How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?
We have lived in the Brooksville area for 15 years on property adjacent to my parents' property. Previously we lived in Pasco County's San Antonio for seven years.
Prior to 1989, my husband and I were migrant workers, and we didn't live long enough in any area to be considered residents of the community.
Who are the members of your family?
My family consists of my husband of 28 years, Benjamin; daughter Angelica, 19; and son, Hector, 27.
Tell us about your career.
I was a migrant farmer traveling to various states harvesting fruits and vegetables with my husband, just as I had done with my parents and siblings, before I married at 18. Life was hard moving all the time, and when our daughter was born, Benjamin and I decided to remain in one location and provide a more stable environment for both of our children. Therefore, we made Dade City our hometown.
There I began to pursue a career in education. It took a while to finish, but I was determined. I graduated from Saint Leo University with a bachelor's degree in education. In December 2009, I received my master's degree in educational leadership.
This June, I will have been teaching for 11 years in the Hernando County School District. The first seven I taught intermediate grades, and the past three years I've taught second grade at Moton Elementary School. For the past two, I have been teaching students who struggle with reading.
What other kinds of activities are you involved in?
I recently ventured into writing a book based on my personal experience with a loved one who has a brain disorder. The inspirational book is titled From Out of the Shadows of Darkness. In it I hope to let readers know there is hope and a light at the end of the tunnel — that we can live life again to the fullest and enjoy our ill loved ones. The book also offers insight as to how a caregiver can be overwhelmed without support from family, health services and the community, and I also suggest books to read.
Although there were medical books with scientific information available when my daughter was young, there were no books on brain disorders on a personal level — something I could have used. I felt totally isolated and removed. It was during a crisis when I saw a flier from the National Alliance for Mental Illness at a local hospital. I called the Beautiful Mind center and inquired about NAMI.
When I learned there was going to be a free 12-week class, I registered. The support and knowledge I received was unmeasurable. I walked away empowered, and it was sometime during the course I decided to become an active member in our Spring Hill chapter, NAMI Hernando.
I soon inquired about the "basics" program and took the initiative to be trained so that I could have the opportunity to teach my colleagues about brain disorders. I want teachers to have the tools necessary to effectively handle a situation encountered with a child who suffers from a brain disorder, as well as educate parents and caregivers to become empowered to handle situations that may arise with their child.
Do you have any special hobbies?
The hobby closest to my heart is going to the beach and watching the seagulls. Spending time at the beach, whether it is on the west or east coast, is always very therapeutic for me. It helps me rejuvenate and relax from the stresses associated with my profession and life in general.
What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?
Going for a drive through the country roads. The curves and ancient oak trees are a reminder of south Texas, where I spent the summer months with family harvesting fruits and vegetables, and enjoying the sunsets and sunrises on the beach. Our family also enjoys time spent at Pine Island.
What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?
Recognizing that more funding is needed for our schools and mental health.
We need child and adolescent psychiatrists available for families in need of mental health services. Currently, families have to drive great distances to receive these services.
There needs to be more public awareness about brain disorders in children and adolescents afflicted by the disorders. Education is the key. We also need more individuals to advocate for those who are unable to have their mental health needs met.
Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.
Some day in the future, I'd like the opportunity to be able to provide a transitional home (assisted living facility) for young adults with brain disorders needing a place to stay before returning home to their caregiver or living independently on their own.
I'd like it to be staffed with guidance counselors whose responsibility would be to ensure these clients receive the help and guidance necessary to navigate through the process of obtaining their healthy dependence or independence and self-sufficiency.
It is something I am hoping to accomplish in the future with the help of the citizens of Hernando County.
Do you know someone who would make a good Neighbors profile? Contact Jean Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1438.