Staff spotlight Lakyn Hollandsworth

Staff Spotlight: Lakyn Hollandsworth

Lakyn Hollandsworth has always believed in helping people where she can. 

“I grew up in a family where if someone needed something, you helped them,” she said. “Seeing compassion in others and being willing to help others around you I think is incredibly important.”

That’s an attitude she’s carried into her career as a Return-to-Work Coordinator with the RETAIN Project at HDI. 

“We help individuals with an illness or a non work related injury, return to work or stay at work by assessing their needs with accommodations, working with their employers…to implement some of those accommodations,” she said. “And we also provide resources to other organizations in the community because when someone has an unexpected injury or illness and they’re out of work, that could impact their financial stability.”

Hollandsworth had an unusual path to HDI. She began by getting her degrees from Akron and Kent State universities, then moved to North Carolina for an internship with Vocational Rehabilitation. 

The year was 2020 and the internship fell through. Now, Hollandsworth was on her own in a new state without a job and with no significant local relationships. Fortunately, Dr. Phillip Rumrill contacted her about opportunities available with the RETAIN project. Four years later, and Lakyn has earned promotions from intern to Return-to-Work Coordinator. She’s integrated into a system with co-workers that she likes and work that she enjoys.

“At the time I was just shadowing other coordinators, listening in on a phone call as they were doing with participants. And eventually I was able to have my own caseload,” she said. “Without the internship, I think I’d be very overwhelmed. But being able to slowly dive into it and have all the mentors that I’ve had throughout the program and my work with the program, that’s been incredibly beneficial.”

Outside of work, Hollandsworth and her husband have an 11-month-old son. 

“Since he’s come into our life, our whole world focuses around him. But he goes everywhere with us,” she said. 

And everywhere is a lot of different places. They enjoy exploring breweries, hiking up mountains, and you’ll find them a lot on the lake with boats and jet skis during the summer. 

But everything circles back to that desire to help people – and she feels proudest at her job when she sees the proof that she’s done so.

Some of my proudest moments are when I get feedback from a person that I’ve worked with that they couldn’t have done what we did without my help,” she said.

Staff Spotlight Bethany Hughes

She got her wish! A staff spotlight on Bethany Hughes

Bethany Hughes always knew to some degree where her life was headed.

“People always say, Hey, I always wanted to be a firefighter,” Hughes said. “I didn’t ever know what I wanted to do, I just always wanted to be working with children in some realm.”

She got her wish. Hughes now works as a Training Coach for Child Care Aware with HDI, providing assistance and guidance to the credentials trainers who then provide training to childcare centers statewide.

“Any job I’ve ever had never falls under one category,” Hughes said. “It’s more like a paraprofessional, helping other adults.”

Hughes holds a bachelor’s degree from Murray State and a master’s from WKU, both in interdisciplinary early childhood education. Prior to HDI, that was the field she worked in before shifting to her current position when she joined the team.

“I really like the early years of development,” she said. “I truly believe in emphasizing quality learning and services early on. So much brain development happens before the age of 5. If we can be more proactive with our programs and services when children are younger, there is a greater benefit to the child and less cost associated with services as opposed to waiting until school age.”

At a certain point, though, Hughes felt called to put her skills to a different application.

“Over the years, I really enjoyed working with children and families,” she said. “But I just got to the point where I was just like, ‘You know what? I feel like I need to be helping other professionals who are out in the field to make sure that what they’re doing is good quality and good service that they’re then giving to the children.’”

Now, she ensures that children receive that level of service throughout the state.

“I really enjoy the flexibility. I like being able to reach people in ways that works for them,” she said. “I enjoy being able to kind of touch base with the trainers to say, ‘Hey, I’m here when you need me, but I’m not here to police you, it’s just I’m really here to support you. So how can I best support you?’”

Outside work, Hughes considers herself a bit of a homebody. She loves to do puzzles and read in her free time, and though she considers more of a mystery reader, she said her favorite book was Dragoncharm by Graham Edwards. She’s also a huge fan of Iris Johansen.

Hughes was raised Christian, and though she’s less of a regular churchgoer these days, she still considers herself spiritual and carries some of what she heard in church growing up.

“One of the biggest things I still always took out of church is kindness,” she said. “Treating other people with kindness and grace and understanding, because whether you agree with somebody else or get along with them, sometimes you just have to be kind to people, even if they’re not kind back to you.”

staff spotlight Chelsea Bocard

She wears many hats! A staff spotlight on Chelsea Bocard

Chelsea Bocard wears enough hats, she could open her own hatter.

Bocard’s technical job title is Disability Program Assistant, but it doesn’t get across exactly how much she assists with. She is involved in numerous projects at HDI, including the Kentucky Post School Outcomes Center (KYPSO), the Supported Employment Training Project (SETP), HDI’s Universal Design Committee, and the State Guardianship Training Program. She also renders transcription services for staff at the Kentucky Department of Education during their school district monitoring visits.

“Sometimes, it can be a little challenging keeping it all straight,” Bocard said. “But I love a good challenge.”

Before HDI, Bocard worked with Bluegrass Community and Technical College. She worked in multiple positions there for more than seven years. She’d never worked in any positions specifically related to disability before apart from a brief temporary position with HDI in the past, but had always wanted to work for UK. So when she saw a posting from HDI, she jumped at the chance.

“It sounded right up my alley,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in helping other people, but I consider myself more of an introvert, more of a behind the scenes type person.”

And at HDI, she’s had ample opportunity to do that in the three years she’s been a part of the team – and it’s one of the things she loves most about working here.

“There’s lots of opportunities for learning new things and new skills,” Bocard said. “I’ve been in jobs before where you don’t really have a chance to kind of branch out and learn things you want to learn about, but I feel like they’re always kind of open to different areas I want to get into.”

This year, she had the chance to learn about web and document accessibility, and in the past, she’s worked on plain language initiatives and universal design.

That love of discovery and learning extends to her life outside work too. She likes to cook and hike, and since Bocard and her husband moved to California after she started at HDI, she’s enjoyed the chance to discover her new home piece by piece. In particular, she remembers exploring tide pools on the beach and the things she found there.

“If you get there at just the right time of day, you can see all kinds of little creatures,” she said. “It’s all alive.”

But she appreciates that she still gets the chance to work with HDI even after moving so far away.

“I feel like a very valued employee at HDI,” she said.

Staff Spotlight Angela Cooper

Kindness is Free. A Staff Spotlight on Dr. Angela Cooper

After earning her associate’s degree, Angela Cooper decided it was enough…until she wanted to learn just a bit more.

She kept learning just a bit more again and again until she added a Dr. in front of her name.

Cooper is a regional childcare administrator for HDI’s Child Care Aware program. Her program provides technical assistance to childcare providers throughout the community. She oversees 18 counties in the south central and southeastern parts of Kentucky. But before all that, she worked in early childhood education, working at a Lexington corporate childcare program. She moved to Somerset in Pulaski County, and started looking for ways to advance her position.

“I had nothing but a high school diploma when I started there,” Cooper said.

A supervisor named Amy Booth who had a connection to HDI took Cooper under her wing, connecting her to a program that would help her pay for it and helping her work it around her schedule. In 2002, Cooper earned a Childhood Development Associate. It only took a semester. She intended to start small. She didn’t end there.

“I just got bitten by the bug,” she said. “I went back in, talked to my supervisor, and said ‘Hey, I think I kind of like this.’”

She applied at Lexington Community College and earned her associate’s in 2004. She thought, once again, that would be the end of it. Then she earned a bachelor’s, and then a master’s by the time she started working at HDI, and now, recently, her PhD, finishing a 21-year journey.

“I was always interested in children and how quickly they would learn concepts,” she said. “Their mind was like a little sponge. Every child, no matter what child was in your classroom, if you could figure out how to meet that child where they were, you could help them develop into the person they were going to be.”

Before she journeyed down the path to her PhD, she had already seen what this could look like in action, but as she furthered her education, she saw the effects her education was having very quickly.

“Once I started going to college and sticking theory to the practice, it opened a whole new world for me,” she said. “I wanted to take everything I was learning back into my classroom. I wanted to introduce new concepts, I found new ways to lesson plan, I found new ways to teach, I understood more about developmentally appropriate practice with children and why we teach the way we do…It was just a job before day to day before I started understanding the why to my job.”

Now that she’s reached the highest echelon of education, Cooper has no intention of slowing down or resting on her laurels. She’ll take a break for the holidays, but then it’s time to figure out what comes next.

“It’s left me relieved that I am finished, yet energized in what can I do now,” she said. “Where can I go with this? What else can I study? How can I answer the questions that this research brought about?”

Cooper’s education appears to have paid off. Her region has consistently high quality ratings, and held those even during COVID. And in her position she gets the chance to mentor other service providers – which not only benefits them, but the community beyond as well.

And she also gets the chance to mentor and cultivate a strong staff – something her own mentor did for her.

“I had a supervisor who was a cheerleader. She saw in me what I did not see in myself and really encouraged my growth and development,” she said. “She built a foundation for me and then I decided to keep going step after step.”

Outside of her career and academic pursuits, Cooper is an avid hiker. She’s hiked many of the trails in the Big South National Forest and Daniel Boone National Parks. She’s putting it on hold for now to spend some time with her new grandchild this holiday. She also summed up her core philosophy in three words: family, kindness, and inclusion.

“Kindness is free,” she said. “There’s not a reason in the world not to be kind to anyone or anything. We are all just here on this big green and blue sphere floating around for the good of each other…I’m just like a big old mother hen. I just want to gather everyone and everything under my wings.”

staff spotlight photo of Calisa Fitzpatrick

Good communication makes the world go round! A staff spotlight on Calisa Fitzpatrick

Calisa Fitzpatrick thinks good communication makes the world go round.

For her, there is immense power in a team working together towards a common goal. And as a member of the Evaluations Team, a big part of her job is helping ensure that HDI is doing that in every way it can.

“We work with partners to help inform them about the impact their programs or services are making on the individuals they intend to serve and hopefully provide them with information to inform decision-making to improve those programs and services,” Fitzpatrick said. “We ask a lot of questions, have lots of conversations, and then come up with a plan to evaluate all the things they’re doing.”

She didn’t set out to be involved in evaluations, but she fell into it, as she puts it. Fitzpatrick Holds a master’s in Health Administration and a psychology undergraduate and directed an outpatient program for adolescents at a behavioral health hospital. Her work has always had a strong focus on helping young people address their own challenges with mental health and reducing stigma around receiving services. What she does now still serves the same mission, but looks at it from a different angle.

Her story is not a unique one. Many from the evaluations team didn’t start there, and Fitzpatrick sees that as a boon to the team.

“We bring a lot of diverse perspectives to our work, experiences from the healthcare world, mental health services, education, or research-based activities,” she said.

Fitzpatrick’s path was a strange one. She hadn’t been at HDI for more than two months before COVID-19 changed everything and had to effectively relearn her new job after having barely learned it on the first place. This is where her teamwork proved incredibly beneficial.

“We have a lot of camaraderie on the unit. We get a lot of support from each other,” she said. “Coworkers just understood where we all were, and they were willing to work through that together.”

Likewise, getting to know those colleagues – both directly in evaluations and in other partnerships.

“I enjoy the relationships that are being built. That sharing of knowledge has been super important,” she said. “I appreciate the conversations with grant partners like the Kentucky Department of Education, the Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities. There’s so many people that are really dedicated to their work, so getting to know them and how they think about the work they do and seeing that passion for it has been inspiring.”

As someone who values teamwork so much, it comes as no surprise that Fitzpatrick loves sports too. She’s an avid runner and a rookie pickleball player with a desire to compete.

But it’s not just the teamwork that she values, as you can find her taking a nice run, or

She wants to get her heart going and she likes to challenge herself to go higher. She’s already run several marathons. Now, she’s considering running another.

“It takes a lot of discipline to get out there and constantly do it,” she said. “When something is demanding mentally or physically, that’s something I like. It might sound like ‘Oh, why would anyone want to do that,’ but I like being pushed.”

Ultimately though, a lot of her life comes down to healthy communications, healthy relationships, and healthy collaboration.

“That’s so imperative to the work that we do,” she said. “My faith guides me to do to others as you would have them do to you. I think that’s where a lot of teamwork and collaboration stems from…I also think I can learn from others. I don’t know it all, so I value that collaboration.”