In a way, Hannah McDonald is claiming her legacy when she takes over at the end of this month as director of Partnership Carson City.
“As a kid, I grew up in prevention work,” she said. “I naturally kind of fell into the effort.”
The daughter of Linda Lang, who ran the Community Council on Youth — which would later become Partnership Carson City — McDonald was active in the program’s youth counterpart Stand Tall Don’t Fall.
“It was always part of our lifestyle to reach out and help the community,” McDonald said. “I found a place where I really felt like I could make a difference.”
In truth, however, McDonald never thought she’d be here. Even while involved with Stand Tall, Don’t Fall — a youth group at Carson High School dedicated to helping teens avoid drugs, alcohol and other risky behaviors — she had aspirations of becoming a obstetrician/gynecologist.
As dreams sometimes do, hers faded to the background. After graduating from Carson High School in 2006, she married at 19. Shortly thereafter, she started her family. After her second baby, Jaden, was born, she found herself spiraling into postpartum depression.
“Some of my close friends and family members thought it would be better for me to get out of the house,” she recalled. “They were right.”
By 2010, Partnership Carson City, which had started out as a community coalition to wipe out methamphetamine in the community, had taken over the Community Council on Youth. As such, the Partnership remained mostly focused on drug abuse prevention and education.
McDonald was brought on part-time as the youth program coordinator.
“I fell in love, I really did,” she did. “I found purpose in working with kids who needed a role model. I found a piece of my childhood came back in my adulthood.”
Her personal life improved as well.
“Being a working mom definitely improved my skills at home as a mom,” she said. “It also gave my kids the chance to receive direction from other adults.”
For the first couple of years, she worked about 15 hours a week. In 2012, more hours became available as a sub-grant team manager position was created.
As she worked with youth, she and the rest of her team started to realize that the key to really influencing young lives included reaching out to their parents as well.
“We were missing a demographic,” she said. “We had this entire group whose needs we had to find a way to meet.”
McDonald then became the Community Outreach Coordinator and has spent the last three years providing education and outreach to community organizations.
Last year, Kathy Bartosz, who has served as director of Partnership Carson City since 2009, approached McDonald about taking over once Bartosz retired.
Her husband, Travis, encouraged her to take the offer.
“He reminded me I am capable and that I would be good at it,” she said. “It really helped me.”
Bartosz has spent the last year training McDonald to take over.
“Since I worked my way up, I have a respect and understanding for everyone in all their positions,”McDonald said. “I can share with them my knowledge and I can empathize with all of the staff.”
She’s also reconciled working full-time while raising her children Myles, 9, Jaden, 7, and Maxon, 3.
“It’s natural for me to mother everyone,” McDonald said. “It’s a quality for me. I like parenting my children, but I also feel like a lot of what I do is helping other parents. I get to play a role in other children’s lives and hopefully make a difference.
“I also respect the position of those who do that for my children.”
As director, she plans to follow the direction already set by Bartosz, along with emphasizing a healthy lifestyle over merely avoiding dangerous behaviors and addictions.
“People keep telling me I have big shoes to fill with Kathy leaving,” McDonald said. “Kathy told me I’m not filling her shoes. I’m putting on different shoes. She keeps reminding me that I’m not going to be her, and that’s OK.”
McDonald goes into her new role with gratitude.
“I felt stuck when I was going through postpartum depression,” she said. “This job pulled me out of my dark place, then it provided with the passion I’d lost. I think this job might have saved me.”