We’re excited to give a warm welcome to our new NCE Chairperson, Karen Shoemaker! Karen takes her place as NCE Chair with a rich history at The Arc that goes back decades. She shared a bit of her history in the organization with us, as well as what she hopes to accomplish during her term.
How did you come to be involved with The Arc and NCE?
My first interaction with The Arc was in the late 80s when I received Volunteer Surrogate Parent training from The Arc of the District of Columbia to serve as the representative at IEP meetings and monitor special education services for a young man with I/DD. My professional career with The Arc began when I became the Executive Director of The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties in 1999.
I attended my first NCE Summer Leadership Institute in Pittsburgh in 2006, but it wasn’t until spending some social capital time with longtime NCE members at The Arc of the United States convention in Dallas in 2007 that I really became involved with NCE. Gary Horner, Dan Stewart, and Gene Barnes encouraged me to become active with NCE in a more meaningful way. That was a wonderful piece of advice that led to the incredible opportunity for me to serve on the NCE Board and Steering Committee.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of your term as NCE Chair?
In partnership with the Steering Committee and The Arc’s national staff, I would like to see our NCE membership grow, with more people taking advantage of the many professional development opportunities that NCE has to offer. The strength of our NCE network is critical to the success of our advocacy efforts, our furtherance of The Arc’s mission, and our ability to sustain our work on behalf of individuals with I/DD and their families well into the future.
What’s your favorite part of being involved with The Arc?
Without a doubt, my favorite part of being involved with The Arc is the opportunity to do something every day that I am passionate about, while knowing that I am part of a much bigger family. I have had incredible mentors and developed long-lasting and meaningful relationships over the years — I know that if I am having a bad day or need an answer to a question, I can pick up the phone or send an email to someone who shares the same passion and core values.
What’s another passion of yours outside of the disability sector?
I am very involved with my alma mater, Muhlenberg College. I am fortunate to live a few miles from campus which gives me the opportunity to volunteer on their Board of Associates and attend social, arts, and sports events through the year.