These are exciting times at School’s Out Washington, with new projects meaning new staff coming on board. The first new hire of this wave was Stephanie Lennon, who started at SOWA in late February. Her work centers around our statewide advocacy and STEM efforts, as well as joining our communications team.
She’s a fascinating person with a rich background. As we do all of our new staff, let’s spend a moment to get to know her.
Where are you from?
I am originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan (Go Blue!) and moved to Seattle in 2009 from New York City. I also spent time studying internationally both before coming to Washington and after, in England, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, and Guatemala.
What do you like to do in your own time?
I fell in love with the amazing natural landscape of Washington as soon as I moved here, and got involved in mountaineering and rock climbing, and love remote backpacking trips. I love trying new outdoor activities, and am also training to run a couple of half marathons this year.
I love houseplants and have amassed quite the jungle in my apartment – I like finding unique or rare plants and learning about where they came from. I am big on cooking and like trying new recipes, and working on my ever growing tolerance for eating incredibly spicy food. I’m lucky to have a wonderful support system of friends and family and love spending time with them.
The ability to travel has been a huge influence on my life and worldviews, and I am always trying to figure out where I can go next! South America and Asia are the two major areas of the world I’m missing, so those are high on my to-do list.
What brought you to SOWA?
My background is in working with refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants in several arenas, including direct refugee resettlement, workforce development, and communications and advocacy work. In working in both the non-profit and government worlds, I became very interested in working to improve the public policies that create or support all of those systems and which can often, even inadvertently, contribute to inequities. Some of my most recent work was with unaccompanied refugee and immigrant minors, which really opened my eyes to the importance of early opportunities for youth in order for them to succeed, and more broadly how creating an equitable playing field for youth and creating support systems early on leads to greater success and diversity.
I went back to school in order to be able to work on these issues from a policy perspective, and will complete my Master of Public Administration degree from Seattle University this quarter, where I focused on government and public policy.
Tell us one thing that you are proud of.
I took a bit of a non-traditional path in college, where I not only changed majors and schools, but also dropped out for a time when I was unsure what career path I wanted to take. I’m proud not only that I was able to find support systems to get back to school and earn my Bachelor’s degree, but also that I was able to later complete graduate school while working full-time. I think it taught me a lot about persistence and resilience, as well as the importance of education. I was able not only to get back to school, but to go on to attend schools and programs in six countries over the course of my education.