I Am… Intentional

What word defines you? This is the question we asked Nicole Neri, a Student Assistance Specialist at Center for Human Services (CHS) while we interviewed her for the I Am Project.

Nicole answered, “I am intentional.”

Photo by: Justin Souza, Photos Just So

Nicole began working at CHS in 1998 in Youth Court. For seven years, she worked in a variety of our youth services programs. In 2005 she left the agency to go back to school to finish her Bachelors degree. During this time, she also gave birth to twin girls. Nicole returned to CHS in 2010 and has been working in the Student Assistance Program ever since, specifically with the Turn Around Opportunities Program, a program for high school freshmen and sophomores to catch up on school credits they’ve missed. In work and in her personal life, Nicole values being intentional.

“Intentional to me means being conscious and aware of the work I do and relationships in my life,” Nicole said, “It means offering empathy and asking questions.” 11 years ago, Nicole lost her twin brother to suicide. 6 years ago, she lost her younger brother to an overdose. “Both of my brothers’ deaths were preventable,” said Nicole, “If they had had services like we offer at CHS, maybe they would still be here today.”

Though the loss of her brothers was heartbreaking, it made her more intentional. “When it happened I thought, what good could ever come from this?” Nicole said, “But today, when students tell me they are having suicidal thoughts or are using drugs and alcohol, I can really be present for them. I ask questions and engage them. I don’t just listen, I hear them.”

Nicole loves working at CHS and is happy she has the opportunity to engage her students everyday. In spite of the terrible losses she has experienced in her life, she has gained intention and purpose. Nicole shared a quote that she feels connected to her experiences of loss:

“If we love such moments ferociously, then maybe we can learn to live well not in spite of death, but because of it.” -B.J. Miller

“For me losing my brothers and my dad showed me how fragile life is and that I wanted to live my life more intentionally. I AM intentional. Concentrated, purposeful and aware,” Nicole said, “my intent comes from my soul which is very different for me than a goal. I want to live with purpose, conviction, compassion and love.”

This interview is a preview of the I Am Project, a multimedia project including photos by Photos Just So and video by El Nido Productions. This is a project that celebrates the humanity of individuals involved with CHS and the words that define their stories. Stay tuned for more information.