Meet the new leader for Courage Connection
Courage Connection, the Champaign nonprofit agency formerly known as the Center for Women in Transition, has a new executive director, Isak Griffiths of Champaign.
The agency helps domestic violence victims and homeless women and children — providing a hotline, shelter, transitional housing and assistance that helps families back on the road to independence.
Here's what you need to know about the new woman in charge:
1 Her first name is pronounced E-sock.
2 At age 45, she comes to this organization valuing what it offers women and children, having lived through domestic violence and off-and-on homelessness as a child herself — at a time shelters for domestic violence victims weren't available, she says. She recalls times in which she bounced from friend's home to friend's home, and once, when she was in the fourth grade and her mother was in the hospital, she lived for two weeks in a convent in the custody of the catholic church for her safety.
3 She's lived in Champaign-Urbana for 17 years but originally hails from Chicago's south side.
4 It took her 12 years to get her bachelor's degree, because she didn't go straight through college the traditional way. One of her dropout episodes took her to Hawaii, where she spent an eye-opening summer as a beach bum and pushing carts at Costco till she realized she had no education or job skills.
5 Her bachelor's degree, in philosophy, and MBA are both from the University of Illinois.
6 She spent four years in the U.S. Air Force, and is also a recent AmeriCorps volunteer.
7 She survived breast cancer, which was diagnosed when she was 37, and is now marking seven years cancer-free.
8 She performs African drumming, and you can catch her occasionally at the farmer's market at Lincoln Square and other venues around the community.
9 She also works with Madhu Viswanathan's Marketplace Literacy Project in India, Tanzania and locally, and has managed her own leadership development business.
10 She is a Chicago White Sox, Chicago Bears and Illini sports fan, and the first date she had with her husband, David, was an Illinois football game. She and her husband have been married 16 years, and "there's no one in my life I respect more," she says.