coworker corner SashaThere are many paths that lead someone to Mercy Home—Sheil Home’s milieu supervisor Sasha Weinert’s story is proof of that.

After graduating New York University, where she studied African history, Sasha traveled to east Africa and did a backpacking trip. After her savings ran out, she returned to her parents’ home in Minnesota where she planned her next move.

Though it didn’t relate her college major, Sasha started applying for jobs working with youth, because during college she had worked with high school students and encouraged them to be advocates for social change. She also tutored 16 and 17-year-old boys who were in prison at Rikers Island.

“So I knew I would do something with that age group, [but] I didn’t really want to work in a school,” she explained. “Mostly because I just felt like there were so many more skills and things … that don’t get taught in school.”

This was a departure from her original plan, which was to live and work somewhere in Africa.

“I was very determined to master this … I didn’t just want to quit and leave and not have fully gotten the results or success that I wanted,”

“I was really passionate about the history, cultures, and I was there, I lived there several times in college,” she said. “I was dead set on doing that.”

But during her last trip to Africa, something changed.

“I realized that wow, I love the places I’ve been there and treasure those experiences, [but] there was also just huge cultural and historical barriers,” she said. “And I felt like they weren’t insurmountable, but they were significant and that there was so much going on in my own community and our country that needed to be worked on.”

After deciding to stay in the U.S. and apply for jobs here, she came across a job as a youth care worker at Mercy Home.

“It was in Chicago, and I did not want to live in Chicago,” she said “I was like, I’m going to go live in L.A., I’m going to live in Louisiana. I was gung-ho to live anywhere else because I didn’t want to be in the Midwest, which is funny because I grew up in the Midwest. I just thought Chicago was too close to home.”

Despite her reservations, Sasha took the job at Mercy Home and started four days after she was hired in Sheil Home.

Even though her four years in Sheil Home had their difficulties, Sasha was determined to stay at Mercy Home and make a difference.

“I was very determined to master this … I didn’t just want to quit and leave and not have fully gotten the results or success that I wanted,” she said.

“We have created this vibe and this supportive environment … that’s another reason why I’m sticking around, to keep nurturing that and make sure that stays beyond how long I’m here,”

Sasha had high praise for the entire Sheil Home staff, particularly Program Manager Tricia Townsend.

“Working under her has been incredible and I’ve learned so much,” she said.

Sasha explained that Sheil Home has recently been working hard to frame things in a positive way for the young men in the home.

For example, if a young man makes a bad choice while on pass, instead of framing future restrictions as punishment, they decided to look at it a different way.

“Now every time you go on pass, you have an opportunity to show us and rebuild trust with us,” she explained.

“I think that creates an environment that is more positive.”

Coworkers in Sheil Home have also been examining rules and critically thinking about why they exist—not just expecting blind compliance for no reason.

“[It’s] all about teaching skills and growth, not compliance, which I think is kind of our motto now,” she said. “And a lot of that comes from Tricia and her perspective on things … sometimes you gotta run through the wall, rather than go through the door.”

A bittersweet part of Sasha’s job is having to say goodbye to young men as they leave Mercy Home.

“Once you get to know a kid, you can predict exactly what they’re going to do, almost exactly, how they’re going to respond to a situation because you’ve spent so much time with them,” she said. “And so to go from that to not having any contact with them can be really difficult, but the cool thing about Mercy is there’s always new kids moving in.

“It always is hard … but at the same time, you can transition them knowing that you played your role and they’re going to continue to be this awesome person that they are and figure out their way in life.”

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