Following Jim’s departure from The Mockingbird Society, our agency has conducted two extensive searches for a new leader. After a 12-month process, we are happy to say that we have finally hired on our new Executive Director. Her name is Annie Blackledge, and she comes with a wealth of knowledge about vulnerable populations, systems, and child welfare issues. I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with Annie prior to her official start date (January 11th, 2016), and ask her some questions so readers can get to know the amazing person she is.
One of the first things I asked her was, “What first interested you in joining The Mockingbird Society?” She told me she actually knew about us for quite some time, and first became a fan back in 2001 when she was working with a young man, trying to help him gain employment skills through a job training program. Unfortunately, the young man found himself homeless within Seattle. He was very gifted in writing, drawing, and painting, but had no outlet with which to express his creativity. Fortunately, he was able to speak with someone from The Mockingbird Society and got plugged in with the Mockingbird Times. Over the next year, that young man flourished and realized his potential; so much in fact, that he enrolled at Cornish College of the Arts and took his abilities to the next level. She attributes that push to the next level to his experience at The Mockingbird Society.
Because we are an advocacy organization, we were naturally curious about Annie’s thoughts on advocacy. She said, for her, “advocacy is all about ensuring that groups who are underrepresented have a seat at the table when decisions are being made that directly affect their lives.” This is critical because sometimes, even though policymakers have great intentions, their actions can be misguided by a lack of proper engagement with the populations that are being affected.
As an alumni of care, I also think it is special that Annie has also had first-hand experience with homelessness and foster care. She was placed into foster care at birth, then was adopted, but entered back into foster care at the age of 12. From there, she experienced a lot of ups and downs. At 16 she found a mentor who was grounding for her, and was able to see her for who she was, not just what her files said about her.
At the end of the day, we have been blessed to have hired someone to lead The Mockingbird Society who understands youth. Annie is not only passionate about advocacy for vulnerable individuals, but she also has ties to the mission on a personal level. It will be exciting to see where our organization goes under the leadership of Annie Blackledge.