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Candidates

Sue Soriano

Sue Soriano

Nominated by NAMI PA Montgomery County

When my son began showing signs of schizophrenia in graduate school, our whole world came apart. Fortunately I was led to NAMI, and the outlook was changed to one of hope. I want to make sure that NAMI is here in the future with other families need it.

What brought you to NAMI and what roles have you played in your NAMI Affiliate and NAMI State Organization?

It was in 2007 when my son started showing symptoms of schizophrenia. I was at a loss because I did not know what was wrong with him. I thought it was stress because at the time he was working on his masterís program and had two jobs. I thought he just needed some time off. We were about 3,000 miles away from him. He would call me any time of day and night. He was incoherent with highs and lows: He would be crying one minute and the next be happy and promising that everything was going to be all right. Things continued to get worse until I had to make the decision to bring him back home. One month after he was back things got so bad that I had to make the painful decision to commit him against his will. During that hospitalization, among the papers the hospital gave me was a NAMI brochure. I never imagined that reading this brochure would completely change my life. I took the Family to Family course and immediately became a teacher in both English and Spanish. I was employed by my affiliate for about two years to do Latino outreach and now, no longer holding that position, serve on the Board of Directors. On the national level I worked with NAMIís Latino Experts Group developing Compartiendo la Esperanza (Sharing Hope). Without exaggerating, I can say NAMI saved my life and probably my sonís life also.

What advocacy and organizational priority areas do you believe NAMI should be pursuing in the next three years and how can you help as a Board member?

In my opinion the highest organizational priority should be a very aggressive marketing campaign using all possible outlets, including social media, while continuing with our grassroots efforts. I want to help NAMI become a household name. When people see the NAMI symbol they should know what it stands for. NAMI has been around long enough, but it hasnīt been marketed or exposed to the public enough. People only know of NAMI if and when they are touched by mental illness. People know about the Susan G. Komen organization even if they have not been touched by cancer. NAMI has the capability to be that and more. People have to know that there is help as well as hope. We need to connect with our legislators, community leaders and service providers so that they understand that these illnesses are real and that treatment works. They also need to know the importance of funding a system that provides service to all in need for as long as they need it. Also when unfortunate tragedies happen, NAMI needs to send a clear message that not all people with mental illnesses are violent. We need to continue our advocacy efforts more aggressively and with much more conviction, and I am very confident I can help with that.

Please describe any previous service on a board and what you regard as your greatest contribution to that organizationís work through your service on its board. How will you make service on the NAMI Board of Directors your top volunteer priority?

I am a member of the Board of Directors of NAMI Pennsylvania Montgomery County. I am also the Board President of Hope Worx, Inc. which evolved from the Consumer Satisfaction Team of Montgomery County (CST). CST was established in 1994 with the mission to measure the satisfaction of mental health consumers with mental health services. From the beginning this company has been committed to accomplishing its mission while employing people who have lived with mental illness. Individuals who use mental health services develop and conduct the surveys, as well as provide office support including data entry and analysis. This commitment led to the creation of a unique workplace atmosphere which supported the employeesí personal recovery journeys, giving people the opportunity to gain skills and make connections with each other and to form a natural support network. I am also the vice president of the board of Circle Lodge, Inc. Circle Lodge is a residential facility. The Circle Lodge program provides an integrated program of personal assistance and rehabilitation to enable residents to gain independence in residential and community living.

The program serves psychiatrically disabled individuals who display severe community adjustment problems and who require an intensive, structured living situation. Since NAMI and what it stands for are my number one priority, as a member of the National Board I will increase my efforts and my commitment to the organization. I will always be readily available for the needs of the organization.

How can you contribute to NAMIís evolution as ďa dynamic, well-run organization that seeks and engages a diverse and growing membership,Ē as called for in the NAMI strategic plan?

I can contribute by bringing to the table innovative ideas as to how to engage people and how to bring the message of NAMIís mission to as many people as possible. I have experience doing Latino outreach with my NAMI affiliate and will continue this on the national level, as well as reach out to other minority groups. By being a trained de Familia a Familia teacher I am able to bring NAMIís message of hope and support to that population, and in the four Family to Family classes that I have already taught I have engaged other minorities as well. We have to fight stigma now more than ever. We need to educate and inform people so that when mental illness strikes their home they know that they are not alone and that help is near. Encouraging people to become members and nurturing their ability to mentor others is a way to grow the organization as well as empower those who feel that their lives have spun out of control. Having seen my son do so well with family involvement (including his NAMI family) and support I would also work to bring more consumers into our organization.

What fund raising, financial oversight, legal, marketing, or information technology expertise do you have to offer to NAMI?

I can offer my Information Technology expertise to NAMI. I have wide background knowledge of different technology platforms. I have a Database Administration background. I have worked as a developer of different systems, data modeler, designer, network engineer, etc. I have also been a Team Captain for our Greater Philadelphia NAMIWalks (5 years) and have worked on our other fundraising event, The First Annual benefit for the Brain. I promote NAMI everywhere I go, including the Montgomery County Commission for Women and Families (to which I have been appointed) and the Norristown Community and COPS, a group to promote better relationships between the police department and the community.

†††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
Job Title or Position:Interviewer
Employer:University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
NAMI Affiliations: NAMI PA Montgomery County, Board member
Other Board Service: I am not currently serving in any public/elected office
Public Office: Hope Worx, Inc., President of the Board
Circle Lodge, Inc.; VP of the Board
Montgomery County Commission for women and Familie, Member of the Board

Candidate Statement as Published in the NAMI Advocate

1) It was in 2007 when my son started showing symptoms of schizophrenia. I had to make the painful decision to commit him against his will. During that hospitalization, the hospital gave me a NAMI brochure. I never imagined that reading this brochure would completely change my life. Without exaggerating, I can say NAMI saved my life and probably my sonís life also.

2) In my opinion the highest organizational priority should be a very aggressive marketing campaign using all possible outlets, including social media, while continuing with our grassroots efforts. I want to help NAMI become a household name.

3) I am a member of the Board of Directors of NAMI Pennsylvania Montgomery County. I am also the Board President of Hope Worx, Inc. which evolved from the Consumer Satisfaction Team of Montgomery County (CST). Since NAMI and what it stands for are my number one priority, as a member of the National Board I will increase my efforts and my commitment to the organization. I will always be readily available for the needs of the organization.

4) I can contribute by bringing to the table innovative ideas as to how to engage people and how to bring the message of NAMIís mission to as many people as possible. We have to fight stigma now more than ever. Having seen my son do so well with family involvement (including his NAMI family) and support I would also work to bring more consumers into our organization.

5. I can offer my Information Technology expertise to NAMI. I have wide background knowledge of different technology platforms. I have also been a Team Captain for our Greater Philadelphia NAMIWalks (5 years) and have worked on our other fundraising event, The First Annual benefit for the Brain. I promote NAMI everywhere I go.


Related Files

Sue Soriano Candidate Speech

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