Vanderheyden Team Members are encouraged to "giveback" to those we serve, and Zhai White gives back in a big way!
The Troy native came to our Wynantskill campus as a resident when she was 13 years old. White says she was in all levels of care both on campus and the Rubin Group Home, until she transitioned out of the Supervised Independent Living Program (SILP) at age 21.
Since July, White is back in the Vanderheyden family, this time as the Life Skills Specialist for SILP.
White says there are a few reasons why she decided to work here.
"A big part is Vanderheyden, and all the people that helped me," White says. "I wanted to pass that on and help others."
"Vanderheyden was a big part of my life," she says. "It was home. It's familiar. Knowing it as a youth, I felt I could be more helpful as a Team Member."
As a Life Skills Specialist, White assists the individuals in the program with development, and improving their life skills. Cooking, cleaning, and budgeting are some of the skills emphasized until they leave the program at the age of 21.
When White interviewed for her position, she says she felt SILP is one of the most important programs in the agency for the individuals because it's "the last program" before they go out on their own.
"With their age, it's an important time to give them the skills to be a productive adult," White says. "SILP focuses on growth."
She really wants the individuals to succeed in the program.
"If I can do it, they can do it," White says.
White says there are many things she likes about Vanderheyden both now and then.
"The supportive staff, and that they didn't give up on me," she says. "That's how they supported me."
The Sanctuary Program is also on the top of her list.
"The safety plans are great," White says. "The kids participate more in their safety plan, instead of the Team Members giving them one."
After attending Hudson Valley Community College, and SUNY Albany in her pursuit of a BSW in Social Work, White left the program to join the U.S. Air Force.
White says she left SUNY because she wanted to challenge herself with a career in the military.
She also used her father, who was in the U.S. Army, as her motivation. Her father died when White was one-year-old. White says she is "carrying on his torch" of service to the military.
Currently, White is a Reservist in the Air Force out of Westover, Massachusetts. If she is called to Active Duty, White says she would provide communications to medical technicians and flight nurses.
She also finished up her Bachelor's degree and is working on her MSW in Social Work at SUNY Albany.
In her spare time, White loves to read, especially comic books. She also credits her time at Vanderheyden for her love of any D.I.Y. project such as crocheting, knitting, woodworking, and building furniture.
"Vanderheyden nurtures your artistic nature," she says.
White is also an avid volleyball and tennis player, and participates in intramural and recreational leagues.
As the youngest of four girls, she recently connected with a long-lost half-sister.
White has a couple of goals, which include a career in the military, and working at a non-profit.
"I love the military," White says. "Transitioning back in as Active Duty for a couple of years, then to work for a non-profit, possibly at Vanderheyden."
Thank you for your service, Zhai. It's truly an honor.