September 2, 2013

2013 40 Under Forty: Heather G. Keenan

Keenan

Title: Associate Director of Programs, Girls Inc. of Worcester

Company location: Worcester

Residence: Sutton

Favorite movie: "Howl's Moving Castle" (and just about anything else by Hayao Miyazaki)

Favorite book: "Stardust" by Neil Gaiman

Career Highlights: Earning four promotions in less than four years, moving from program coordinator to associate director of programs. Being selected to lead Eureka!, a five-year cohort program for middle- to high-school girls that focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), personal growth and development, college access, career readiness and sports/adventure programming. Leading online and in-person workshops on leadership programs, recruitment and retention, and working with community partners for Girls Inc.

Community involvement: Volunteer performer and fundraiser for V-Day Worcester, helping to raise over $10,000 in three years for local organizations focused on violence prevention. I also serve on the advisory council for the Central Mass. STEM Network.

Biggest success: My biggest success has been finding a career path that allows me to be part of a community of people that helps improve the lives of girls. During my last semester of college, I was given an assignment to interview a youth development agency in Worcester. I thought of Girls Inc. right away. When I was a girl, I had gone to Girls Inc. a few times with a friend but never realized all of the programs and opportunities they offer. The interview I conducted for school helped me realize two very important things: that I wanted to work in a place where I felt like I was helping the community every day, and that I wanted to help empower and inspire girls to dream big and to reach for those dreams. I submitted my resume shortly after my assignment was passed in and, fortunately, a position became available a couple of months later.

Biggest challenge: My biggest challenge was getting into college. Once I was there I felt unstoppable, but getting there was no small feat. I lacked direction, I lacked motivation, but I did not lack excuses. My then 5-year-old daughter helped me to see the importance of an education; I knew I had to be a good role model and I knew a good education was part of that.

Mentors: My mother and grandmother, as well as Honee Hess, executive director of the Worcester Craft Center; as well as Anne Sadick, Deb Hopkins, and Victoria Waterman, all of Girls Inc. of Worcester.

Hidden talents: My hidden talents include hula hooping, origami, and winning board games of just about any kind.

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