AmeriCorps Member, Dream Path Teen Mentoring Coordinator
Vanessa Wright has witnessed the life-changing influence of Join Hands in East St. Louis from the beginning. She was seven years old when she first met director Sheila Burton. Nearly 30 years later, she is a full-time employee of the organization she credits with saving her life. Join Hands gave Vanessa the direction and support she needed as a teen, new experiences with her mentor family, and a reliable source of hope and love, which now includes her four children. She became involved with Join Hands professionally as a volunteer through AmeriCorps and was hired full-time in August of 2019 as the Dream Path Teen Program Coordinator.
Vanessa’s involvement with Join Hands and passion for the organization’s mission is apparent in her daily work. To the right of her desk is a list of every teen involved in the Dream Path who she affectionately refers to as “her babies.” Vanessa is an active and involved advocate for the teens she serves, fostering a relationship between schools, parents and teachers to ensure students have the resources available to succeed in high school and beyond. She knows all Dream Path parents personally and has a rapport with area schools, making weekly on-site visits to check-in with teens. When Vanessa walks into the room, everyone listens! She works collaboratively with Katia Goodman, Dream Path Teen Program Director, in ensuring students are on track academically and fulfilling requirements to complete applications for college, trade school or military service. She also works with youth involved in the Peace Warrior program, one of which is her daughter.
Vanessa is continually inspired by the photos of young people on the walls at Join Hands, representing Dream Path graduates who have gone on to pursue higher education and career goals. She is currently taking classes online to eventually fulfill her own college aspirations. Vanessa is very proud of her children and all of the teens she serves who are like her children. She enjoys reading, relaxing, and being at home where she finds peace.