Allison Walter

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, lecturer & poet

One act of kindness can truly change a life. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, thousands have given of themselves to assist others during their time of need. Whether it was helping someone escape floodwaters, providing food, shelter and hygiene items, or donating hard-earned money, the power of these selfless acts gives hope to so many.

Lourdes University instills in its students the Franciscan values of community, learning, reverence and service. As a community, we are called to reverence all creation, to learn and grow, and to be of service to those in need. Meet three individuals who emulate these Franciscan values and make an amazing difference in the lives of others.

Allison Walter, ‘15

Day Program Specialist,
Bittersweet Farms, Inc.

Allison Walter is a dedicated team member at Bittersweet Farms, Inc., an 80-acre farmland established to assist individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. In her role as Day Program Specialist, Allison works with participants and their family members to construct and implement individualized person centered plans that include vocational and habitational outcomes. She also ensures compliance and oversees onsite programming.

“I’m reminded daily that we are all human and no matter the circumstances, we need one another. At work, time and again, I am amazed to find the strong support given in unexpected forms. It really is a perfect example of how ‘in giving we receive,’” she says. An art major, Allison earned a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in pre-art therapy. “As a kid, I found a lot of pleasure using my imagination as an expressive outlet. As a working professional, I understand the need and power of creative expression. Words don’t often come naturally; however, creating the perfect design to replicate what is in one’s mind is the perfect aspect of soothing,” she adds.

Inspired by many individuals who have played an important role in her life, Allison chooses to be active in the community and dedicates much of her time to be of benefit to others. “If you want to make a difference, it doesn’t matter where you start. It just matters that you do something and that you do it with genuine passion.”

With her typical “do it all” energy, Allison hopes to one day establish her own non-profit organization. “I’ve gotten this far because of a passionate heart, optimism, a coachable mind and quirkiness. Looking into the future, what is most important to me is that I impact the organization or community that I’m part of with my unique personality and spirit.”

Allison at Bittersweet Farms with a participant

Read Allison’s full interview

Please share some information about your job at Bittersweet Farms.

My role as the Day Program Specialist has a lot of different fun angles. Primarily my part in the team includes maintaining and managing multiple facets of our documentation for our day program participants. I have the pleasure of attending ISP meetings with our participants, where I get to meet family and additional team members. Together, we all work to configure a Person Centered Plan with our individuals. I bring the information from our day program team to help suggest and implement vocational and habitational outcomes into their PCP. Following ISP meetings, I ensure that our program is in compliance and that the updated information has been implemented, participant profiles and files are updated, staff are trained, and the necessary services are being provided by our day program. In addition to this, I get to oversee the programming for our work areas, including our summer enrichment program, and help to provide meaningful tasks and activities that aim to achieve our participant’s desired outcomes.

What do you like most about your job and what is the most challenging aspect?

The thing that I like most is that I am reminded daily that we are all human and that no matter what the circumstances, we need one another. Time and time again, I have been amazed to find that support reveals itself in the most unexpected forms and though it is our job to provide services to our individuals, it is a perfect example of how “in giving that we receive.”

Communication, hands down. We serve 60+ individuals and each relationship is built upon different facets of communication. Understanding that communication barriers extend to every interaction has been the biggest challenge, not solely from learning how to communicate with our individuals, but from learning that we need to step away from normalized conversation and focus on individualized approaches to all the other relationships in life. Learning the way staff, family, strangers, etc. communicate has really become a staple for the strength of relationships but it is still challenging to come back to for everyone.

Why did you choose to major in art?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but as a kid I found a lot of pleasure using my imagination as an expressive outlet. I was always making or building something. I had (and still do) a passion for shows like “This Old House,” “Home Improvement,” and “How It’s Made.” So I chose Pre-art therapy because I understand the need for creative expression. Words don’t often come naturally but creating the perfect brush stroke to replicate what is in your mind is the perfect aspect of soothing. Of course too, when being creative, time seems to stand still. Everything else on my mind fades away and it becomes an escape for whatever might be weighing on my shoulders. How freeing to be able to escape from that stress and have created something through the process of relaxation!

Who or what has inspired you in in your professional and/or personal life?

I suppose I’m motivated by all of my unforgettable life experiences. Through those challenges, my definition of love and selflessness developed and it became a driving force for all my intentions. It would be completely self-destructive or meaningless not to strive further and apply that energy in a positive manner.

What advice would you give to someone pursuing your major?
Be MORE than the person you see in the mirror. We are so good at unknowingly setting limits for ourselves. I used to think that certain papers or art projects were a waste of time and that my professor’s ideas were not in their student’s best interest. Boy was I wrong. It was a humbling experience to find that these assignments weren’t just boxes that needed checked off to complete a class. Instead, for an art therapy student, these were opportunities to take what was placed in front you, and twist and bend the rules to make it your own. So be MORE than the person you see in the mirror, be MORE creative than what sits in front of you.

What do you enjoy doing when not working?

This revolves around the “I want to do it all” theme. I want to try or be average at every opportunity that comes my way. So I never keep one hobby for too long, I’m always looking for the next challenge. I used to spend a lot of time working out! That developed from the gym, to acro-yoga, to bike to the bay, to trying a half marathon! My interest is kept by constant change.

Please share your professional goals.

I had a dream to start an organization as a kid, for what I don’t know. I’d be lying if I said that still wasn’t hanging up in my mind as a “What if…” I’ve gotten this far because of a passionate heart, optimism, a coachable mind and complete goofiness. Looking into the future, all I want is to continue to impact the organization or community that I’m a part of with my personality and sprit.

Please share your awards and accomplishments.

  • Lawrence Sunflower Arts Award
  • National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Good Citizen Award
  • Merchant Award, Three-Dimensional Art
  • Campus Ministry Service Award
  • Cecelia Kennedy Wenz Award 2013 and 2014
  • Campus Ministry Mission Outreach Award 2012 and 2013

Why have you chosen to dedicate much of your time being of service to others?
Because a lot of people have dedicated a lot of their time to me! It seems at every twist and turn in life, someone different has revealed themselves as a mentor ready to guide me or invest their wisdom in me. It would be unfair if I took that help and guidance and didn’t put that energy back into the world in a similar nurturing way.

What advice would you give to those who want to make a difference in their community or society?

I spent a lot of time thinking I was going to change the world! At the time I hadn’t considered how much help my surrounding communities needed. If you want to make a difference, it doesn’t matter where you start or how big your dreams are. It just matters that you do something and that it’s done with genuine passion! That itself goes a long way and the influence that it creates on the people involved is going to continue spreading.

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