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Coworker Corner: Alexa Frenn

Coworker Corner: Alexa Frenn

Alexa Frenn was bored at her job. It was the summer between her graduate school years, and she felt unfulfilled in her administrative position.

As she sat on the couch of a friend—former Mercy Home coworker Katie Richie—she complained that she didn’t find her current job rewarding. And it was then that Katie sparked an idea in Alexa’s mind.

“She handed me a glass of wine and said, ‘Why don’t I just refer you to Mercy Home?’ I think they’re always hiring.’”

Alexa decided to give it a try and two weeks later, she was in the office of the Speh Home program manager and offered a position with Speh’s summer staff. She immediately connected with the then-day coordinator, Soraya McCune, and after completing her master’s program in social work, took a full-time job at Mercy Home as an Admissions case manager for the older programs.

A Milwaukee native, Alexa attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology. However, that wasn’t the only training she received to set her up in a career as a social worker.

Growing up with a mother who was a Type A accountant and a playful father who owned a bar, Alexa feels she took some of both their personalities to help her in her career.

“[My dad is just] very lovable and then [having] a mom who could get anything done … I like to think I’m an odd combination of both of them,” she said. “They’re definitely two people who were very committed to their work but also very committed to their families. So it’s been great to apply those skills to a helping profession.”

Alexa’s days of helping her dad bartend—she still helps out on New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day—also prepared her for her career.

“It’s the oddly perfect skill for social work, it’s working with people,” she said.

Alexa put those skills to use in the two and a half years she spent in Admissions, where she experienced some of the ups and downs that come with social work.

“[Admissions] is a fantastic department and really, it does a lot of incredible work in these communities for young people who [are] living in their trauma … and I will say, for my older guys that I worked with, were in the community very much physically fighting to stay alive.”

“It was a really, really hard job. But I really grew as a person and grew as a professional.”

Alexa added that despite the difficulties, her work in Admissions was “incredibly rewarding.”

“Admissions is a fantastic department and really, it does a lot of incredible work in these communities for young people who [are] living in their trauma .”

“[You] see young people come from the scenarios that when they start, they’re wide-eyed and hopeful but also, at the same time unsure,” she explained. “And they’ve had promises made to them in the past and have been let down many, many times before … and I’m asking them to trust this whole group of new people, to trust that we can support them, and that’s a scary thing [for them].

“I still have a lot of my guys that I moved in still living here and to see their success and how much they’ve grown, it’s so, so, so rewarding.”

It was also during her time in Admissions that, while compiling a resource guide, that Juan Medina, Manager of Community Partnerships and Marketing, and Daniel Nelson, Director of Boys Campus Programs and AfterCare, brought her the idea of forming a Community Partners program that connected social service providers and educate everyone on the resources available in the field. And now, almost three years after its inaugural meeting, the program is still going strong and connecting organizations across Chicagoland.

Last year, Alexa felt ready to try something new, just about the same time as the position of program manager is Quille Home opened. She had worked closely with two of the former program managers, Cody McDonald and Cristen Brossok, and was interested in the new challenge.

“I consider myself a pretty ambitious person [in] wanting to advance myself as an individual [and] in my professional life,” she said.

After speaking with the Director of Admissions and Clinical Development Kari Sikich and Katy Sikich, the Director of Young Adult Program, who both agreed she would be a good fit, things moved forward quickly.

“Once the Sikich sisters have an idea in their heads, it’s pretty much unstoppable,” she laughed.

And after a hectic start that coincided with the holiday season, Alexa settled into position and fell in love with working with our oldest kids.

“I just told Tom [Gilardi, the Vice President of Youth Programs] the other day, I hope no one’s trying to get rid of me anytime soon because I’m starting to get real comfy in this position,” she said.

“I still have a lot of my guys that I moved in still living here and to see their success and how much they’ve grown, it’s so, so, so rewarding.

Because the young people she works with are older, Alexa has gotten the fruit of Mercy Home’s labor of helping kids, sometimes over many years.

“It’s pretty common that youth would graduate up to my program,” she explained. “It’s kind of a poetic position to be in because in this work, a lot of [it] is planting seeds and waiting for them to grow. And I think it’s very difficult. It’s very difficult as a concept to plant seeds and not want to see the results of what you built. … Being in Quille, I get to see the plants that have grown, I get to see things grow, and I really enjoy having [that opportunity].”

Wanting her coworkers to also get to experience that feeling, she does her best to go back to others to share the positive effect they had on the kids that may just be manifesting years later.

And, speaking of coworkers, Alexa can’t say enough about the good relationships she’s formed, noting that she’s felt welcomed and loves the community she’s built here.

“[Working with them] definitely energizes me on a day-to-day basis of [knowing that] no matter what, I’m going to come to work and laugh. It’s impossible to make it through the day-to-day without some silliness.”

But it’s really the combination of the two—the kids here and the coworkers—that makes Alexa love her job so much.

“I definitely love that concept, feeling like my youth connected me to my coworkers and my coworkers support me so that I can connect with my youth,” she said. “It’s not just one thing, I think it’s a good combo of all that.”

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