As the youngest person on the board of directors at New Directions, Knox County’s shelter for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence, Haley Shipley ’17 has much to offer.
Shipley, an American studies major from Knox County, acts as the board’s secretary and treasurer and helps maintain a relationship between New Directions and Kenyon. “I owe a lot of my personal development to New Directions,” said Shipley, who also serves as a Sexual Misconduct Advisor (SMA) at Kenyon.
Her time with New Directions has helped her prepare for the professional world. Surrounded by older, more experienced board members, Shipley often considers the question, “How do I not only take myself seriously but also make sure I’m taken seriously?”
Matt Hellman, the executive director of New Directions, works closely with the board and values Shipley’s contributions, especially her outlook as someone 15 to 20 years younger than the other board members. “That’s the unique perspective I think she brings of being able to see these issues from a couple different points of view,” Hellman said.
Shipley was appointed to the board two years ago but has a longer history with the organization. She began volunteering during her junior year of high school at the suggestion of her Spanish teacher, Christina Barnard, who was head of the New Directions Teen Advisory Council (TAC).
“She was a responsible student, she had follow-through, and that’s the kind of thing that we were looking for,” Barnard said.
Shipley and other TAC members traveled to area schools to speak about healthy relationships. This task didn’t come easily to Shipley. “I was not comfortable with public speaking at all,” she said. Gradually, fear transformed into passion. “Here I was ... talking in front of a class of seventh graders … which definitely got me over that fear of public speaking. Slowly I just realized how much I loved doing that.”
Soon, Shipley was writing her own curricula for her school presentations. At the 2013 Ohio Alliance Against Sexual Violence conference, she and another student presented an original program on healthy relationships called “What Is Love.” Laurie Thompson, the prevention educator and advocate at New Directions, worked extensively with Shipley and her peers on their school presentations. “They were so well-prepared and they did a terrific job,” Thompson said. “We were so proud.”
The late founder and director of New Directions, Mary Hendrickson, also helped Shipley succeed. Noticing Shipley’s dedication as a volunteer, Hendrickson invited Shipley to join the board in 2014. “It was this surreal moment that I still very vividly remember,” Shipley said.
Barnard noted Shipley’s infectious passion. “When you see people like Haley come along and really embrace the issues … it’s just so refreshing,” Barnard said.
Shipley’s work on campus and in the community complement each other. As an SMA, Shipley has hands-on experience with Title IX and has a clear idea of how larger policies may impact an individual. As a board member she can also see the big picture of how different policies operate on a larger scale.
Shipley’s commitment to healthy relationships extends to her academic experience. She wants to examine video games as a means for developing empathy, looking at the relationships players form with their game characters. For example, in the game “Life is Strange,” personal relationships are a focal point, and positive interactions between players and characters determine a game’s outcome. “In a lot of games, you get a better ending by being nice,” Shipley said.
Shipley will continue to focus on educating the community about fostering healthy relationships. “I know wherever I end up I’m always going to volunteer with the local women’s shelter,” she said.
By Elana Spivack ’17