections with kids with that program. I just know it.”
Working in the social work field now, Noël understands from both a personal and professional perspective how necessary LPP is for youth – especially those living in small rural communities where opportunities to have new experiences may be limited.
“I’ve been out of (high) school since 2009 and I’m still talking about the program when given the opportunity because I think that it can help kids get through the most difficult years of their lives,” she said.