Journee LaFond (MSW 2021)

The Bridge Builder
Journee LaFond

"I feel passionate about being the instrument of change in a family’s struggle to achieve a satisfying and productive outcome. Building bridges for families is the cornerstone of my life and career."

Growing up in Hartford, CT, Journee LaFond (they/them) and their sister were familiar with struggle from their earliest days. Raised in a single-parent household, their mother was a double amputee suffering from renal disease. The two children knew first-hand the strain of foster care, the uncertainty of periodic homelessness, and the exhaustion of providing personal care for a parent struggling with long-term illness. The local social worker was a positive and constant element, making housing arrangements, lining up state assistance, and ensuring the children had gifts at Christmas time. Journee remembers the social worker as a “fairy godmother” who always knew how to help the family and never let them down.

These checkered memories of childhood propelled LaFond to become a Youth Development Specialist with Mi Casa Family Services and a Parent Educator and Family Resource Center Liaison for the Hispanic Health Council in CT. Coordinating family services through this central resource hub (food stamps, translation services, housing, employment) was a perfect fit.

“Matching families with services, meeting with local school boards – it was a wonderfully impactful job and I loved it!”

Holding a BA in Human Services from Southern NH University, LaFond graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2021 with a Master of Social Work. For a working professional with two small children, the online modality allowed unique access to higher education. Instructors sent helpful email reminders of upcoming assignments and responded promptly to questions with in-depth answers. The ongoing student exchange of information, experience, and training opportunities made Journee feel connected to social work with an emphasis on teamwork as a core value.

"The online Master of Social Work program was exactly what I needed to achieve my current success, and the faculty supported my perspective as a black queer person by providing a safe environment that fostered confidence in my social worker role. As a working mother online learning was my salvation. I tell anyone considering a higher degree to reach for it without hesitation; there is no better reward than the feeling of completing the desired degree.”

As a case manager with the Mental Health Center in Manchester NH, Journee developed the first NH clinical support group for LGTB teenagers in an 8-week program to provide services and share experiences in a safe setting. With the teen legacy program in place, a similar group for LGTB adults is under development. Journee is also working on a plan to develop mental health resources for the black queer community in New Hampshire and is determined to provide access through public transportation. A keen sense of purpose emerges when Journee talks about current events as a catalyst for change and schools as the foundation for that change on a deep level.

"I moved to NH for a reason even if my best outcome is a bus to downtown that opens access to needed services. I want to make some noise, to break new ground for this small but growing community by building bridges that help others forge a new path."

In their teenage years, LaFond found an outlet in reading books and writing poetry. As an adult, theatre and public speaking became creative outlets for self-expression. During the pandemic restrictions, Journee has pivoted to exploring makeup and costumes for a drag contest and doing voiceovers for podcasts. Currently working on a book that revolves around the story of a black non-binary child in a supportive household, Journee seeks to create an aspirational example of what life could be like for children growing into this community. LaFond describes the driving motive of a social worker with a simple image:

“We go to work every day to sow the seeds of success and watch it flourish like a colorfully blooming garden.”

Written by Gwendolyn Goguelet