GP Weathersby

Irene Weathersby, head of the Regional Planning Commission's Head Start program, poses for a photo Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, in her office in Urbana.

Listen to this article

Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, Irene Weathersby, engagement coordinator for the Regional Planning Commission, chats with staff writer Paul Wood about Head Start and travel. The Rantoul resident is a member of RPC’s Early Childhood Family and Community.

Where did you grow up and how did you get here?

I moved around because of my father’s Air Force career — New York; Tokyo, Japan (twice); Columbus, Ohio; Sun Prairie, Wis.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Rantoul; and Chicago. I made it back here in 2018 when my mom asked me to come home to provide caregiving services for her and my father. My current role as the family and community engagement coordinator began in July 2018. My former agency’s human resources recommended me to Dalisto S. Sulamoyo, executive director of the Regional Planning Commission.

What interests you most right now?

“Building strong families through community connections,” I am working and assisting to promote our very first National Head Start Awareness Month. This focus is to help our families, staff and community to come together to help us celebrate the services we provide through our Head Start programs. In addition, I will be working on a male initiative involvement to engage our fathers in the program to promote our fathers. Lastly, creating a “family success model” to provide our family advocates and families additional support, tools and resources to enhance the self-sufficiency of our families.

You recently spearheaded a Family and Community Engagement Resource Fair at Champaign’s Hessel Park. Was that a successful event?

It was our first Family and Community Engagement Resource Fair. My manager, Dana Smith, and director, Brandi Granse, provided me the vision. It was my charge to work with our recruitment team, staff, media, community partners and families to make this a huge success.

You were raised in a military family, you spent seven years in Japan as a child. What was that like?

I remember leaving New York at the age of 3 and getting on the Flying Tiger heading to Japan. The experience afforded me and my family to visit Mt. Fuji, Tokyo, Okinawa and Korea. My father was assigned their on two separate tours: which was seven years of my life. Also, I have two siblings who were born in Japan. I left there at 14 to got to San Bernardino, Calif.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

Maine, Vermont, Wyoming. I am intrigued by places that African Americans don’t talk about visiting.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

Ahh, my Siamese cat named Gina. She was my best friend from 6 until 9 years old. She was hit by a car in Ohio.

What’s your favorite sports team?

All Chicago teams.

What personality trait do you most hate in other people? Most hate in yourself?

Judgmental people. My trait that I hate in myself is that I am so sensitive and people-driven. Doesn’t always trade off.

What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?

Taking control of my career after losing my job. I had to recreate my life and also continue to provide for my children.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

Dance, pray, listen to gospel and classical music and attend church.


Paul Wood is a reporter at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@pvawood).