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Coworker Corner: Dion Brown

Coworker Corner: Dion Brown

Above everything else, Dion Brown always knew that he wanted to help people. And as a care manager in AfterCare, he has the opportunity to help countless of former Mercy Home youth and their families—but his passion started long before that.

He attended Northern Illinois University, where he played football and originally majored in athletic training. However, his schedule didn’t allow for the rigorous out-of-class requirements of the major, so he switched to physical therapy. Unfortunately, the major was discontinued due to low enrollment, so Dion decided to transfer to Western Illinois University so he could continue pursuing that degree. He immediately loved the quieter environment at Western’s campus.

“It was further away from Chicago, quiet, kind of therapeutic, and allowed me focus,” he remembered.

But bad luck struck again—the physical therapy program was also discontinued at Western, again due to low enrollment. Dion decided to pursue instead a degree in kinesiology with a minor in business management.

“My ultimate goal was [that] I wanted to do something to help people,” he explained.

Dion always had a strong interest in the sciences, so kinesiology was a great fit. He furthered his knowledge by becoming certified as a pharmacy technician. But it wasn’t until he found Mercy Home after graduation that he really found his niche.

After learning of Mercy Home through a relative who worked there, Dion eventually took an open position opened in Speh Home.

“I kind of got thrown right into the mix because at that time, [they were] short of staff,” Dion explained.

Dion described the beginning of his time in Speh Home as a “crash course,” where he quickly learned everything he needed to know to care for our young men.

“I think that molded and shaped me to be there six years in Speh Home,” he said as he reflected on that time period.

“My ultimate goal was that I wanted to do something to help people.”

During his time in Speh Home, Dion became interested in the process in which our kids transitioned to older programs. He decided that he wanted to experience working with older boys, and applied for a position in Kelly Home, where he stayed for six years.

Despite the common thought that dealing with older boys would be easier, Dion actually found that it brought a set of new challenges.

“You’re meeting young men who are set in a lot of ways, [many] of them have been in situations where they were the adult in their household and they had to kind of fend for themselves,” he explained. “So the level of trust is a lot harder to earn.”

After six years in Kelly Home, Dion again became interested in the transition process, but this time in what happened to our kids when they transitioned out of Mercy Home.

“You know, none of the guys that were transitioning had families and [I] kind of wanted to see one of them on the other side. … [And I] really wanted to keep contact with a lot of people just to see how they’re doing. And [working in AfterCare] allows you to do that.”

As a care manager, Dion has many responsibilities, including helping members navigate their educational and vocational futures, as well as connecting them with resources in the community. He also is able to work with families, which is something he especially enjoyed since his time in Speh Home.

“I love working with the families,” he said. “If you ever [live] at Mercy Home, you’re automatically a member of AfterCare. But who you identify as family is also a member, and that’s what I like—to really pass along resources and assistance that you can give their family.”

Dion’s time in Speh and Kelly homes has also helped him when he runs into them as members of AfterCare. He has the benefit of already knowing their story, he explained.

“I love working with the families. If you ever live at Mercy Home, you’re automatically a member of AfterCare. But who you identify as family is also a member, and that’s what I like—to really pass along resources and assistance that you can give their family.”

“And then I can do a better job of assessing what’s going on because I do know them, I do know their tendencies and I do know their struggles and I do know their strengths. So it’s easier to put a plan together that’s conducive to them.”

Dion is still in contact with some of the men who lived in his programs—in fact, he recently received a letter from of them thanking him for his support.

“I felt really good because you really don’t know how much a difference you make in these people’s lives,” he said. “And it makes me feel proud. It makes me feel like, this is why I’m doing what I’m doing.”

Dion is also sure to mention the mentors he had throughout his 15 years at Mercy Home—Nicole, Daniel, Monti Clayton, Monica Payton Cook, and Torono Moore.

“All of those people were so inspirational, and I learned so much from all of [them]. I wouldn’t be here today and feel confident in the skin that I’m in [without them]. A lot of the things I’ve learned I’ve learned from them.

And though he didn’t end up in the science field like he originally planned, he is still happy with where he ended up.

“I felt that there was a need and I got to help people and I got to help young people and communities that were diverse,” he said.

“My mom, my grandmother, they’re outstanding women [and] they taught me that if you can help, it doesn’t necessarily have to be monetarily speaking. You can just be helping with the tools and the gifts that you have. And being here has kind of spoken to that, which is why I love my job. It’s why I love what I do.”

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